“Citrix is slow” is one of the most common complaints Citrix admins hear on a daily basis. Somewhat ironically, Citrix itself is rarely the problem and the actual cause of the Citrix slow performance issues lies elsewhere. This can make troubleshooting “Citrix is slow” issues extraordinarily difficult to do.
The primary reason why troubleshooting Citrix slow performance issues tends to be so difficult is that Citrix deployments often contain a complex web of interwoven dependencies. As such, infrastructure level problems such as an overworked storage array or excessive network latency can lead to the illusion that Citrix is running slowly.
Conventional “Why is Citrix Slow” Troubleshooting Techniques
Because “Citrix is slow” is a non-specific symptom it can be difficult to know where to begin the troubleshooting process. Even so, the vast majority of Citrix performance problems are tied to login initiation, logon duration, and session performance. As such, the initial troubleshooting efforts generally focus their attention on these three areas. The first steps usually include a request for more details to understand what aspect of Citrix performance is at issue.
Login initiation refers to when there is a problem with the virtual application or desktop delivery infrastructure. Given the infrastructure’s complexity, the troubleshooting process often involves trying to narrow down the problem by trying to figure out which users, servers, applications, and subnets are experiencing the problem. By doing so, it may be possible to trace the problem to the infrastructure server that is causing the poor performance. From there, the next step is to use logging data to try to determine the exact cause of the problem.
Troubleshooting logon duration problems usually involve spending some time in the Citrix Director. The Citrix Director’s dashboard view shows the average logon duration over the last hour, and can help administrators to get a sense of whether or not logins are taking too long.
If the logon duration is found to be too high, then the next step is usually to go to the user details view. This view displays metrics corresponding to eight high-level steps within the login process: brokering, VM start, HDX connection, authentication, GPOs, logon scripts, profile load, and interactive session. Examining the graph can give the administrator a general sense of where the problem may lie.
Although this tool can be helpful, it does not give administrators the full picture. There are over 30 steps involved in the logon process, but the Citrix Director does not display logon details with that level of granularity. Additionally, depending on the nature of the problem, there may be cases in which the logon duration data is not displayed.
When user sessions are running slowly, it is important to determine which users are being affected. If the impacted users share a common network segment, then the problem may end up being network related. For example, a network switch may be congested or might be malfunctioning as the result of a hardware failure or a misconfiguration.
If on the other hand, the problem is not isolated to a single network segment, then the problem is more likely not related to network latency, but rather to a host resource problem. A host server might, for instance, be running low on CPU resources or storage IOPS. Such a problem can be continuous, or it can be intermittent. While a continuous problem may indicate that the organization is outgrowing its Citrix infrastructure, an intermittent problem might be tied to user behavior (such as running high demand, bandwidth-intensive applications). In any case, solving the problem typically involves spending a considerable amount of time analyzing monitoring data in an attempt to understand the problem.
A Better Approach to Troubleshooting “Citrix is Slow”
The key to troubleshooting Citrix slow performance issues is to adopt a monitoring tool that can provide a comprehensive view of the organization’s Citrix resources, as well as the underlying infrastructure. Although Citrix does provide some helpful troubleshooting tools, these tools are designed to look for specific issues rather than examining the infrastructure as a whole.
One especially compelling alternative to the native troubleshooting tools is Goliath Performance Monitor for Citrix. This tool has been specifically designed to help Citrix admins troubleshoot “Citrix is slow” complaints, by focusing on the key areas of login initiation, logon duration, and session performance.
Troubleshooting Requires Visibility!
Goliath Performance Monitor provides specific tools that give IT professionals the broad and deep visibility to see how the entire virtual desktop delivery infrastructure impacts end user experience. As previously noted, the first step in troubleshooting Citrix performance problems is to determine who is experiencing the problems, and what symptoms the users are seeing. Goliath accomplishes this through its End User Experience monitoring feature.
The End User Experience monitoring feature quantifies the end user experience, based on the logon initiation process, the logon duration, and the overall performance of the user’s session. This allows the IT staff to see which users are being impacted by the slow Citrix performance issues, and which are not.
Goliath’s specific features then focus on the three key areas that cause “Citrix is Slow” complaints:
Logon Initiation with Goliath
The Goliath Application Availability Monitor is an early warning system that specifically solves logon initiation problems. The Goliath virtual user automatically logs on and launches applications before your users get to work. This proactively confirms the virtual application and desktop delivery infrastructure elements are working together properly, and if not, a real time alert is sent isolating the failure point so the issue can be resolved before end users are impacted. This goes far beyond a simple simulator, real logons and sessions area created from your key user locations and confirm availability.
Logon Duration with Goliath
The Goliath Performance Monitor offers unparalleled visibility into the sub-stages of the complex Citrix logon process. It breaks down the 8 main stages provided by Director and other tools into the 33+ detailed stages. By breaking down the main stages into more detailed sub-stages, Goliath pinpoints the true root cause of logon duration issues. For example, other tools can show that the GPO phase is running slowly, but Goliath provides a list of all GPOs accessed in that phase and the specific GPO or combination of GPOs responsibly for slowness. This unique detailed view means it is much faster for IT professionals to identify and troubleshoot the problem.
Session Slowness with Goliath
When ‘Citrix is slow’ means in-session performance issues, these issues are caused by network issues, server resource issues, or end user behavior. The challenge is that while many tools can provide ICA RTT and confirm that there are session slowness issues, they lack specific detail to identify the true root cause of those performance issues. The Goliath Performance Monitor uses deep Citrix API integration to break down ICA RTT into unique metrics that pinpoint the root cause of session slowness. Goliath measures actual network speed and bandwidth within Citrix to see if slowness is based on network issues, while application and server metrics may indicate resource issues impact performance. Finally, the application shows specific end user activity in terms of both specific applications and websites uses, as well as detailed ICA channel performance, to see if the end user behavior is responsible for session slowness.
In each of these cases, it’s important to note that Goliath maintains this same level of detail for historical sessions. While other tools provide only real time data or a limited historical view, Goliath allows you to keep your data over time. This is invaluable to troubleshooting efforts because it becomes easy to identify patterns over time that help pinpoint root cause quickly.
Goliath Performance Monitor can take what might otherwise be an extraordinarily difficult troubleshooting task, and reduce it to a few mouse clicks, all the while maintaining a focus on improving the end user experience. Goliath specifically concentrates its troubleshooting efforts around looking for problems tied to login initiation, logon duration, and session performance, since these account for about 95% of the problems encountered in Citrix environments.