Windows User Logon - VM Test

The process of a user logging into a virtual server is fairly complex. First, the domain controller is discovered and the login credentials are authenticated. Then, the corresponding user profile is identified and loaded. Next, group policies are applied and logon scripts are processed to setup the user environment. In the meantime, additional processing may take place for a user – say, applying system profiles, creating new printers for the user, and so on. A slowdown in any of these steps can significantly delay the logon process for a user. Since logons on Windows happen sequentially, this may adversely impact the logins for other users who may be trying to access the virtual server at the same time. Hence, if a user complains that he/she is unable to access an application/desktop published on virtual server, administrators must be able to rapidly isolate exactly where the logon process is stalling and for which user. The typical process for monitoring and troubleshooting the login process on Windows is to use the user environment debugging mechanism. To enable this on Windows and to set the logging level associated with the userenv.log file, perform the following steps:

  • Start a registry editor (e.g., regedit.exe).
  • Navigate to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon registry subkey.
  • From the Edit menu, select New, DWORD Value.
  • Enter the name UserEnvDebugLevel, then press Enter.
  • Double-click the new value, set it to 65538 (decimal) - which corresponds to the debugger output.

Once these changes are enabled, details about the Windows login process are logged into the file %systemroot%\debug\usermode\userenv.log. The log file is written to the %Systemroot%\Debug\UserMode\Userenv.log file. If the Userenv.log file is larger than 300 KB, the file is renamed Userenv.bak, and a new Userenv.log file is created. This action occurs when a user logs on locally or by using Terminal Services, and the Winlogon process starts. However, because the size check only occurs when a user logs on, the Userenv.log file may grow beyond the 300 KB limit. The 300 KB limit cannot be modified.

The Windows User Logon - VM test periodically checks the userenv log file on Windows to monitor the user login and profile loading process and accurately identify where the process is bottlenecked. On Windows 2008 (or above), this test takes the help of the Windows event logs to capture anomalies in the user login and profile loading process and report where the process is bottlenecked - in the authentication process? during profile loading? during GPO processing and if so, which GPO?

This test is disabled by default. To enable the test, go to the enable / disable tests page using the menu sequence : Agents -> Tests -> Enable/Disable, pick the desired Component type, set Performance as the Test type, choose the test from the disabled tests list, and click on the < button to move the test to the ENABLED TESTS list. Finally, click the Update button.

Target of the test : An ESX server host

Agent deploying the test : An internal/remote agent

Outputs of the test : One set of results for every user to the ESX server host to be monitored.

Configurable parameters for the test
  1. Test period - How often should the test be executed
  2. Host - The host for which the test is to be configured.
  3. port - The port at which the specified host listens. By default, this is NULL.
  4. esx user and esx password - In order to enable the test to extract the desired metrics from a target ESX server, you need to configure the test with an ESX USER and ESX PASSWORD. The user credentials to be passed here depend upon the mechanism used by the eG agent for collecting performance statistics from the ESX server and its VMs. These monitoring methodologies and their corresponding configuration requirements have been discussed hereunder:

    • Monitoring using the web services interface of the ESX server: Starting with ESX server 3.0, a VMware ESX server offers a web service interface using which the eG agent collects metrics from the ESX server. The VMware VI SDK is used by the agent to implement the web services interface. To use this interface for monitoring, this test should be configured with an ESX USER who has “Read-only” privileges to the target ESX server. By default, the root user is authorized to execute the test. However, it is preferable that you create a new user on the target ESX host and assign the “Read-only” role to him/her. The steps for achieving this have been elaborately discussed in Creating a New User with Read-Only Privileges to the ESX Serversection.

      ESX servers terminate user sessions based on timeout periods. The default timeout period is 30 mins. When you stop an agent, sessions currently in use by the agent will remain open for this timeout period until ESX times out the session. If the agent is restarted within the timeout period, it will open a new set of sessions. If you want the eG agent to close already existing sessions before it opens new sessions, then you would have to configure all the tests with the credentials of an ESX user with permissions to View and stop sessions (prior to vSphere/ESX server 4.1, this was called the View and Terminate Sessions privilege). To know how to grant this permission to an ESX user, refer to section.

