What’s Required for Real Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop Troubleshooting?

It is not exactly a secret that Citrix deployments can be complex, and like any complex system, things mayoccasionally go wrong. When that happens, it is important to restore the system to a functional status as quickly as possible and avoid a prolonged outage. That being the case, IT pros who are tasked with maintaining their company’s Citrix deployments should consider their plan for addressing an unanticipated problem.

Director vs Goliath Troubleshooting

Most IT professionals have a collection of tools that they have amassed over the years and turn to these tools when things go wrong. It is especially common for IT pros to use free or open source troubleshooting tools. Such tools may provide diagnostic capabilities that go beyond what can be natively found in the Citrix software, and are freely available for download. So, what’s not to like?

I’m not one to bash the use of free tools. I use them myself on occasion. But, there are times when relying on free troubleshooting tools might not be in your best interest. Free tools may not be the best tool for the job.

As someone who has worked in IT for well over 20 years, there are a number of things that I have noticed about free tools over the years. Let me share with you some of my observations.

One of the hardest lessons that I have learned about the use of free tools is that sometimes you get exactly what you pay for. When you use a free tool, that tool may or may not be trustworthy. The troubleshooting tools that Citrix provides presumably work as advertised, but on at least a couple of occasions I have downloaded free support tools that ended up giving me inaccurate information. In both situations, I wasted many hours of troubleshooting because I believed what the tool was telling me.

Citrix Utilities Leave Blind Spots

Another observation that I have made over the years is that most of the free tools that I have used are either broad or deep, but not both. A broad tool might give you a general overview of the health of your IT infrastructure but lack the ability to drill down into complex problems. Conversely, a tool that includes some technical depth may fail to see the big picture, which is important in Citrix environments.

As a techie, I have historically gravitated toward tools that provide some technical depth. After all, it’s tough to fix a problem if you can’t really dig in and find out what is going on. However, tools that provide a high degree of technical depth can sometimes be problematic in a completely different way.

One issue that I have occasionally run into with some of the free tools is that they present you with raw information, leaving the interpretation of that information up to you. A performance monitoring tool might show you for example, that a particular server’s storage I/O is way too high, but it is up to you to figure out why this is happening. Normally this means needing to know which additional performance counters you need to cross reference, what the normal range should be for those counters, and what it might mean if counters reflect ooff-nominal values.

A second issue that I have sometimes seen with the free tools is that they can lead you on a wild goose chase. There is an old saying that when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If you have performance tools that are designed to diagnose very specific types of problems, your troubleshooting efforts will naturally begin to align with the tool’s capabilities. The problem is that you can become dependent on your tools to the point that it becomes difficult to diagnose problems that fall outside of what the various tools are designed to look for.

When it comes to diagnosing problems in an environment that is as complex as some Citrix deployments, you really need a tool that can see the big picture, but that can also drill down into the root cause of the problem once the general problem area has been identified. Goliath Technologies’ Goliath Performance Monitor is an excellent example of such a tool. It provides a broad overview of your entire Citrix deployment, while also providing the technical depth necessary for meaningful root cause analysis. Perhaps more importantly, the software is designed to be easy to use, and skilled resources are not required for implementation. That’s because Goliath Technologies includes Embedded Intelligence and Automation that is preconfigured to:

  • Discover and map your entire Citrix environment, and the dependencies within it – automatically.
  • Monitor and alert you to events, conditions, and failures that may degrade performance
  • Provide automatic remediation of issues based on specific conditions. This includes restarting servers, applications, and processes – or launching script/executable files to resolve issues before they become more serious.
Goliath vs. Citrix Comparison