View from the Edge

Tired of your users blaming Citrix for connection problems? EdgeSight can help you get a handle on what's really going on.

Citrix EdgeSight for Presentation Server 4.5
and EdgeSight for Endpoints 4.2
Installation 25%
Feature Set 25%
Management 25%
Documentation 25%
Overall Rating:

1: Virtually inoperable or nonexistent
5: Average, performs adequately
10: Exceptional

"Citrix is slow today!" Have you ever heard that complaint before? You probably have if you're a Citrix administrator. Citrix often gets the blame in many environments, but often the real problem lies elsewhere.

Other components, like an overloaded server processor or network connection, are sometimes the culprit. How do you tell the user that the problem lies on their end? Without the right monitoring tools and reports to back it up, you can't.

You can with the Citrix EdgeSight client-side monitoring tool. When Citrix Systems Inc. acquired Reflectent Software, it added edge-of-the-network client monitoring software to its product suite. The two offerings, Citrix EdgeSight for Presentation Server and Citrix

EdgeSight for Endpoints, give you a performance and availability-monitoring solution that can see all the way down to your user's client.
Citrix EdgeSight monitors performance across all applications delivered by the Citrix Presentation Server. You can monitor user activity independent of connection method, device and network in real time. You can generate detailed historical reports from a central data repository, as well. This end-point monitoring gives you the vision into client performance you've been craving.

Now You Know
The EdgeSight architecture is made up of several components: The EdgeSight Server itself, a Web server, database server, license server and reporting server. It uses two agents, one for Presentation Server and another for the client end-point.
Figure 1
[Click on image for larger view.]
Figure 1. Citrix EdgeSight provides valuable current and historical performance information to help you understand the user's experience.

There are several key monitoring capabilities that separate it from the competition, including its ability to drill down into user session data and provide real-time monitoring and alerts on client and server-side performance, application usage and network connections. Along with other Citrix-specific metrics, this data can help you track down the real cause of connection problems.

Summary reports are one of EdgeSight's more exciting features. There are several helpful summary reports available right out of the box, and you can create custom reports using SQL Reporting Services in conjunction with Visual Studio .NET.

Integrated with the Microsoft Reporting System, the EdgeSight reporting interface is easy to use. Simply choose the type of report that represents the problem or its associated real-time alert. What stands out here is that you don't need to choose the exact report if you're uncertain. All reports are hyperlinked with interactive content that lets you drill down to more specific information and reports. Choose a single date or date range and EdgeSight will generate a report summary page.

This reporting information is critical for identifying and resolving problems with user slowdowns and reduced user experience. For example, on the Device Summary report, there are four graphs that display CPU and memory usage by device or group, longest delay per day, reboots by day and error, hangs and faults by day. Being able to drill down through these reports helps you narrow down the data and get to the issue causing the bad user experience.

Real-Time Alerts
Depending on the type of problem, a real-time alert may be the preferred approach to troubleshooting. From applications with memory leaks to processes that are hung or running out of control, real-time alerts notify you about mission-critical events that need your attention as problems occur.

There are two types of alerts: event-driven and polled. When a system event happens, event-driven alerts notify designated personnel that a pre-configured event has occurred. Polled alerts are based on regular queries of the Agent database. Event-driven alerts include application errors, new processes or hung processes. Polled alerts can show high application-resource usage, system-disk bottlenecks or device reboots.

Application Usage is another feature that makes EdgeSight well worth the price. You can use this to report on actual application usage on the server and at the client. This report shows the amount of time an application or process was running and actively being used.

You can also expand the report to find process name, file name and the version of the file being accessed. The file vendor, the running time and the number of devices that are using it are displayed further down. This information helps you make more informed purchase decisions for application licenses. Being able to harvest unused licenses is worth the price of admission.

Knowing Is Half the Battle
Having all this information isn't all that useful unless you can easily share and act on it, so Citrix EdgeSight gives you the flexibility to delegate tasks. You can set up users, groups and roles in the EdgeSight Server console, and assign those contacts for report and alert administration.

The agents are easy to install, non-intrusive and send a plethora of information to the database for building detailed reports. The agents collect information at regular intervals and store the data locally, until it's time for them to upload the data to the central database.

As EdgeSight is part of the Citrix suite of products, you can break out the components onto different hardware or keep them together. You could move some of the more robust features, like Reporting Services, to separate hardware to increase performance.

Speaking of hardware, the hardware requirements for EdgeSight are fairly standard. For the Web server, you'll need a dual processor server with 512MB of memory. The database server is a bit hungrier, requiring a dual processor and 1GB of memory, although 2GB is recommended.

Sore Spots
The product is impressive, but not without a few minor sore spots. Licensing is not a part of the centralized console used for Citrix's other products, and you'll have to install the licensing console on the EdgeSight server itself. Another potentially huge requirement is that the Web server certificate must be issued from a commercial Certificate Authority. Microsoft Certificates need not apply.

Also, there are a number of prerequisites you must fulfill prior to installing the software. Don't take the installation guide and readme files lightly. Taking the time in the beginning will save lots of time and canceled installations.

Citrix EdgeSight for Presentation Server and EdgeSight for Endpoints are much-needed performance and availability management solutions for your Citrix environment all the way down to your Citrix clients. If you're tired of those "Citrix is slow today" complaints, consider adding this powerful monitoring tool to your management quiver.

About the Author

Greg Shields ([email protected]), MCSE: Security, CCEA, is a contributing editor to Redmond and a popular speaker at TechMentor events. He's also the resident editor for Realtime Publishers' Windows Server Community, providing daily commentary and expert advice for readers. Brian Casselman is a principal consultant for 3t Systems in Denver, Colo., where he leads a consulting team that specializes in secure remote-access architecture and deployment utilizing Microsoft and Citrix technologies.


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