    • Monitoring using the vCenter in the target environment: By default, the eG agent connects to each ESX server and collects metrics from it. While this approach scales well, it requires additional configuration for each server being monitored. For example, separate user accounts may need to be created on each server for read-only access to VM details. While monitoring large virtualized installations however, the agents can be optionally configured to monitor ESX servers using the statistics already available with different vCenter installations in the environment.

    In this case therefore, the ESX USER and ESX PASSWORD that you specify should be that of an Administrator or Virtual Machine Administrator in vCenter. However, if, owing to security constraints, you prefer not to use the credentials of such users, then, you can create a special role on vCenter with ‘Read-only’ privileges.

    Refer to Section Assigning the ‘Read-Only’ Role to a Local/Domain User to vCentersection of this document to know how to create a user on vCenter.

    If the ESX server for which this test is being configured had been discovered via vCenter, then the eG manager automatically populates the esx user and esx password text boxes with the vCenter user credentials using which the ESX discovery was performed.

    Like ESX servers, vCenter servers too terminate user sessions based on timeout periods. The default timeout period is 30 mins. When you stop an agent, sessions currently in use by the agent will remain open for this timeout period until vCenter times out the session. If the agent is restarted within the timeout period, it will open a new set of sessions. If you want the eG agent to close already existing sessions before it opens new sessions, then you would have to configure all the tests with the credentials of a vCenter user with permissions to View and stop sessions (prior to vCenter 4.1, this was called the View and Terminate Sessions permission). To know how to grant this permission to a user to vCenter, refer to Creating a Special Role on vCenter and Assigning the Role to a Local/Domain Usersection.

    When the eG agent is started/restarted, it first attempts to connect to the vCenter server and terminate all existing sessions for the user whose credentials have been provided for the tests. This is done to ensure that unnecessary sessions do not remain established in the vCenter server for the session timeout period.  Ideally, you should create a separate user account with the required credentials and use this for the test configurations. If you provide the credentials for an existing user for the test configuration, when the eG agent starts/restarts, it will close all existing sessions for this user (including sessions you may have opened using the Virtual Infrastructure client). Hence, in this case, you may notice that your VI client sessions are terminated when the eG agent starts/restarts.

  5. confirm password - Confirm the password by retyping it here.
  6. ssl - By default, the ESX server is SSL-enabled. Accordingly, the SSL flag is set to Yes by default. This indicates that the eG agent will communicate with the ESX server via HTTPS by default.

    Like the ESX sever, the vCenter is also SSL-enabled by default. If you have chosen to use the vCenter for monitoring, then you have to set the SSL flag to Yes.

  7. webport - By default, in most virtualized environments, the vSphere/ESX server and vCenter listen on port 80 (if not SSL-enabled) or on port 443 (if SSL-enabled). This implies that while monitoring an SSL-enabled vSphere/ESX server directly, the eG agent, by default, connects to port 443 of the vSphere/ESX server to pull out metrics, and while monitoring a non-SSL-enabled server, the eG agent connects to port 80. Similarly, while monitoring a vSphere/ESX server via an SSL-enabled vCenter, the eG agent connects to port 443 of vCenter to pull out the metrics, and while monitoring via a non-SSL-enabled vCenter, the eG agent connects to port 80 of vCenter. 

    Accordingly, the webport parameter is set to 80 or 443 depending upon the status of the ssl flag.  In some environments however, the default ports 80 or 443 might not apply. In such a case, against the webport parameter, you can specify the exact port at which the vSphere/ESX server or vCenter in your environment listens so that the eG agent communicates with that port.

