I have been spending quite a lot of time researching tools to aide Citrix Administrators with quickly identifying and remediating issues. The catch all label used for these tools is Citrix monitoring but there are various different levels of monitoring to be considered and often a very different set of capabilities provided by the products on the market so calling it just monitoring is a disservice.
Some tools provide a very valuable high level view of your entire environment, which is great because often times performance issues are related to networking problems, DNS, Active Directory, storage etc. things which may be out of view for Citrix Administrators.
This is awesome and ideally every organization should have this kind of tool, in my opinion. Unfortunately, this kind of tool tends to require buy in for multiple IT departments due to pricing as it can be difficult to sell management teams on ROI for just your team to quickly identify issues with this kind of tool.
Some of these types of tools give great overviews and can indicate where a problem lies but ultimately still benefit from having another tool with a much more focused view.
Some tools out there provide great real time monitoring capabilities with a robust management framework but lack in terms of detecting deviations in the environment and displaying historical data effectively.
Citrix and VMware’s own products such as Director and vROps are worth setting up and keeping in your toolkit if you own them but when you get down to it and try to rely solely on these products, you quickly discover how lacking they are.
With all of that considered, that takes me to Liquidware Stratusphere UX.
“Liquidware have such a varied and interesting product stack”
Some of the people in tech groups I’m a member of have started to talk quite a bit about their fondness for Stratusphere UX. I have been familiar with ProfileUnity for quite some time and in recent years have been a fan of Liquidware FlexApp. The fact Liquidware have such a varied and interesting product stack was enough for me to want to look at this product. My experience with FlexApp has also shown me how impressive Liquidware are for rapidly innovating their products.
“Liquidware are impressive for rapidly innovating their products”
Looking at the lay of the land: Ivanti acquired RES Software and AppSense. Citrix acquired Unidesk. VMware acquired App Volumes. This has implication for potential customers. Some organizations want a layering product but don’t want to become a Citrix or VMware customer due to cost, licensing concerns or to avoid vendor lock-in. Some want a good UEM product but don’t want to be an Ivanti customer. Liquidware provide a great alternative. There’s also good news, Liquidware have pricing structures to discount if you purchase the entire stack or multiple products together.
The Strausphere UX user interface isn’t the prettiest but I’m told it’s currently under development with new dashboards and a UI overhaul coming soon. You can look past the visual though and look at the value of data provided. Liquidware cover things from a few different bases.
The product is agent based. You can deploy the agent to all of the devices in your organization. This will provide you with valuable in-guest information such as CPU Usage, Memory, I/O and importantly for Citrix Administrators, data from the user’s endpoint. Allowing you to identify issues causing a poor user experience, be it from a resource in the data center or a local resource on the user’s workstation.
Data is displayed in dashboards and you can find greater detailed data for resolving issues in the Inspectors menu.
By having the agent on all of your devices, it can also give you the ability to compare performance for user’s logging into their physical machines vs logging into their virtual machine or launching their published applications. With the above dashboard, you quickly see what may be causing login delay. It could be delays loading the user profile, maybe processing Group Policy or AD authentication. Seeing this information across the environment from all devices and all users is very powerful. You can also trend things like login over time as Stratusphere UX captures this data for all users and all machines – all of the time!
You can see the many tabs in the screenshot above. Machine level data is pretty self-explanatory but it’s worth pointing out that with the agent, you get data from your servers, hosts and desktops to help identify issues across your many platforms. The host data is populated at the hypervisor level e.g. I’m an ESXi\vCenter user. Rather than opening up the vSphere Client to see performance info, I can get much of it right here.
You can also tunnel your focus in on a particular user to see the data that is specific to them and their session. This is great for Citrix Administrators but also for your HelpDesk. There is role based administration, so you can provide your team with access to search users when somebody calls in and reports a problem to quickly identify the problem, remediate for them or ensure the correct department is notified to ensure a quick resolution.
Stratusphere UX also provides some wire data analytics and can dissect various different protocols such as HDX, PCoIP, RDP and Blast which is invaluable for VDI and RDSH environments.
Something I really like in the product and which is something that’s pretty straightforward and should really exist in all of these tools is the ability to gather info on a trace route. I can’t count the amount of times an internal ISP has made a stealth change on their side which has caused performance issues on virtual desktops for remote users. We may not discover this until we get a flood of help desk calls and run a trace route to discover a series of new hops with significant delays.
Something which I find very different from competing products is the browser inspector. You can see how users are using your supported browsers, detect use of unsupported browsers and discover what sites are being accessed by your users from these browsers. With much talk in enterprise today about browser support, this can provide performance metrics to help steer those conversations, as well as provide ongoing data for overall browser lifecycle decisions which will become more and more important with the move toward web based SaaS apps.
Stratusphere UX is continuously capturing information and metrics on all users and machines. Because of this it can also pivot and provide an applications point of view of all installed and running application processes. Of course, simple details like who runs what, and when is available as well as inventory information. And for Citrix XenApp admins, Stratusphere UX can provide details on application resources consumed (by user, by machine, and in aggregate over time). This is profoundly important when defining an strategy and needing a look at your applications; both on a user-to-user basis, or when looking to optimize or redesign your applications delivery.
As you might expect, you can also setup alerts to your team based on certain triggers. At the time of posting this, the product currently does not have event log integration but it is something coming to the product VERY soon.
Having reviewed many products in this space, I have to say the combination of in-guest info with some wire data analytics, host and machine level data, event logging coming soon and trace route capabilities the offering is very impressive. Many claim to provide the pertinent info you need to quickly discover user issues but in reality, the dashboards aren’t intuitive and require a lot of drilldown to get what you need and even then you need to run other third party utilities to gather more info to identify the root cause. Liquidware Stratusphere UX provides most of what you should need for identifying the root cause quickly, which in the end helps get the issue resolved quicker, improves end user experience, minimizes risk, saves time and money.