The Citrix Ready team recently recorded a podcast with eG Innovations for their Tech Fusion podcast series. Hosted by Neil C. Hughes from The Tech Blog Writer, Rachel Berry from eG Innovations’ product team, and CTP, Richard Faulkner, (Enterprise Solutions Architect, Conversant Group) discussed how Citrix and eG Innovations complement each other and how eG Enterprise enhances and goes beyond native Citrix monitoring tools.
You can listen to the podcast:
We covered a wide range of topics, including:
- How eG Enterprise can monitor enterprise applications alongside Citrix technologies, including O365/Microsoft 365, SAP, SharePoint, Microsoft IIS, PeopleSoft, and more
- How eG Innovations has become a trusted and established partner over two decades of working with Citrix across our global organization
- Understanding the most common issues and how to troubleshoot them such as slow logons, slow app/desktop sessions, connectivity issues, and more
- How eG Enterprise offers features beyond Citrix Director, providing a range of synthetic monitoring options – logon simulation and full-session simulation. The Citrix Director mainly focuses on Citrix session metrics – whilst eG collects KPIs from Citrix StoreFront, WEM, PVS, AppLayering, or even ADCs (NetScalers)
- Options to monitor infrastructure such as storage, networking, and databases beyond the Citrix deployment within eG Enterprise
The full transcript of the podcast appears below.
Neil: On this podcast, you will learn how Citrix technology alliances are solving industry challenges and empowering people to unlock their full potential.
Welcome back to the tech fusion podcast by Citrix Ready, where once again, we’re going to explore the future of work and the role that technology will play in building that future. So today, I’ve invited Rachel Berry of eG Innovations and Richard Faulkner, from Conversant Group. I’ve invited them both on to the podcast to share their insights and their experiences
A few topics we’re going to be discussing today is the importance of performance monitoring for Citrix deployments, where eG Innovations adds value to Citrix customers, and how it relates to Citrix built-in tools.
And I also want to learn more about what Conversant Group does and how they work with eG Innovations and what changes they have seen regarding Citrix customers’ needs, especially around monitoring in the last 12 months and beyond. But enough scene setting for me, it’s time to get Rachel and Richard onto the podcast right now. So, a massive warm welcome to the show.
Can you tell the listeners a little bit about who you are, and what you do?
Rachel: Hi, my name is Rachel Berry. I now work at eG Innovations on the product team looking at both how we formulate the product and how we communicate about the product and explain the features to users and potential customers. In the past. I have worked as a software engineer in 3D and graphic software in the CAD industry. And after that, I moved into product management working on cloud technologies at Citrix, but also hardware technologies, NVIDIA and Arm.
Richard: And my name is Richard Faulkner. I’m an Enterprise Solutions Architect at Conversant Group. Most of my time has been spent working for resellers and cooperating with customers helping design the best solutions for them for their problems. I have had a long history in the end user computing (EUC) environments and virtualization with quite a bit of experience in enabling large customers to do things like virtual desktop infrastructure or published applications, or just, you know, plain server virtualization.
Neil: Welcome to both of you. There’s a lot I want to talk about today. But, to begin with Rachel, as someone who previously worked at Citrix, can you share your journey and how working on both sides of the fence has helped you and the kind of problems that you’re solving today for your customers at eG Innovations?
Rachel: I think one of the things that shaped my journey through Citrix was that I came from an applications background. So, I’ve been working on the development of highly sensitive CAD applications, such as ANSYS, SolidWorks, Autodesk… Those kinds of products, where they’re incredibly demanding applications in terms of both resources, and how demanding the end users are. They’re very expensive pieces of software. And the end users have very, very high expectations on response.
So then, moving from a very application and user-focused industry into a platform company like Citrix, I found a niche. In this, I understood a certain type of application very well. And those kinds of applications behave quite differently on the cloud. When I first went to Citrix, virtualized GPUs were wanted and GPUs in the data center just weren’t a thing. And so, one of the first projects that did it, Citrix was working on developing the first virtualized GPU jointly with Nvidia.
