Editor’s note: this post is from Kyle Davies, a Citrix Certified Expert, Citrix Certified Professional, Solutions Architect and accomplished VDI expert. You can connect with Kyle on LinkedIn, Twitter and through his blog, Tech Thoughts.

Goliath for NetScaler allows Managed Service Providers and Healthcare IT professionals to proactively monitor, reduce troubleshooting time, and remediate their Citrix environments to enhance efficiency

At the outset of this product review, I believe it makes sense to outline why IT performance monitoring is important. Monitoring is fundamental to delivering the optimal end user experience. Unfortunately, many organisations remove it from projects when budgets become constrained.

Personally, I believe doing this prohibits IT from reacting proactively to environment variables, and in the long term, seriously affects the perception of IT and can cause more and more shadow IT implementations!  Utilising monitoring tools, such as the products provided by Goliath Technologies, provides IT with the analytics to react before the end users or divisions of a business take resolving issues into their own hands.

It’s All About the End User Experience

End user experience is key, especially as most users can now use laptops or tablets at home that outperform enterprise provided devices. Without monitoring your VDI/SBC or even application-based traffic, IT cannot enable enhancements and show their organisation the ROI in whichever solution(s) they have implemented.

Implementing the correct monitoring tools can seriously lower the TCO within an environment, as support times theoretically reduce due to having the right tools for the job.

Sysadmin Spam

Monitoring is one of the typical items within any Sysadmin’s toolkit that often spams the IT team with alerts and information that are false positives or are just incorrect due to unrealistic configuration of thresholds.

In typical monitoring solutions, if you put garbage in you get garbage out, and there is a significant investment of time to implement, configure, test, and tweak the configuration until the alerts and data captured is useful for IT to act upon.  

Also, some of the monitoring solutions out on the market provide so much data, that Systems Administrators just don’t get around to utilising all of the features and functionality due to business as usual activities.

From my experience, with Goliath Technologies (GT) for NetScaler, the above comments and thoughts were side-lined. I found that I could deploy this solution within 60 minutes and start collecting data for real time review.

Get NetScaler Platinum Edition Reporting without Upgrading to Platinum

Using Goliath’s out-of-the-box configuration provided more than enough information and analytics without filling me with nonsense data. I did hear you ask, “Why don’t you just use Insight Center?”

Well…. Citrix does have NetScaler HDX and Web Insight (Insight Center) but for any useful historical reporting, you need to be utilising the platinum edition of NetScaler. See table below outlining historical functionality with edition.

hdx-insight-license-goliath-technologies

From NetScaler v9.3 or above with NCore build, Citrix supports the AppFlow functionality. AppFlow is all that Goliath Technologies (GT) for NetScaler requires, so you can have historical reporting above and beyond the periods stated above without having to get NetScaler platinum licensing.

In addition, you could be paying for a platinum license without using all the other cool features that NetScaler has to offer. Sounds a bit of a waste of money, depending on your requirements.

Get Real-time Dashboards, User Tracking & HDX User Experience Data Out-of-the-box

Utilising Goliath for NetScaler can provide Sysadmins with the following information out-of-the-box at a high level:

  • Real-time Dashboards covering VIP, Service, HDX, and general state of your NetScaler appliance(s)
    • This shows high-level statistics on hits, http, http, and errors found even with changeable drop down attributes to see the data that is relevant to you
    • You also see VIP activity reports showing routes for each connection from the VIP and potential bottlenecks

netscaler-analytics-reports-goliath-technologies

  • User tracking
    • Using the drill down functionality, you can follow a user’s route from the NetScaler straight through to the servers within a service or service group. You can see what web pages and servers are used by your end users for web traffic or load balanced traffic
    • You can see a list of all connections they have made using which devices, and from where
  • HDX user experience
    • Within the Goliath for NetScaler it shows connection quality as a red, amber, green (RAG) instance, allowing IT to quickly see if it is a connectivity issue on the server or client side that is causing issues

See image below showing an example user session from XenApp using Goliath for NetScaler:

real-time-xenapp-xendesktop-sessions-goliath-technologies

  • Integrating these analytics with Goliath Performance Monitor also would allow IT to dive into the ICA/HDX session itself and see more in depth information into what is happening within the session, what could be potentially causing issues with logon performance, and even monitor vGPU performance when using NVIDIA vGPU GRID technology

More on this product can be found in my forthcoming post.