  8. VIRTUAL CENTER - If the eG manager had discovered the target ESX server by connecting to vCenter, then the IP address of the vCenter server used for discovering this ESX server would be automatically displayed against the vIRTUAL center parameter; similarly, the esx user and esx password text boxes will be automatically populated with the vCenter user credentials, using which ESX discovery was performed.

    If this ESX server has not been discovered using vCenter, but you still want to monitor the ESX server via vCenter, then select the IP address of the vCenter host that you wish to use for monitoring the ESX server from the vIRTUAL center list. By default, this list is populated with the IP address of all vCenter hosts that were added to the eG Enterprise system at the time of discovery. Upon selection, the esx user and esx password that were pre-configured for that vCenter server will be automatically displayed against the respective text boxes.

    On the other hand, if the IP address of the vCenter server of interest to you is not available in the list, then, you can add the details of the vCenter server on-the-fly, by selecting the Other option from the vIRTUAL center list. This will invoke the add vcenter server details page. Refer to Adding the Details of a vCenter Server for Guest Discoverysection.

    On the other hand, if you want the eG agent to behave in the default manner -i.e., communicate with each ESX server for monitoring it - then set the VIRTUAL CENTER parameter to ‘none’. In this case, the ESX USER and ESX PASSWORD parameters can be configured with the credentials of a user who has at least ‘Read-only’ privileges to the target ESX server.

  9. inside view using - By default, this test communicates with every VM remotely and extracts “inside view” metrics. Therefore, by default, the inside view using flag is set to Remote connection to VM (Windows).

    Typically, to establish this remote connection with Windows VMs in particular, eG Enterprise requires that the eG agent be configured with domain administrator privileges. In high-security environments, where the IT staff might have reservations about exposing the credentials of their domain administrators, this approach to extracting “inside view” metrics might not be preferred. In such environments therefore, eG Enterprise provides administrators the option to deploy a piece of software called the eG VM Agent (Windows) on every Windows VM; this VM agent allows the eG agent to collect “inside view” metrics from the Windows VMs without domain administrator rights. Refer to Configuring the eG Agent to Collect Current Hardware Status Metricssection for more details on the eG VM Agent. To ensure that the “inside view” of Windows VMs is obtained using the eG VM Agent, set the inside view using flag to eG VM Agent (Windows). Once this is done, you can set the domain, admin user, and admin password parameters to none.

  10. domain, admin user, admin password, and confirm password - By default, this test connects to each virtual guest remotely and attempts to collect “inside view” metrics. In order to obtain a remote connection, the test must be configured with user privileges that allow remote communication with the virtual guests. The first step towards this is to specify the DOMAIN within which the virtual guests reside. The admin user and admin password will change according to the domain specification. Discussed below are the different values that the domain parameter can take, and how they impact the admin user and admin password specifications:

    • If the VMs belong to a single domainIf the guests belong to a specific domain, then specify the name of that domain against the domain parameter. In this case, any administrative user in that domain will have remote access to all the virtual guests. Therefore, an administrator account in the given domain can be provided in the ADMIN USER field and the corresponding password in the ADMIN PASSWORD field. Confirm the password by retyping it in the CONFIRM PASSWORD text box.
    • If the guests do not belong to any domain (as in the case of Linux/Solaris guests) :  In this case, specify “none” in the DOMAIN field, and specify a local administrator account name in the ADMIN USER below.

      Prior to this, you need to ensure that the same local administrator account is available or is explicitly created on each of the virtual machines to be monitored. Then, proceed to provide the password of the ADMIN USER against ADMIN PASSWORD, and confirm the password by retyping it in the CONFIRM PASSWORD text box.

      If key-based authentication is implemented between the eG agent and the SSH daemon of a Linux guest, then, in the admin user text box, enter the name of the user whose <user_home_dir> (on that Linux guest) contains a .ssh directory with the public key file named authorized_keys. The admin password in this case will be the passphrase of the public key; the default public key file that is bundled with the eG agent takes the password eginnovations. Specify this as the admin password if you are using the default private/public key pair that is bundled with the eG agent to implement key-based authentication. On the other hand, if you are generating a new public/private key pair for this purpose, then use the passphrase that you provide while generating the pair. For the detailed procedure on Implementing Key-based Authentication refer to Troubleshooting the Failure of the eG Remote Agent to Connect to or Report Measures for Linux Guestssection.

