When implementing Citrix environments, normally architects and consultants will focus on Low Level and High Level Designs, and implementing the solution from hopefully a Proof of Concept to Pilot and next step Production.
Support and maintenance often get overlooked. And in my opinion nearly as important as the other stuff mentioned. Effectively maintaining a Citrix environment is a bare necessity to have a stable and reliable environment.
In this blog I would like to take a look at some of the components that must be considered.
Using the best appropriate tools for support is a key element in order to gain the best and fast resolution towards issues at hand.
For instance there are some tool available:
- Call Script.
The call script is a script, which a company could use to give the helpdesk staff a document. This document can be used to get the needed information during the phone call. When a good call script is provided this is also a key element for the next support level to take the research from there. For instance no need for calling the user, and asking him for more input.
- Ticket Management System.
The use of an ticket management system can be used to make a good registration of the users information and issues. It could be also used to insert extra documentation or screen shot of the problem. Furthermore with an Ticket Management System, in some cases it is possible to create an own knowledgebase. Which in that case can help to retain common problems, and to take the appropriate action, instead of investigating this over and over again. You could also say that this is the company’s own Wiki page.
- Shadowing Tools.
Using shadowing tools is a very useful way for troubleshooting issues. It allows the helpdesk to enter the users session, and take a look at what a user is doing on the fly.
Citrix Administrative Consoles.
Citrix provides a set of Administrative Consoles in which the helpdesk team should also have access to.
- Desktop Studio.
Desktop Studio is used to enable administrators to perform configuration and maintaining tasks for XenDesktop site and associated virtual desktops
- HDX Monitor.
The HDX Monitor tool is used to validate the operation and configuration of key features of XenDesktop’s and XenApp’s HDX stack including the latest HDX virtualization technologies like MediaStream for Flash and HDX RealTime features.
- Desktop Director.
Desktop Director provides a detailed and intuitive overview of XenDesktop environments. It enables support and helpdesk teams to quickly and seamlessly perform crucial support tasks for their end users while at the same time monitoring and troubleshooting system issues before they become system-critical.
The AppCenter (formerly Delivery Services Console) is a tool that snaps into the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) and enables you to perform a number of management functions.
Citrix XenCenter is the graphical, Windows-based user interface to manage and monitor XenServer hosts and resource pools. XenCenter allows users to create, deploy, manage, and monitor Virtual Machines (VMs) from Windows desktop machines. Some of the features available in XenCenter include: VM lifecycle and resource pool management, dynamic memory and remote storage configuration, resource pool networking management, VM protection and recovery, role-based access controls, and system performance monitoring.
- Provisioning Services Console.
The Provisioning Services Console is used to manage components within a Provisioning Services farm. The Console can be installed on any machine that can access the farm.
- License Administration Console.
The License Administration Console is the interface, which is used to manage the license files and the license server (or appliance)
Here is a table that described which component is available in which product.
|Provisioning Server Console||X|
|License Administration Console||X||X||X||X|
Testing and Change Control.
Regular updating and maintenance is a must for every Citrix environment. Companies should look at a way to make some internal guidelines and process to enable this. For instance modification should be tested prior for taking this to production level.
Changes to certain Citrix environments can affect hundreds of users. So it is critical to take a look at a multi-tier testing solution.
Tier 1 Development:
The development infrastructure should be separated from the production network/environment. This environment should be an exact clone of the production environment with if possible all the same servers and virtual machines. The purpose of this phase is to provide the Citrix team with a non-production environment where testing and integrating new products can be done in a greenfield scenario.
Tier 2 Test:
This test environment must be an exact clone of the production infrastructure. This environment should prove the implementation or changes can be done in a safely manor. All the changes that where documented in the Tier 1 Development can be applied during this stage. If in this stage is something is not working correctly, Citrix Team must consider to engage in small and minor changes or go back to development.
Tier 3 Acceptance:
This environment can be chained together with the production environment. In this stage some changes are in place, and maybe a selected group of users are working on this changed environment. So after a small period if no problems arise, it would be safe to update the whole production environment.
Tier 4 Production:
In this stage all updates and changes are applied to the production environment. Also all changes and updates are well documented within the companies used framework.
Change Management Process.
Although there is a Muti-Tier DTAP environment available, changes and updates should be well managed. Every change should start with an Request for Change. This Request for Change should be assigned to an Change Manager. This Change Manager should validate the request. They could look at the following things:
- Analyse Impact
- Type of change
- Roll Back Scenarios
If all of the above were considerate next step would be to take this up with a so-called Change Advisory Board (CAB). If the CAB approves on the change, next step is to assign the change to an engineer or consult to implement in the earlier mentioned Multi-Tier DTAP environment.
Every step should be documented in an Change Control Log.
Monitoring of the Citrix Environment is key to address issues or upcoming issues on forehand.
Following Services should be monitored:
Citrix Provisioning Servers
|Citrix PVS PXE Service|
|Citrix PVS Stream Service|
|Citrix PVS SOAP Service|
|Citrix PVS TFTP Service|
|Citrix PVS Two-Stage Boot Service|
Citrix License Server
|Citrix License Service|
|Citrix Licensing WMI|
Citrix Delivery Controllers
|Citrix AD Identity Service|
|Citrix Broker Service|
|Citrix Configuration Service|
|Citrix Host Service|
|Citrix Env Test|
|Citrix Delegated Admin|
|Citrix Diagnostic Facility COM Server|
|Citrix Delivery Controller Service|
|Citrix XTE Server|
|Citrix Pool Management Server|
|Remote Procedure Call (RPC)|
Citrix Xen App Servers
|Citrix Desktop Service|
|Citrix Encryption Service|
|Citrix End User Experience Monitoring|
|Citrix Group Policy Engine|
|Citrix HDX MediaStream for Flashservice|
|Citrix Location an Sensor|
|Citrix Mobile Receiver Virtual Channel Service|
|Citrix Multi Touch Redirection Service|
|Citrix Print Manager Service|
|Citrix Profile Management|
|Citrix PVS Device Service|
|Citrix Pvs for VM agent|
|Citrix Services Manager|
|Citrix Smart Card Servie|
|Citrix Stack Control Service|
|Net Logon Service|
|Remote Procedure Call Service (RPC)|
Citrix StoreFront Servers
|Citrix Cluster Join Service|
|Citrix Configuration Replication|
|Citrix Credential Wallet|
|Citrix Default Domain Services|
|Citrix Peer Resolution Service|
|Citrix Subscription Store|
|IIS Admin Service|
|World Wide Web Publishing Service|
Although monitoring the services is nearly a part of the on-going operations helpdesk and Citrix team should also look at the following on a regularly basis.
- Hot Fixes and Patches.
- Review Citrix Knowledge Base.
- Backing up databases.
- Analyse capacity.
- Assessment of Citrix Policies.
- Reboot schedule checking.
- Check Auditing Reports.
- Check storage capacity.
- For instance check availability of applications.