Goliath for NetScaler also provides you with the functionality to see all internal and external incoming connections so you can troubleshoot end user experience between the various connection methods users maybe using. An example of this would be latency on a LAN vs WAN connected session.

Goliath for NetScaler Use cases

To help you see the value in monitoring NetScaler traffic, I have added some real life scenarios that could be useful:

For Managed Service Providers

The term service provider is loose and, in theory, most IT departments are a service provider as they provide a “service” to their customers/end users whether that be internal or external. For this use case, I will focus on organisations that provide ecommerce websites, gambling site, or even blog sites.

Most customers who have implemented NetScaler within their environment to load balance, SSL offload, content switch, etc. their external services are not aware if a location within their site is not working due to coding issues, content deletion, moved services, etc.

Using the Goliath for NetScaler dashboards, you see exactly which areas of the site are and are not used, or even areas of the site that are providing error codes to prospective customers or end users.

This would then allow the organisation to quickly react by tracking that user flow through Goliath for NetScaler to see if it was a NetScaler configuration issue or if the page just no longer exists, but a link is still available on the main site.

This also comes in use when sites become congested with traffic, for example: Black Friday online sales. The analytics provided could provide an organisation with the information to enable additional resources to a specific area of the site or application, or even enable or disable NetScaler compression and integrated caching features when needed.

Healthcare IT

Within the UK healthcare market (NHS), driving efficiencies, clinical mobility and patient experience is an often-discussed topic. Most NHS organisations are looking to become more agile with mobile technologies whether that be Citrix, VMware, native apps and more… BUT how do you gauge patient experience and the positive impact that clinical mobility has had within the environment without monitoring?

By implementing Goliath for NetScaler within an NHS trust, they could see business improvements around the TCO of some of the systems that have been load balanced or presented via the NetScaler.

The analytics provided would allow IT or even management level employees see a nice simple report or real time display on how specific systems are functioning. For example, Goliath for NetScaler could show the performance and traffic flow for clinicians using a load balanced patient record system, or even clinicians utilising a follow me desktop/application platform such as Citrix XenDesktop/XenApp.

By providing this data to the IT team, business improvements can be made to enhance efficiencies within specific areas of the services being delivered.

EMR/EHR Application Performance Modules

Goliath Technologies also provides EMR/EHR modules for many of the most popular patient record systems, including Cerner, Epic, Allscripts, Siemens, MEDITECH, McKesson and T-systems. These additional modules allow further insight into what is causing a poor experience.  Is it Citrix or is it the app?

Conclusion of the Review of Goliath for NetScaler

From my personal opinion, I believe that every organisation whether, it be small, mid, or enterprise in size, should have the functionality to monitor their environment.

Fundamentally, monitoring the environment will lower TCO and drive ROI much sooner due to the potential reduction in wasted time troubleshooting issues and chasing down the owner of a specific issue within a complex IT team structure. Essentially, it helps to remove the “he said, she said” palm offs.

In regards to any customers using NetScaler, implementing this monitoring capability is key and I strongly advise you to take advantage of Goliath’s free, fully supported 30-day trial.

You can also test drive the technology online, via a live interactive demo of Goliath for NetScaler. This will show you, first hand, the level of data you can get out of the box, with the base product.

About 

Kyle is a Solutions Architect based in the UK, specializing in delivering the best end user experience possible, whilst understanding that compliance and commercial viability does matter. With his background of application development, infrastructure (Storage, Compute & DC networking¬), virtualization and end user computing (workspace), he has a great understanding of all the components required to deliver the experience that end users desire. Kyle proactively assists on various virtualization support and community forums in his own time, and assists some vendors with course material and questions for exams.

As a technology lover, he is always up for a discussion or debate across various technology stacks, his blogs aim to drive discussion whilst providing insights into various solutions and technologies. You can find him on twitter at @kdavies1988.

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