I think, having worked at Citrix itself and then moving to a vendor, who works with lots of platform companies as eG, it does make it easier to communicate back to Citrix. When you’ve got an understanding of how all the different support networks and the ecosystems and how the customers think and you appreciate as a third party, we add complementary value to Citrix. So, we cover functionalities, which wouldn’t be Citrix’s natural merit. For example, we monitor SAP and enterprise applications such as O365, while Citrix produces monitoring products for their own tools, but we go beyond that and actually into the application stack, and even into places such as the application code.
Neil: I love the journey that you’ve been on here, when you put it all together and how it’s giving you that overall view of life on both sides of the fence is so valuable. And Richard, for people who are tuning in and hearing about Conversant, for the very first time, can you expand on the kinds of problems that you solve for your customers?
Richard: Certainly, Conversant Group has been around. In fact, we just celebrated our 12th anniversary. So, we’ve been around for about 12 years working with customers and enabling them to achieve things that you know, 12 years ago weren’t possible.
When you look at the ability to do remote work, you look at the ability to work safely… One of our main focuses is security and making sure that whatever the customer is working on, and however they’re going they do it, they do it in a secure fashion, so that they don’t have to worry about data exfiltration or problems like somebody coming in and doing things that they shouldn’t.
We do quite a bit of work in the legal field. In fact, about 75% of our customers are law firms. And our owner likes to say if we can keep lawyers happy, we can keep anybody happy.
But I guess our main goal is to make sure that in the future when the customer looks back on their relationship and working with Conversant Group, they should feel that their organization is better off because they had a relationship with us. That is what our intention is… To make sure that our customers are doing the very best that they can with what they have.
Neil: And if we zoom out just for a moment, both eG innovations and Conversant are Citrix partners, of course. So, to begin with, Rachel, from your point of view, how important is performance monitoring for Citrix deployments?
Rachel: Well, I think every system administrator is going to say, performance monitoring is important. But it’s more about, I think a lot of people with traditional monitoring mentality think about monitoring of infrastructure, and how much CPU am I using, is my network performing, etc. But Citrix is about end user computing. And what we really need to focus on is we’re not monitoring “Citrix”; we’re monitoring the end user experience. It’s for the end user, they want access to the applications, they need to do their job on the devices they want to use. So that could be tablets, it could be working from home on their own laptop, and they want the application they need to do their specific job available, and perform it, because frustrated end users aren’t happy employees.
So yes, monitoring is vitally important. But it’s not about “is my hypervisor running?” It’s answering whether the whole end-to-end infrastructure is delivering a good user experience that’s actually usable for people to work with.
Neil: I think that’s such a great point you made about how traditional form of monitoring has evolved. And right now, you’re bang on. It is all about the end user experience. And, and Richard is there anything you can expand on here around monitoring for Citrix deployments?
Richard: Certainly, I can. I can tell you from my years of experience, that the worst thing that can happen to an end user environment and user computing environment is for the end users to have a bad experience.
I have been able to witness the revolt that occurs when the experience is horrible for the end users, and it’s almost insurmountable to get that project back on track if it’s not set up correctly and not performing correctly. So, I always encourage my customers to ensure that they have not only the hardware and the capabilities on the back end, but that they understand what the users are seeing, how they see it, and know that the users are getting the experience that they have because nobody wants to buy a Ferrari and get zero performance, right?
They want to get that feeling of driving that Ferrari. So, we want to make sure that you are when we design our infrastructures, we make sure the monitoring falls in with this. You know what, I’ve actually had users get up from a PC and move to a terminal because the experience was better on the terminal than it was on the PC. And that’s our goal. And you need monitoring and reporting tools like eG Enterprise that will show you what kind of performance they’re getting and how that user experience is going. Because you know, the user is just going to tell you “Yeah, I don’t like this.” But he or she doesn’t really tell you why or what’s causing their problem or how they’re having that experience.
