Extend Citrix NetScaler ADM for End-to-End Citrix Monitoring

Citrix Application Delivery Management (ADM) – previously called as Citrix NetScaler Management and Analytics System (MAS) – is a centralized management solution that provides administrators with the ability to manage and monitor Citrix application networking products from a single, unified console. Citrix ADM includes a number of modules including Web Insight, HDX Insight, Gateway Insight, Security Insight, SSL Insight, TCP Insight, Video Insight, and WAN Insight. For an organization using Citrix virtual apps or virtual desktops, HDX Insight is the one that is most applicable.

Citrix ADM collects monitoring information from the network, using the Citrix ADC (NetScaler)  devices as data sources. Hence, the monitoring is 100% agentless – no agents are required on the virtual app servers or virtual desktop VMs.

Citrix ADM and Citrix NetScaler diagramCitrix ADM architecture

How Citrix ADM Offers Value for Citrix Virtual App and Desktop Monitoring

Since it takes a network-centric view of performance Citrix ADM complements performance metrics collected from other desktop or server-based monitoring tools. There are two main areas where Citrix ADM value-adds to a Citrix deployment:

  • Network latency from different geographic locations: Citrix deployments are often geographically dispersed. Users connect from remote locations to the server farm. Many a times, if access latency is high, Citrix performance suffers.

    ICA/HDX Round Trip Time (RTT) is the elapsed time from when the user hits a key until the response is displayed back at the end point. This is neither calculated by the Citrix ADC nor by Citrix ADM. This value is calculated in the virtual apps/desktops level, which will be picked up by Citrix ADC and provided to Citrix ADM.

    By monitoring ICA RTT, Citrix ADM provides useful information for troubleshooting Citrix problems. For example, if users from a specific location are having latency problems, administrators can look at multiple user sessions from the same location and conclude that the performance issue is specific to that location.

  • Comparing HDX round-trip time vs. network round-trip time for each and every user session: For long, Citrix admins have believed that many Citrix issues are being caused by poor network connections. With Citrix ADM, they can compare the HDX and network latency. If both latencies are high, it is clearly due to the network (because the HDX protocol operates above the network layer). Citrix ADM also breaks network latency into WAN latency and data center (DC) latency. If the WAN latency is high, it points a problem in the user’s connection to the Citrix farm. On the other hand, DC latency is attributable to the data center network.
  • How Citrix ADM breaks down WAN latency and DC latencyHow Citrix ADM Breaks Down WAN Latency and DC Latency

With Citrix ADM, Citrix admins can also track:

  • What sessions are in progress: This can be useful for determining the usage of your Citrix virtual app and desktop services.
  • How HDX virtual channels are being used: Citrix ADCs, the source of Citrix ADMs’ data, can tap into the HDX channels and report on the bandwidth usage over each HDX virtual channel.
  • The health, usage and performance of the individual Citrix ADC/NetScaler devices

Provided an organization has the necessary licenses, Citrix ADM is a useful tool in a Citrix administrator’s kitty.

Why Citrix ADM is Not Sufficient for Monitoring Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops?

At the same time, Citrix ADM is not sufficient to address all the monitoring needs of a Citrix administrator supporting Citrix XenApp or XenDesktop services. There are many reasons for this:

  • Lacks support for synthetic monitoring of Citrix user experience: Over the years, it has been well established that synthetic monitoring is an effective way of tracking Citrix user experience. One form of synthetic monitoring is the Citrix Logon Simulator, a tool that repeatedly logs into a Citrix farm every few minutes and reports on the success/failure of Citrix logins and the availability of applications.
  • Lacks visibility into all aspects of real user experience: Slow Citrix logins have often been a big problem for Citrix admins. Citrix ADM does not report on Citrix login times. And if Citrix login is slow, Citrix ADM cannot provide insights into why: is it due to Active Directory authentication, GPO processing, logon script processing, etc. These details require insights gleaned from the XenApp servers and XenDesktop VMs. Being a network-centric tool, Citrix ADM does not have this visibility.
  • No server-side view: Citrix ADM has only a network-based view of performance. It has no insights into what is happening on the XenApp servers or XenDesktop VMs. So, consider a case where a memory leak in one of the applications is slowing accesses to XenApp servers. Citrix ADM will report that HDX latency is high, but it cannot diagnose the problem to a memory leak in the specific application. And if you want to plan for capacity growth, the first thing you need to determine is how much more CPU or memory or disk or servers you need to add – something you cannot get from Citrix ADM.
  • No visibility into specific Citrix tiers: Citrix architectures today have a multitude of tiers. In-depth insights into the performance of these tiers is required to troubleshoot problems quickly. For example, a Citrix VDA may be in an unregistered state on the delivery controller because of a time synchronization issue. A Citrix PVS server may be causing slowness because of many device retries. Detailed insights and KPIs into each of these tiers is required for effective Citrix performance management.
  • It is not an end-to-end performance monitoring solution: Performance issues in Citrix supporting components – virtualization, storage, cloud, Active Directory, profile servers, etc. can result in Citrix slowness. Citrix ADM does not have insight into these components.

Therefore, even if you have deployed, or are considering deploying, Citrix ADM, you will need to augment this with tools that provide you with the server-side view of the infrastructure. After all, a decade ago, Citrix technologies used to be referred to as “Server-Based Computing”!

eG Enterprise for Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop complements Citrix ADM. You have eG Enterprise integrate with Citrix ADM and provide a total end-to-end view of Citrix performance – from network to server, from desktop to storage, and from user experience to application process usage.