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Using native and third-party Citrix troubleshooting tools

End-user issues will come up in any virtual desktop environment, so administrators must be prepared. For a Citrix environment, there are various tools at IT's disposal.

No matter how smooth a Citrix environment runs, issues sometimes arise with Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, so IT administrators should learn about the various tools that can help troubleshoot effectively and efficiently.

Determining the root cause of an issue can be frustrating, as many questions can arise. Is the source of a virtual desktop problem a user issue? Is it an application issue? Is it a back-end database issue, network issue, recent upgrade issue or system resource issue?

For example, if many Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops (CVAD) users report that a key business application is slow on a given day, what could be the cause? If the users are all working from the same office location, a network issue could likely be the culprit. If the users are from various locations, Citrix administrators should investigate the application, system resources and network. However, researching these components is time-consuming and may or may not identify the true root of the issue.

Troubleshooting tools can handle some of the legwork inherent in the troubleshooting process, enabling Citrix admins to get to the bottom of an issue without chasing down too many leads.

Native tools for Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops troubleshooting

The most important tool that Citrix administrators have at their fingertips is a Citrix Support agreement. Hard costs alone -- such as per-minute downtime, lost sales and administrator overtime -- justify going to Citrix Support for assistance. While these agreements may be expensive, they are essential for problem resolution in Citrix environments. Whether an organization experiences a business-critical, high-priority issue or a minor yet still complex issue, being able to engage Citrix Support experts ensures the fastest resolution of the issue.

The most important tool that Citrix administrators can have at their fingertips is a Citrix Support agreement.

A Citrix Support agreement is required to access Citrix Insight Services (CIS), Citrix's telemetry platform for automated system analysis and issue resolution. Within the Citrix Support account, CIS analyzes output from some of the Citrix troubleshooting tools, including Call Home and Scout.

Of course, every issue does not warrant an administrator-initiated Citrix Support incident. IT admins can resolve many issues via Citrix-native and third-party troubleshooting tools, depending on how an organization sets up its environment. One key detail to keep in mind is the difference between automated tools, which take the initiative to send info to admins, and administrator-initiated tools, which rely on an IT admin to go into the tool and perform troubleshooting and monitoring tasks.

Automated Citrix troubleshooting tools

Citrix Call Home is a proactive tool that requires no administrator action after an IT department elects participation, which it can enable during initial configuration or afterward. Call Home automatically collects system diagnostic data, such as logs and crash dumps, from the environment. By default, Call Home uploads this data to the CVAD management console every week for analysis and troubleshooting without administrator intervention.

If there is a notable issue, Call Home generates a Citrix Support incident and then both the administrators and Citrix Support staff can view the results. For example, Citrix admins may not notice occasional Virtual Delivery Agent (VDA) registration failures, but the uploaded Call Home data will likely pinpoint the issue and may even provide a path to resolution.

Call Home is separate from Citrix Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP) and Install/Upgrade Analytics. Organizations often opt to disable CEIP and Install/Upgrade Analytics within production environments because these two types of data collection provide anonymous system information to Citrix, whereas Call Home is an automated diagnostic tool.

Administrator-initiated Citrix troubleshooting tools

Citrix Scout runs diagnostics and health checks on one or more Citrix components. Administrators can quickly run Scout to perform a general health check on VDAs, Delivery Controllers, StoreFront servers and License servers. In addition to providing immediate health check output, Scout records a manual trace when reproducing an issue. Admins can prompt Scout to upload its output as information for a Citrix Support incident.

For example, if occasional VDA registration issues occur after a Delivery Controller upgrade, Scout could run on the Delivery Controllers and VDAs to troubleshoot. If Scout doesn't pinpoint the issue during the health checks, IT could open an incident with Citrix Support and append the Scout file to the incident.

Another option is Citrix Director's built-in monitoring tool for CVAD. Whether a Citrix environment is on premises or hosted on Citrix Cloud, Director is a key mechanism for monitoring and troubleshooting end-user environments. Director captures many aspects of UX, and it assists help desk associates with troubleshooting.

A graphic showing the components of the Citrix Cloud architecture

For example, if a user calls the help desk with issues related to a slow application, user session data is readily available. The user's applications, logon duration, accessed VDA and many more data points are also visible. As the help desk associate reviews the user session data, perhaps the multisession VDA is running low on system resources, which could explain the slow session. However, advising the user to log off and log on to a fresh session may be all that is required to improve UX.

Third-party Citrix monitoring tools

While third-party tools require an additional investment of capital and IT labor for setup, they are generally easier to use and provide a more in-depth drill-down for issue resolution. In addition to providing insight into Citrix components, third-party tools can incorporate other vendors' components, such as hypervisors, database servers and networks. Thus, third-party tools can provide a holistic view of the entire environment, not just the Citrix components.

Using the same slow application monitoring example, a help desk associate with a complete overview of the environment can drill down easily to find the root cause. Although the issue may be as simple as an overloaded VDA, it is also possible that the issue is more complex and unrelated to the Citrix components. Perhaps a database server is overloaded, or poor network connectivity is the culprit.

There are plenty of third-party tools available for monitoring and troubleshooting Citrix environments. Key vendors in this market include SolarWinds, ControlUp and eG Innovations. When considering a third-party tool, organizations should look for a trial or proof of concept to ensure that all business and technical requirements are adequately covered.

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