    • If the guests belong to different domains - In this case, you might want to provide multiple domain names. If this is done, then, to access the guests in every configured domain, the test should be configured with the required user privileges; this implies that along with multiple DOMAIN names, multiple ADMIN USER names and ADMIN PASSWORDs would also have to be provided. To help administrators provide these user details quickly and easily, the eG administrative interface embeds a special configuration page. To access this page, simply click on the Click here hyperlink that appears just above the parameters of this test in the test configuration page. To know how to use the special page, refer to Windows User Logon - VM Testsection.
    • If the inside view using flag is set to ‘eG VM Agent (Windows)’ - In this case, the inside view can be obtained without domain administrator privileges. Therefore, set the domain, admin user, and admin password parameters to none.
  11. exclude vms - Administrators of some virtualized environments may not want to monitor some of their less-critical VMs - for instance, VM templates - both from ‘outside’ and from ‘inside’. The eG agent in this case can be configured to completely exclude such VMs from its monitoring purview. To achieve this, provide a comma-separated list of VMs to be excluded from monitoring in the exclude vms text box. Instead of VMs, VM name patterns can also be provided here in a comma-separated list. For example, your exclude vms specification can be: *xp,*lin*,win*,vista. Here, the * (asterisk) is used to denote leading and trailing spaces (as the case may be). By default, this parameter is set to none indicating that the eG agent obtains the inside and outside views of all VMs on a virtual host by default. By providing a comma-separated list of VMs/VM name patterns in the exclude vms text box, you can make sure the eG agent stops collecting ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ view metrics for a configured set of VMs.
  12. ignore vms inside view - Administrators of some high security VMware environments might not have permissions to internally monitor one/more VMs. The eG agent can be configured to not obtain the inside view of such ‘inaccessible’ VMs using the ignore vms inside view parameter. Against this parameter, you can provide a comma-separated list of VM names, or VM name patterns, for which the inside view need not be obtained. For instance, your ignore vms inside view specification can be: *xp,*lin*,win*,vista. Here, the * (asterisk) is used to denote leading and trailing spaces (as the case may be). By default, this parameter is set to none indicating that the eG agent obtains the inside view of all VMs on an ESX host by default.

    Note:

    While performing VM discovery, the eG agent will not discover the operating system of the VMs configured in the ignore vms inside view text box.

  13. ignore winnt - By default, the eG agent does not support the inside view for VMs executing on Windows NT operating systems. Accordingly, the ignore winnt flag is set to Yes by default.
  14. REPORT BY USER - While monitoring a VMware ESX server, the REPORT BY USER flag is set to No by default, indicating that by default, the guest operating systems on the ESX server are identified using the hostname specified in the operating system. On the other hand, while monitoring VMware Desktop environments, this flag is set to YES by default; this implies that in case of VDI servers, by default, the guests will be identified using the login of the user who is accessing the guest OS. In other words, in VDI environments, this test will, by default, report measures for every username_on_virtualmachinename.
  15. REPORT POWERED OS - This flag becomes relevant only if the REPORT BY USER flag is set to ‘Yes’.

    If the REPORT POWERED OS flag is set to Yes (which is the default setting), then this test will report measures for even those VMs that do not have any users logged in currently. Such guests will be identified by their virtual machine name and not by the username_on_virtualmachinename. On the other hand, if the REPORT POWERED OS flag is set to No, then this test will not report measures for those VMs to which no users are logged in currently.

