This independent review of the Goliath Logon Simulator is republished on our blog with permission from Rob Beekmans, vExpert, CCEE, CCIA, VCP5, VCP5-DT, VCAP-DTD, MCSA2012. The original post appears on Rob’s blog, vThoughts of IT.
In my line of work, I come across a lot of products that offer similar features or come close to each other. To make sure I know the differences between the good, the bad and the ugly, I test all of them.
In my home lab, I setup a product and do a functional test. In that test, I try to look for similarities with other products and features that are exceptional. As I work for PQR, the products we sell is not in my hands. I can advise in favor or against but nothing more than that. Still, I think for any consultant, it is valuable to know the competitors’ products and have a basic understanding of them.
The same goes for the product that I’m currently testing, Goliath Logon Simulator for Citrix. There are other logon simulators and products which offer similar features. I also wanted to see what Goliath is offering because they are a company whose name I hear more and more, so I added them to my bucket list.
This post will show you how to setup the Goliath Logon Simulator for Citrix and what it does. You will see the results you get from the simulation, and in which scenarios it would benefit. Last but not least, to show the value of the product I will shed light on aspects like licensing and scalability.
An Intro to Goliath Technologies
Goliath Technologies is an US company based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with two development centers in other locations in the US. With over 400 clients, they are an ever growing company and their business is all about being proactive.
Enough about the company, let’s take a look at the software they make. If you look at their software catalog you see the following list:
- Goliath Performance Monitor for Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop, VMware Horizon view
- Goliath Performance Monitor for vSphere, Hyper-V and XenServer
- Goliath for NetScaler
- Goliath End User Experience Monitoring and Management
- Goliath Logon Simulator for Citrix
It’s quite a list and I can’t handle it all at once, so I’ll start off with the newest software, the Goliath Logon Simulator for Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop.
The Goliath Logon Simulator for Citrix
There are many products that provide a logon simulator for Citrix, so what is a logon simulator? With a logon simulator you logon with a real user on a real Citrix server and therefore get real results on what the performance looks like.
Logon Simulator Components
For a logon simulator to work properly you need to setup some components. Goliath’s Logon Simulator uses the following components to do the job:
- Management server
- Client to start the session from
Of course a working Citrix environment is a nice to have if you want to do some testing (it’s a must have of course). My lab is setup with a working Citrix environment. It uses one server as the Controller, Storefront and license server and one server as the XenApp server.
The Goliath server is the Management server and is also the server from where the tests are run. I try to keep my lab small so I can run many products at once; no need for performance, functionality is king to me.
Setup of the Logon Simulator is done with assistance of Goliath. In a GoToMeeting or WebEx session they walk you through the setup and familiarize you with the product. I have to say they are great people to talk to and you learn while installing and configuring.
- When you set it up you need to take care of a couple of things:
- UAC has to be disabled. If it is not disabled you won’t get it to work
- The user account you test with should be Administrator to run the agent
- A demo user account with access to the application or desktop
- The Management server needs pretty steep hardware, 4vCPUs and 8GB RAM
- Internet Explorer 11 or newer on the system will execute the Citrix session
- There are more small requirements, like .Net 3.51 SP1, but that is minor
- There are some other setup things to do but not worth to mention, just tuning to make sure your users logs on fine and logs off even better
- After you install the agent on the server(s) you are ready to setup a test
There are two possible scenarios to setup with Goliath’s Logon Simulator:
- Testing the Citrix Delivery infrastructure
- End user troubleshooting
The second scenario is used when you deploy the agent to a user’s home computer and see where the issue is. You would get data where the logon is not working fine. We won’t look into that scenario here right now, we will begin with scenario one. We’ll get back to the second scenario later on.
Scenario1: Setting up the logon simulation
Start the MonitorIT website with the icon on the desktop of the management server. The main screen will start.
Goliath’s MonitorIT is a tool that allows you to add monitoring rules to test numerous things. When you open monitoring rules you see a vast list of rules that are available. If you can’t find the rule you are looking for (which is hard to imagine) you can create one yourself.
With the help of the team from Goliath, I created a rule called Citrix Logon Simulator test Launch of Desktop to test my Citrix environment.
When you create a new rule you have a couple of options, and the screen that pops up is shown here. In addition to testing a Citrix logon you could periodically test if a service is still running or watch a file or something similar.
There are many more options for monitoring a specific thing rather than building and end to end solution. All these options are nice to have extras that come with the product when you run the Logon Simulator. I did not test these because the logon simulations was priority.
If you click on the item Citrix XenApp Watch you see drill down and monitoring options that are Citrix specific. In addition to running a periodic logon simulation, you might be interested in doing some other tests on your Citrix environment like watching the load on the server or keeping an eye on the latency. Again, nice options to have that come with the package, but probably will cost you a few extra licenses.
In the rule we just created, there are a few items to be configured:
The Site URL is the website user’s type into the browser to access the Citrix environment.
The Authentication User Name is a demo user that you use to access the resources. I didn’t configure storefront yet so the domain name is needed in front of the username, but in a production environment you wouldn’t need this.
App & Title Names is the name of where the resource is found on the website, so if you configured tabs with applications and desktops this is where you configure how Goliath sees the resource.
Script name, the script name is a default script to test the logon.
Make sure you select one server where the session is started from. I selected the management server because that was easiest in my lab. In a real time environment you would have a couple of virtual machines that are dedicated to test the Citrix environment.
If you have multiple locations and you want to test access from those locations it might be a good idea to start a session from there periodically. If you want good data and proactive signals that there might be an issue you would need to attend to, you would schedule the simulation to run periodically as best fits your organization.
If you want the notification to be sent out by email, SNMP or log to a Syslog server you can set this up on the notification tab. You can integrate the Logon Simulator with any other monitoring tool and combine the results with an end-to-end monitoring solution.
