Bring CA Operational Intelligence Into Your Citrix Monitoring

by April 16, 2019

Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops (formerly XenApp and XenDesktop) is a popular solution that accelerates enterprises to deliver virtual applications and desktops remotely and enables end users to access them from anywhere on any device. With its FlexCast Management Architecture (FMA), it provides a comprehensive platform for applications and desktop delivery, mobility, services, flexible provisioning and cloud management.

While Citrix multi-tier architecture provides greater flexibility and interoperability between different Citrix services, it also brings a distinctive set of challenges to enterprises that leverage this technology.

Typical Questions That a Citrix Administrator Often Asks:

  1. How is my end user experience getting affected?
  2. Can end users login quickly? How can they access their profiles quickly?
  3. How can I minimize latency in terms of accessing virtual desktop infrastructure?
  4. What is the traffic volume on my VPN gateway? How is it affecting round trip response time?
  5. What is the health of the core infrastructure?

Solving these challenges requires monitoring various components involved in the Citrix Virtual Applications and Desktops deployments. CA Unified Infrastructure Management (CA UIM) provides monitoring capabilities for all the key components using a set of monitoring probes.

These probes are primarily data collectors for metrics, topology, and log data for dashboarding, reporting and alarming.  CA UIM can also feed this data into CA Operational Intelligence for advanced analytics, root cause analysis and business service operations management.

CA UIM in conjunction with CA Operational Intelligence enables IT operations teams to proactively foresee and resolve potential performance bottlenecks that might arise across different layers within Citrix deployments.

CA UIM Monitoring for Key Citrix Infrastructure Components

Below are eight infrastructure components that are found in a typical Citrix Virtual Delivery Agent (VDA) deployment. Each section details how CA UIM monitors these components through various probes.

  • Site & Delivery Controllers: Controllers are one of the core components in the Citrix VDA deployment; they communicate with the underlying provisioning layer to distribute applications and desktops, authenticate and manage user access, broker connections between users and their desktops and applications, optimize use connections, and load-balance these connections.
  • Virtual Delivery Agents (VDA): Virtual or physical desktops that have the Citrix agent installed will establish and manage the connection between the machine and the end user device. These will serve either virtual apps or desktops and will enable the underlying machine to register with controllers. The VDA communicates with the controller broker service, which in turn controls the overall user session on the desktop.
  • Citrix Studio: The management console, which is used to manage the entire site and the associated controllers, allows users to create machine catalogs and delivery groups. This is used by administrators for the provisioning and distribution of apps and desktops.
  • Citrix License Server: The licensing server communicates with controllers to manage licenses associated with each user session.
  • Citrix StoreFront: The Citrix StoreFront is a self-service portal that manages application stores and user personalization profiles. StoreFront authenticates end users with the underlying active directory service and provides users with a consistent view of resources across multiple devices.
  • Citrix Database and Active Directory Services: Citrix Virtual App and Desktop support Microsoft SQL Server as an underlying database, which stores every site, controllers, and other configuration details, along with end user session information.
  • Hypervisors: The hypervisors, or cloud services, provide virtual machines that host virtual desktops or applications. The Machine Creation Service (MCS) will communicate with underlying hosts for dynamic provisioning and deprovisioning of resources. Citrix supports a wide range of industry-leading hypervisors and IaaS cloud service providers.
  • NetScaler Gateway: The NetScaler Gateway or similar network gateways provides a secure and single point of access, either within or outside the access for StoreFront and user sessions.

In the above list, the first four components are monitored through the CA UIM xendesktop probe. This probe automatically discovers and monitors sites, controllers, machine catalogs and delivery groups and collects performance and health metrics for monitoring. Along with site level metrics, it collects the load and health metrics of the controllers and delivery groups. It also collects usage metrics for the desktop/application, end user and sessions.

The Citrix Client Response Monitoring (ica_response) probe simulates user sessions and provides insights around performance and latency that might be involved with end user sessions. When configured on the StoreFront server, this probe proactively identifies and mitigates bottlenecks with respect to user sessions. It provides metrics around session usage and latency parameters as well.

For database and Active Directory services, CA UIM provides sqlserver and ad_response probes, which provides extensive monitoring coverage for databases and authentication services that are being used in the Citrix deployments. These probes provide insights on the performance and usage of the underlying applications.

For the core infrastructure monitoring, CA UIM offers comprehensive monitoring coverage for the popular hypervisors (VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer, Nutanix) and IaaS cloud service providers (AWS and Microsoft Azure).

CA UIM supports monitoring of the NetScaler Gateway and any other similar VPN gateways through the SNMP Collector probe, and provides metrics with respect to performance, availability and resource utilization.

Advanced Analytics and Business Service Operations Management with CA Operational Intelligence

While individual CA UIM probes collect and provide deep dive monitoring for individual Citrix components, it is equally important to get a holistic view of the overall Citrix deployment status. IT operations managers need to understand how the overall business service is performing and they need to be able to drill down to identify key components that are causing service disruption.

Built on an open and machine learning analytics engine, CA Operational Intelligence provides a superior user experience and delivers significant operational efficiencies with out-of-the-box visualization and correlation of metrics and alarms.

CA Operational Intelligence also provides the capability to manage IT Ops based on the business service it manages in addition to managing the individual applications, databases, devices, etc. that support the business service.

In the case of Citrix, you can create a Virtual App and Desktop Service that incorporates all the applications, devices and services that are involved in the Citrix deployment. The health of the service is determined on the historical data collected from underlying data collectors or probes and the service level required for the business outcome that is expected.

Below is a sample illustration of how a typical service would look like in CA Operational Intelligence:

Along with monitoring the overall Citrix VDA service level, the performance analytics view in CA Operational Intelligence will help analyze the performance of individual servers against specific parameters dynamically.

The images below provide a dynamic view of Citrix user sessions and desktop usage patterns, along with controller system level metrics.

For more information on Citrix monitoring capabilities through CA Operational Intelligence, please refer to the product documentation. To learn more about the advanced analytics and business service operations management available with CA Operational Intelligence, visit our product page.