  16. report for each user – By default, this flag is set to Yes. This implies that, by default, the test will report metrics for each user to the virtual machine. If you set this flag to No, then metrics will be reported for VMs.
  17. report by domain name – By default, this flag is set to No. This means that, by default, the test will report metrics for each username only. You can set this flag to Yes, to ensure that the test reports metrics for each domainname\username.
  18. report unknown – By default, this flag is set to No. Accordingly, the test, by default, disregards user sessions that have remained active on the server for a duration lesser than the test period. If you want the test to report metrics for such users as well, then set this flag to Yes. In this case, the test will additionally support an Unknown descriptor – the metrics reported by this descriptor will be aggregated across all such user sessions that have been active on the server only for a limited duration. 
  19. DD FREQUENCY - Refers to the frequency with which detailed diagnosis measures are to be generated for this test. The default is 1:1. This indicates that, by default, detailed measures will be generated every time this test runs, and also every time the test detects a problem. You can modify this frequency, if you so desire. Also, if you intend to disable the detailed diagnosis capability for this test, you can do so by specifying none against DD FREQUENCY.
  20. DETAILED DIAGNOSIS - To make diagnosis more efficient and accurate, the eG suite embeds an optional detailed diagnostic capability. With this capability, the eG agents can be configured to run detailed, more elaborate tests as and when specific problems are detected. To enable the detailed diagnosis capability of this test for a particular server, choose the On option. To disable the capability, click on the Off option.

    The option to selectively enable/disable the detailed diagnosis capability will be available only if the following conditions are fulfilled:

    • The eG manager license should allow the detailed diagnosis capability
    • Both the normal and abnormal frequencies configured for the detailed diagnosis measures should not be 0.
Measurements made by the test
Measurement Description Measurement Unit Interpretation

Logon duration:

Indicates the average time taken by this user for logging in during the last measurement period.

Msecs

If this value is abnormally high for any user, then, you can compare the User account discovery time, LDAP bind time to Active Directory, Client side extension processed time, DC discovery time, Total group policy object file access time, Avg system policy processing time and User profile load time measures to know exactly where that user’s login process experienced a bottleneck - is it when loading the profile? is it when processing system policies? is it when processing group policies? is it when interacting with AD for authenticating the user login?  

User account discovery:

Indicates the amount of time taken by the system call to get account information for this user during the last measurement period.

Msecs

Compare the value of this measure across users to know which user’s logon process spent maximum time in retrieving account information.

LDAP bind time to Active Directory:

Indicates the amount of time taken by the LDAP call for this user to connect and bind to Active Directory during the last measurement period.

MSecs

Compare the value of this measure across users to know which user’s logon process spent maximum time in connecting to Active Directory. Besides impacting authentication time, high LDAP bind time may also affect group policy processing.

Client side extension processed time:

Indicates the amount of time that client side extensions took for processing group policies for this user during the last measurement period.

MSecs

Compare the value of this measure across users to know which user’s logon process spent maximum time in group policy processing.

If this measure reports an unusually high value for any user, then, you may want to check the value of the LDAP bind time to Active Directory measure for that user to figure out if a delay in connecting to AD is affecting group policy processing. This is because, group policies are built on top of AD, and hence rely on the  directory service’s infrastructure for their operation. As a consequence, DNS and AD issues may affect Group Policies severely. One could say that if an AD issue does not interfere with authentication, at the very least it will hamper group policy processing.

You can also use the detailed diagnosis of this measure to know which client side extension was used to process which group policy for a particular user.

DC discovery time:

Indicates the time taken to discover the domain controller to be used for processing group policies for this user during the last measurement period.

MSecs

Compare the value of this measure across users to know which user’s logon process spent maximum time in domain controller discovery.

Total group policy object file accessed time:

Indicates the amount of time the logon process took to access group policy object files for this user during the last measurement period.

MSecs

Compare the value of this measure across users to know which user’s logon process spent maximum time in accessing the group policy object file.

User profile load time:

Indicates the amount of  time it took to load this user’s profile successfully in the last measurement period.

MSecs

Compare the value of this measure across users to know which user’s profile took the longest time to load. One of the common reasons for long profile load times is large profile size. In such circumstances, you can use the User Profile test to determine the  current size of this user’s profile. If the profile size is found to be large, you can conclude that it is indeed the size of the profile which is affecting the profile load time. 