A tool like eG Enterprise gives you that ability to narrow that down: Why is it that I am having this problem? Where is this coming from? And what do I need to do to fix it so that I can make sure that my end users are happy with what they’re doing?
Neil: Yeah, I completely agree with you. And it almost feels like there’s a bit of a change in expectation from users now as well. Whereas if you’re reacting to a support ticket that’s just been locked, you’re already too late. The idea was to try and fix it before it even reaches that end user experience. And just to understand where everybody fits here, Rachel, where does eG Innovations add value to Citrix consumers and how does it relate to those Citrix built-in tools?
Rachel: Well, eG Enterprise is a single product, which makes it quite unusual. And we’re also built around an AIOps platform that uses machine learning and statistical analysis to correlate events within the entire infrastructure. So, an application may be slow or unavailable. But that could be because a file service is unavailable or there’s a problem on a network switch. And that could be impacting hundreds of Citrix users.
So, whilst you might, in a traditional monitoring sense, be seeing hundreds of user alerts associated with bad latency or application performance for all those users, the root cause could be in the networking stack. Or it could be something to do with an application server not being available to deliver the application, which has nothing to do with your Citrix infrastructure. And so that’s the kind of environment where we go beyond Citrix. People might have third-party load balancers that could be causing problems.
We also have users, who might be using Citrix to deliver their VDI infrastructure. But they may well also be delivering an awful lot of microservices, customer facing apps… This is particularly common in finance and retail. So, people have Java programs and servers that are providing services and applications. So that’s one place you see it, we also see lots of customers, who use lots of different Citrix components. So, we monitor products, such as NetScaler, which is called ADC. And all the other bits like the Active Directory.
A lot of Citrix customers, of course, will be familiar with Citrix Director. There are a lot of additional features we can offer. Beyond the Citrix Director… which doesn’t provide the same kind of range of synthetic monitoring options, whereas systems can run these robot users constantly throughout the day… We can do logon and full-session simulations. So, we can have these robot users that maybe at 6am in the morning, do a full client logon. On trying to log in, perhaps they’ll open an application like Salesforce, they’ll update a customer record, then try to save it. And this will test all infrastructure behind it, whatever kind of SQL server that application requires on the database, etc. So, if there’s a problem at 6am, we can proactively allow the sys admin to sort it out before the main bulk of users come online at maybe 8 or 9 in the morning. That’s actually a very common workflow in healthcare settings.
Also, Citrix Director focuses on the Citrix session metrics whereas we also collect signals and metrics from the Citrix infrastructure, such as Storefront, Web PVS, App Layering, and of course, the ADC. Particularly, we monitor the NetScaler as it is incredibly important in the context of Citrix delivery. If it’s in place, and of course, there’s always a lot of infrastructure supporting Citrix deployment… You might have Microsoft IIS servers in place, you might have an F5 load balancer, you probably got some databases that could be Oracle. And of course, all of these are outside the scope of the Citrix product-specific tools.
Neil: And I think that proactive approach shows just how far we’ve gone especially from back when I was in the corporate IT days and that traditional reactive approach where everyone’s firefighting instead of focusing on value-added activity. So, it’s great to see how far we’ve come. And Richard, what changes have you seen with respect to Citrix customer needs regarding monitoring, particularly in the last year?
Richard: I think everybody accepts that. The pandemic has caused a lot of focus on how to work remotely, enabling our workers to work remotely, etc. And I think it kind of brought into a spotlight what that end user experience needs to be? How do I look at that end user experience? And what is causing those problems because supporting a user who’s sitting in your network on a hard-wired connection and supporting a user who’s connecting from home for the first time on their home machine, or on some device, you sent them home with that you provisioned last night, because you were in a hurry, are two different things.
And so, having that ability to see the end-to-end pieces, what is affecting the user, how is it affecting the user? And where exactly is the problem coming in is invaluable, you know, for the end user. For the customers to be able to provide that experience, they must have tools like eG Enterprise that can show them where is the problem. And how do I fix this problem?
