The trouble with troubleshooting in Citrix Cloud

While much has been written about deploying Citrix Cloud, Jo Harder delves into how troubleshooting differs between on-prem and cloud deployments.

You’ve probably never had this happen: An early-morning user reports that applications won’t launch. You ask the user what exactly occurred. “App won’t launch, and an error message pops up after a minute or two.”

Armed with only that clue, what options does an administrator have to troubleshoot the issue? How this is addressed varies depending upon whether the environment is hosted on-prem or in Citrix Cloud, because of the differences in the tools and visibility available to the administrator.

When operating Citrix in an on-prem environment, the admin has full control and can deep dive into various components to determine the issue and work towards resolution, but when your environment is hosted in Citrix Cloud, access to these components may not exist.

Let’s delve into Citrix Cloud from a troubleshooting standpoint.

Why Citrix Cloud is more difficult to troubleshoot

Moving to Citrix Cloud is comparable to renting vs. buying. Enterprises “rent” Citrix components as part of the licensing subscription; and as a renter, some level of control is lost. Furthermore, Citrix Cloud subscribers are also not responsible for the typical rack ‘em/stack ‘em, disaster recovery, and maintenance efforts.

The components provided as part of Citrix Cloud include:

  • Citrix Gateway (formerly NetScaler Gateway)
  • Workspace (formerly StoreFront)
  • Delivery Controller
  • Licensing
  • Director
  • Studio
  • Site Database

In addition to the VDAs, the enterprise must deploy Cloud Connector(s) that enable communications with the components maintained by the enterprise, i.e., Active Directory and the VDAs.

As we look at this list, the reality is that there are a number of places where something can go wrong in each side of the solution. While the administrator can research some issues, there are other data points that are only accessible by Citrix

Where’s my app?

Let’s step back to the user who couldn’t access applications this morning. Did the network team make a firewall change last night that impacted the Citrix environment? Is the VDA unregistered? Is there an issue with Workspace?

Most administrators will first take a look at the Director and Studio screens to look for issues, as well as check Cloud Connector status and reach out to the network team. When none of these efforts yield a result, what’s next?

At this point, the common issues dwindle significantly. Could it be something obscure, such as the user was removed from a group and thus disallowed access? Is there an issue with the user profile?

In an on-prem environment, troubleshooting is more direct because the admin has access to all of the components. If this case occurred in an on-prem environment, the admin would probably look at the StoreFront logs. However, in Citrix Cloud, the Workspace logs are inaccessible, so there’s no way to know if/how the resource presentation piece is behaving.

In the cloud, there may also be situations where a false positive is generated. For example, if the Citrix NetScaler Gateway service on a Cloud Connector fails, the Cloud Connector test shows positive but yet the user can’t connect to applications.

Now it’s decision time. Run a ProcMon (Process Monitor by SysInternals) or a Wireshark network trace or contact Citrix Tech Support and open an incident. No matter how much determination you have to resolve the issue yourself, the required data points simply may not be available to you.  

Troubleshooting: Easier on-prem or cloud?

If you absolutely must maintain control of all components and love the maintenance aspect of all of the Citrix infrastructure components, on-prem may be the best solution for you. But, as we have seen in the past year in particular, there’s a massive migration to Citrix Cloud. The transition started slowly (I covered it just a year ago), but much like when running VMs on a hypervisor caught on, Citrix Cloud adoption has suddenly increased exponentially.  And troubleshooting is often an afterthought.

While some data points are now available to the administrator for troubleshooting, Citrix is keenly aware that administrators are clamoring for additional detailed data points to enable more self-help resolutions. More robust and deeper analytics are on the horizon (stay tuned!), which will make Citrix Cloud even more compelling.

In addition, third-party monitoring products provide keen troubleshooting capabilities. From color-coding to detailed drill-downs, products from ControlUp, eG Innovations, and other vendors provide easy-to-use tools that enable administrators to resolve many issues quickly.

So yes, troubleshooting in Citrix Cloud can be a bit more complex because some data points aren’t readily available to administrators right now. However, as Citrix Cloud progresses and the analytics provided by Citrix—as well as third-party vendors—mature, troubleshooting will indeed become easier.

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