This independent review of NetScaler v4 is republished on our blog with permission from Marius Sandbu, Certified Administrator NetScaler & Sr. Systems Engineer. The original post appears on Marius’s blog.
Today, Goliath Technologies is releasing version 4.0 of their Goliath for NetScaler product, which is packed with new features. Up until now Goliath has focused presenting AppFlow data and the critical metrics to measure end-user experience of both ICA traffic and Web insight to the IT-administrators responsible for. AppFlow can be used to essentially measure two types of metrics, either HDX data which is typical ICA-proxy traffic, where it measures ICA latency, bandwidth usage and so on. There is also the other metric which is Web insight. With Web insight we get a constant flow of information about which clients are connecting, where they are connecting from, what resource did they request and so on.
This information is crucial to measure for instance if:
- Are users suffering from bad user-experience or timeouts?
- Are users getting 404 error messages from the web service?
- Is our web service good enough for mobile devices?
But! Appflow is just a small part of the puzzle. AppFlow measures the traffic going from the client to the backend resource, it does not however measure the state of the NetScaler as traffic goes through, so if we have some users complain about web sessions timing out, or ICA sessions freezing we will not get a good explanation why from AppFlow, because this might be because the NetScaler has too much traffic to handle, or the CPU usage has gotten to a point where it cannot process packets.
This is where the second piece of GFN 4 comes in, having AppFlow data combined with real-time NetScaler performance metrics which are being pulled from the appliances using NITRO API, which allows us to show how the NetScaler is performing while seeing how ICA traffic and Web sessions are behaving at the same time.
Within the 4.0 we now have the option add NetScaler Appliances
This should be just using a read-only user on the NetScaler, to allow pulling of data using the NITRO API. Once you have added an appliance, it will start to pull data.
Now within the main dashboard we now have a new pane called infrastructure. The infrastructure view is an also new capability that provides a single screen view of the entire NetScaler deployment from hardware to policies. Having this aggregated overview is a great benefit because all data points that are important are available in a glance, as opposed to having to move between management screens or having to drill into multiple layers within the console.
So we can go into detail and take a closer look at for instance load balanced virtual servers, hit rate and attached virtual services
We can also get a list of policies and see if we have had any hits on those specific policies today. I’m not going to go through them all in detail, but the infrastructure view provides an easy view of the NetScaler infrastructure in terms of “How are my NetScaler’s today?”
We also have custom reports available, which are built upon the data it collects from the NITRO API so for instance we can see if we have a spike in the packet CPU on the NetScaler, or perhaps the MGMT CPU got a spike we can get this information easily from the built-in reports.
Now Goliath has also included some updates to the AppFlow monitoring as well, which makes it easier to see which ICA-channel for a particular user is taking much bandwidth
Which of course makes it easier to detect if there is a printer hogging all the available bandwidth in a session and so on. Another issue that happens with an ICA session is Jitter, which is actually the variation of data between the end-user and the session. So with this release they have also included Client RTT/Jitter metric which also can be correlated with server RTT/Jitter
Which allows us to much easier tell if for instance a user is suffering from packet loss / retransmission or other factors which affects the variation on the session, and we can now correlate it with the Server RTT and Jitter if an issue is connected or not.
So these are just some of the new features added in GFN 4.0. NetScaler is a Swiss army tool of features and therefore it is important to keep a close eye on how it is behaving since it is often a crucial part of many company’s infrastructure, and with GFN 4.0 I believe Goliath are on the right path in terms of how to fully manage and monitor our NetScaler infrastructure.