Neil: Another great point is not just about working from home versus working in the office, rather it’s working from anywhere, everywhere, and from any device. So, really there are so many challenges out there. And I’m curious, Rachel, from the conversations you’re having with your customers, are there any trends in the kind of things that they’re ringing you and asking you for your help with?
Rachel: I think we’re seeing a lot more focus on people wanting to automate the helpdesk. As I talked about, we have this machine learning and AIOps platform built in that does root cause analysis. So, we automatically capture an awful lot of data about the real user logons.
So, we capture the full GPO process and the timings of real users as they log on. So, we can pick up on trends when services are starting to degrade before users experience issues. And, of course, because we’re doing it for every single user session, the admin can get a very good overview: they can see whether this problem is regional. Is there a common XenServer, which is having problems? Or is it perhaps that they’re all connecting through a particular gateway? And this is what admins are facing the challenges of having to do now. Quite often, previously they used to have a small number of Citrix users working remotely, who learned to work remotely. And suddenly, you’ve got a lot of users who haven’t really chosen this route. And are probably, less tolerant of issues. They just get very, very frustrated, and don’t have the skills to do basic checks themselves. So, helpdesks are getting a lot more of false alarms. Perhaps, it’s people, who’ve got a dodgy Wi-Fi router that thay put on a concrete floor in their basement. So, the end user helpdesks are having to deal with huge volume of often low-quality calls. They need more tools to spot problems before they arise, so that they don’t get overwhelmed by tickets, but they also want those kinds of automatic diagnosis and root cause analysis tools. They need to have the data that if they have an end user who says, “Look, Citrix is always slow when I log on.” -sometimes those issues are intermittent. And whilst you can do an interactive session, you can’t find anything. So, you really do need to collect all that data. One of the things we offer, which is included in the base product is a full set of reporting and capacity planning tools. The helpdesk staff are being increasingly asked about the value they’re offering. And so, we offer IT staff a way of communicating what they’re doing to the business.
Neil: Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head with the word value there. And the days of it taking 18 months to deliver a new project are long gone. And it feels like there’s a real appetite for exploring these new ways of working, retiring legacy technology processes, even corporate culture, the mindset in the corporate culture as well. And, Rachel, what were the biggest opportunities that you see on the road ahead for businesses because of this big change of mindset?
Rachel: I think on the application side, we’re seeing a lot of because we do application performance monitoring as well. It’s been fascinating to see especially our customers, who offer things like retail and consumer financial products, that with everything that happened… Various countries having lockdowns, etc. Sometimes these people’s businesses have essentially become a website or an app and it’s literally been the only way they’ve been able to operate. You know, shops have been closed, restaurants were unable to do anything but takeout. Some companies thrived by having a very, very good business transaction stack. If you get a flaky app, and it crashes halfway through your order, you just delete the app and move on to the next restaurant. And so, people are having to look at stuff, which suddenly perhaps became the core part of their business!
Neil: Absolutely. And I think, they’re increasingly being seen as business enablers rather than blockers or that reputation that they might have had a few years ago. And, Richard, what are the opportunities that you see on the road ahead for businesses?
Richard: I couldn’t agree more. I think one of the things that the pandemic has brought to light is just how much it can enable companies to transform their businesses. I mean, it forced a lot of companies to do that transformation in a very short period. But I think it’s exciting to see the embracing of the lows, technologies, and the realization that there are so many things we can change and do better to provide a better solution for our customers, for our end users, for our workers, and so forth.
I often advise my customers when I’m talking to them that I don’t care if you’re a construction company, or if you make widgets or whatever, if you don’t consider yourself a high-tech company, that you may not be in business in 10 years.
You’ve got to have that technology because technology has transformed so many different environments to new ways of doing business and new ways of working with their customers, that if you’re not staying up with that, and you’re not willing to embrace the new way of doing business and the new way of enabling your employees, then you may not be around.
So, it can literally be a life-or-death situation for a business to know what kind of experience they are getting. How are my workers able to work? How are my customers able to interact with us? So, I think it’s exciting. I think we’re going to see a lot of changes come about. And I think a lot of people are coming to realize that all this business transformation wasn’t just, you know, a keyword that everybody was saying. That there are literally ways that you can make your business better and be the best at whatever it is that you’re doing.