On the schedule tab you can select when and how often the job is run. I selected every 1 hour so I had time to look around in the console after each run. There are many options to be configured and depending on your setup or needs you would configure them accordingly.
There is also the remediation option that gives you the option to start a remediation action if an error occurs. You need to think this through and configure it for your needs, it’s just a five-step-click to get it up, but it will take some testing and tuning to make it yours.
After you set it all up you sit and wait. At the specified time, you will see an Internet Explorer tab appear and the Storefront site appear. The user you specified is automatically entered as well as the password, so you don’t need to do anything there. Just sit back and relax and see the process do the job.
The resource is displayed like you would expect, here we only had one desktop as a resource, so the Goliath Logon Simulator had to start that one. As expected the Simulator starts the application (the desktop) and the logon process starts. Behind the Internet Explorer screen you notice the session is being started, but it went too fast for me to change the screen and capture it.
After a few seconds the session is logged on, the session will stay like this for a few seconds to make sure everything is finished. After that period, the log off is initiated automatically. The XenApp server is landing on a basic install with Office 2003. It’s nothing fancy, just a very fast logon.
The next screenshot is too wide to be useful so click on it to see it for real. After the session has logged on successfully this is shown in green, when it is red you will see that there is something wrong. When you have scenario two, you would see what is going wrong for that user in the logging shown there. More on that soon.
When you click on the box next below details you will see the details of the logon session.
As you see below every step is displayed in detail and you will see where something went wrong if there is a performance issue.
In the View tab you get more details about the session you launched and some of the metrics of the server. It will give you a reference as to what the environment was like when the session was run. Logon times might be longer during the day, but that doesn’t have to be alarming because a server might be a bit busier during those hours.
If you look at the XenApp/XenDesktop session tab you will see all the user session data in the XenApp environment. Because the agent is running there, you will also get detailed information about those logons. There will be a breakdown of how long the authentication took, how long GPO loading took, and so on. I think that’s a nice to have extra with the tool.
You can visually see the logon performance in a graph. Of course, with just one task running it’s a simple graph. With multiple tasks running for days it will show how your environment is running and you can take action if needed.
Because the Goliath Logon Simulator is part of an actual monitoring tool you get more information about servers than just the logon performance. With the agent running and the management server seeing all the servers around him or her, you will get some extra data. See this as a benefit.
So if you look in the monitor tab you will see several options that might be interesting if you want to know how your servers are performing.
There are several options, and I’m not going to talk about all of them, but you can monitor the CPU, memory or the storage of the servers. If you want to monitor servers, you can get an instant quote using Goliath’s online pricing calculator.
Before we head for the review section let’s talk about scenario 2. Scenario 2 is the scenario where you can use the Goliath Logon Simulator as a debugging tool. Let’s say you have a remote or local user who has issues logging on to the Citrix environment. You have no clue why and can make no sense out of her story.
Take a look at the screenshot you saw before. It is the result screen of the session that is started, and every step along the way is there. If for some reason anything with her Citrix receiver was wrong it would show up here.
The Goliath Logon Simulator starts up, opens the web site, and is stuck on being unable to find the receiver. In my test, we did a fairly easy setup with just the client connecting to the Storefront and the controller getting to the XenApp server.
In a more serious scenario you would connect through NetScaler as well with 2FA implemented and you are testing that one periodically from each of your branch offices. In my setup the Controller, License Server and Storefront are one server. In production that will never happen and thus will it be more complex and more meaningful to test.
Personal Review of the Logon Simulator
Now that you’ve seen how the product works let me talk about what I think about it. First let’s look at the pricing model. Pricing is easy as you license per instance. There’s nothing difficult about that.
Many products are not open about their license costs, but Goliath is very easy about licensing. If you visit /pricing/ you will be able to enter the number of a certain license you want and request the quote.
The Goliath Logon Simulator is priced between $3000 and $4000 per simulated user with even lower prices for enterprises with over 20 users.
Scalability is key in production environments with multiple branch offices. With Goliath there is no limit to scalability as the sessions are started from machines you setup to do sessions. If you have 20 branch offices and you deploy 20 machines to logon periodically, that’s just fine.
The management server is set up with such steep hardware that you should be able to handle 20 agents reporting.
Support is a very important factor in any IT environment, with all dependencies getting software running, you sometimes need a little support. While we were installing the software and did a test run, we encountered an issue. In these occasions, you get to know the company and they passed with all regards.
We had a couple of sessions to troubleshoot and after a session with Heather from Goliath’s Tech Team, I knew things would be solved quickly… resulting in an e-mail this morning with a fix.
When you look for a logon simulator to test your Citrix environment Goliath is a solution that can help you. What are pro’s and what are con’s?
- Setup is easy and guided by Goliath. Setup and guidance by them is surely a plus for me, I do look at companies a lot how they handle customers. If they are unreachable they are off my bucket list. Goliath stays on 🙂
- Process is visible so any errors are easy detected. The logon process is done while you watch it, so if something goes wrong you will notice instantly which makes setup a breeze.
- No application profiling is available. It is not possible to create an application profile like you see in competitive products. Often that is used to test logon and startup of one or more default applications, to get application startup times as well as logon times.
- Hardware requirement of the management server are kind of steep, 4cpu is quite a number.
Overall, I think Goliath’s Logon Simulator is a good product with a few things to work on (Logon dashboard with big shiny circles showing numbers).
I would like to see a dashboard with a number showing the current average logon time. I think enterprises would love to have a dashboard at their office showing the current status, logon time, latency, startup time of storefront and so on.
My overall conclusion is that it is a valuable product for simulating Citrix logons because it does it with minimal effort and with a real user account. Details about the logon process are displayed but not in a fancy matter.