Another reason would be the absence of a profile. If the user does not already have a profile a new one is created. This slows down the initial logon quite a bit compared to subsequent logons. The main reason is that Active Setup runs the IE/Mail/Theme initialization routines.

Moreover, this measure reports the average time taken for loading a user’s profile across all the sessions of that user. To know the profile load time per user session, use the detailed diagnosis of this measure. This will accurately pinpoint the session in which the profile took the longest to load.

Group policy starts:

Indicates the number of group policy applications started for this user in the last measurement period.

Number

Logon performance improves when fewer Group Policies are applied. Merge GPOs when possible instead of having multiple GPOs.

Group policy completes:

Indicates the number of group policy applications completed for this user in the last measurement period.

Number

Client side extensions applied:

Indicates the number of client side extensions used for processing group policies for this user during the last measurement period.

Number

 

Max group policy time:

Indicates the maximum time taken for applying group policies for this user in the last measurement period.

Msecs

 

Profile load starts:

Indicates the number of profile loads started for this user in the last measurement period.

Number

Use the detailed diagnosis of this measure to know the details of the user sessions in which profile loads were started.

Profile load successes:

Indicates the number of successful profile loads for this user in the last measurement period.

Number

 

Profile loading failures:

Indicates the number of profile load failures for this user in the last measurement period.

Number

An unusual increase in number of profile loading failures is a cause for concern. The userenv.log/event logs file will have details of what profile loads failed and why.

Profile load failures percent:

Indicates the percentage of profile loads that failed for this user in the last measurement period.

Percent

A low value is desired for this measure. Compare the value of this measure across users to know which user’s profile failed to load most often.

Avg user profile load time:

Indicates the average time it took to load this user’s  profile successfully in the last measurement period.

Msecs

Ideally, profile load time should be low for any user. A high value or a consistent rise in this value is a cause for concern, as it indicates a delay in profile loading. This in turn will have a negative impact on user experience. One of the common reasons for long profile load times is large profile size.

Compare the value of this measure across users to identify that user whose profile took the longest to load. Then, use the User Profile test to determine the  current size of this user’s profile. If the profile size is found to be large, you can conclude that it is indeed the size of the profile which is affecting the profile load time. 

Max profile load time:

Indicates the maximum time it took to load a profile during the last measurement period.

Msecs

 

Profile unload starts:

Indicates the number of profile unloads started for this user during the last measurement period.

Number

Use the detailed diagnosis of this measure to know when a user’s session was initiated and how long each session remained active on the virtual server.  From this, you can infer how many sessions were active for a user on the server and the duration of each session, and thus identify long-running sessions for the user.

Profile unload successes:

Indicates the number of successful profile unloads for this user during the last measurement period.

Number

 

Profile unload failures:

Indicates the number of unsuccessful profile unloads during the last measurement period.

Number

 

Profile unload failures percent:

Indicates the profile unload failures as a percentage of the total profile unloads.

Percent

 

Avg user profile unload time:

Indicates the average time for unloading a profile during the last measurement period.

Msecs

 

Max profile unload time:

Indicates the maximum time for unloading a profile during the last measurement period.

Msecs

 

System policy starts:

Indicates the number of system policy processes  that were started for this user in the last measurement period.

Number

 

System policy completes:

Indicates the number of system policy completions for this user in the last measurement period.

Number

Compare the total number of starts to completions. if there is a significant discrepancy, this denotes a bottleneck in system policy application. Check the userenv.log file for more details.

Avg system policy processing time:

Indicates the average time taken for applying system policies in the last measurement period for this user.

Msecs

If the system policy times are long, check the detailed diagnosis to view if the policy handling is taking time for all users. Analyze the userenv.log to determine the reason for any slowdown.

Max system policy time:

Indicates the maximum time for applying system policies for this user in the last measurement period.

Msecs