Rachel: Cool. So, it’s not just opportunities on the road ahead. For businesses, it’s also threats. You know, this whole pandemic has caused ripple effects. We’ve also seen how things like malware attacks, have become an impacting part of your business… The kind of partners you choose, how well they implement security, your own IT security all must be on top of your agenda.
I mean, eG Innovations is very well established globally, we’re over 20 years old. But we’ve seen a lot of consolidation with startups being bought. And so, people have bought other products that now have been bought by a competitor. People really must think about looking at the companies they work with, and how well they’re doing. Are they supported? Do they have a good and long track record? What’s their customer service like when choosing an IT supplier? And, of course, how’s their security…
Neil: That’s great. Something I’ve never thought of… If you’re working with a startup very closely and that startup is then bought by a competitor… That thought had completely missed me. Richard, what are you going to say to that?
Richard: I was just going to hop in and echo the security side of this. I can tell you that, like I said, in the beginning, Conversant Group is very deep into security.
Whatever it is we do, we do it in a secure manner. But we also work with several different companies to help recover people, who have been compromised. And I can tell you, in the last six months, we’ve almost had to double our staff because the number of people, who have been compromised because security was lacking and because they did not take the efforts they needed to. So, I cannot echo enough how important it is to make sure that what you’re doing is being done securely and that you know that your security is in place.
Neil: And I did read it a few years ago… There was a quote: “The last great experience you have anywhere becomes a standard expectation for everywhere.” Talking today about the workplace and the importance of that end user experience… Being able to work from anywhere and from any device is really building a new future of work. So, I’m curious. Rachel, what excites you about this new future of work that we’re building?
Rachel: I think one of the things that I’m very excited about is some of the work that vendors like Microsoft are doing in the field of accessibility. The fact that Teams and PowerPoint now have built-in subtitles in multiple languages makes it a lot more accessible to not only non-native speakers, but also for people with hearing problems, or it can be very helpful in an educational environment for homeschooling and for children to interact with.
And I think it’s made a difference to a lot of people, who would possibly have been a bit marginalized. I mean, here in the UK, a lot of families, who didn’t have laptops got issued with laptops. I did some work with some educational charities. And the big fear was that children from less privileged backgrounds were going to have real problems, not just with IT hardware, but also just learning how to use these. These are households without a computer or someone who’s computer literate in the house. Butkids are incredibly good at finding a way to access the Internet. These kids just took to it like duck to water. Also, I think lots of people have seen it with elderly relatives. I didn’t think I would ever see my 91-year-old mother-in-law using FaceTime on an iPad and she’s perfectly happy.
And I think that kind of thing has made people think – I don’t think people are so bothered about when work is done if it gets done.
Neil: I think there’s a lot of people thinking that right now. And again, such an important point about bringing the next generation of technology along and supporting them and giving them the tools that they need. And, older people as well, I’ve got similar problems with my family.
And there’s a lot of people feeling they’re almost being left behind by technology because nobody’s investing time with them. And then they, wherever they go, they feel that they should know all about technology. And that can even be in a self-checkout in a supermarket, for example. So, it’s important that we bring everyone along for the ride, but Richard is there anything in particular that excites you about the future of work?
Richard: I am very excited about, in much same the way that Rachel talks about breaking down those barriers. Just breaking down barriers to working the way you can work best. This enables our employees or our customers to best interact with us as a company.
I want to go see my son play a soccer game. I don’t have to say, ‘Well, I can’t take care of this because I can do whatever work I need to do later from my house just as well as I could do it sitting in the office at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.’ If I want to go spend some time with a sick relative or I want to spend some time to help out with any charitable contributions or go help the underprivileged, it enables that capability for people to be more human.
I am concerned a bit about the interaction with other people. I can say that I have certainly missed going to visit my customers in person and shaking hands with them. But it was good to see that we’re capable to carry on and it doesn’t have to be that way.
I think what we need to find is and I think we’ll find a balance of when we need to be in the office, when do we need to be in person with the customer, etc. And when we can just work remotely. Remote capability is very vital to businesses today. But I think it’s exciting times and largely because a lot of companies have had to embrace that new way of doing things.
You know, a lot of companies were like ‘I don’t want to do this. I’m not going to spend the money for this because I don’t see the need for it.’ Now, they see the need and are spending the money and are enabling their employees to do what they do best: getting work done and getting it done when they can at the best time for them to do it.
Rachel: I think it has also affected how people view vendors like eG Innovations and we’re getting a lot more questions about our physical presence in countries. We have 11 physical offices dotted around the world: we’ve got offices in Singapore, India, Australia, our headquarters in the US is in New Jersey, we’ve got an office in the UK, one in Germany, one in The Hague in the Netherlands!
And when you’ve got countries like Australia where literally they’re only allowing 300 people in a day to fly in, including their own citizens, it does become important to customers whether you’ve got local support. Local support so that in between lockdowns they’re able to go on site if necessary.
It also means I got more legal comeback in these countries. And people are starting to think more about companies which have got some kind of physical, accountable presence because they can’t just fly someone in from outside if and when needed.
Now, at eG Innovations too, we’ve taken a hybrid approach to work. So having to move people or most people to work from home wasn’t much of a challenge. But we’re very committed to keeping those offices because some of our employees don’t enjoy working at home and some of them feel they have a better work-life balance, if sometimes they can go to the office and get away from the kids… 😊 A few employees, in fact, even had customers who came to visit them in our offices!
Richard: If I could just kind of echo along, Conversant Group was actually very early on in adopting the concept of working from anywhere.
In fact, we’re based out of Chattanooga, Tennessee, but we have customers all over the US. And we also have employees who are all over the US. Probably 50% of our employees don’t even live in Tennessee, they can live in Utah; we’ve got employees in California, Connecticut, etc., spread about the country because remote work is available, and that capability is there. So, I think we have a unique understanding in remote work because from our founding itself 12 years ago, we’ve allowed our employees to work from anywhere!
Rachel: And it’s been really useful to have people in different regions and countries. Particularly, some countries have had very low COVID rates or have had even physical events. We’ve had some events in Asia and actually having staff there has meant that they’ve carried on. And even in the US, different areas have been in a completely different situation at different times, I think. Haven’t they, Richard?
Richard: Yes, they have. And, jokingly, I volunteered to run the Conversant office in Sao Paolo, Brazil, if they ever decide to open one up there!
Neil: I think it’s so important that we recognize that there is no cookie-cutter approach or a one-size-fit-all approach here. We all thrive in different scenarios. And we might work better in different locations, depending on what tasks we need to deliver. I feel we’ve covered so much in a short amount of time today. But for anyone that wants to continue the conversation that we started today and contact you or your team… Rachel, what’s the best starting point to find eG Innovations and stay up to speed with developments?
Rachel: I think just google eG Innovations and have a look at our website. You’ll also find on the main web page, there’s a link to our blog, where a lot of our employees post useful articles or overviews of our solutions. And that’s quite a good read. And of course, you can find us all on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Neil: All the usual suspects! And Richard, where’s the best place to find Conversant online?
Richard: So, the best place to find us will be at ConversantGroup.com. And, of course, we’re on LinkedIn and Twitter, including myself. You can find me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/richardfaulknerjr/ and on Twitter, my handle is: https://twitter.com/rjfaulknerjr.
Neil: Well, I think everything we’ve discussed today will resonate with people all over the world. It’s the challenges that we’re all having to face, in workplaces everywhere right now in every industry.
I’ve just loved hearing more about where does eG Innovations add value to Citrix customers, how it relates to Citrix’s built-in tools. Of course, the great work that you guys are doing too Richard, and how it all fits together and building that end user experience that we all expect as standard now, but more than anything, just a big thank you, to you both for taking the time to share that with me today.