State of End User Computing – Monitoring 2016
State of End User Computing market – monitoring 2016
In my previous article I wrote about the state of state of End User Computing market with a view of User Environment Management. As I’m also knee deep in monitoring I thought perhaps it is a nice article to shed show light on that. So this article is about monitoring 2016, where do vendors like Goliath, eG Innovation, ControlUp play if we look at the big boys like Microsoft, VMware and Citrix? What are the things we find important in monitoring or should find important and who has the best cards to win this game without taking licensing in account (a discount changes everything).
One might say that monitoring is not the most sexy topic to write about but I tend to disagree. I like to make sure my design and implementation works as intended. If issues occur, and they will, my customer should have all the tools at hand to find the root cause. Some a good monitoring tool that helps them with this is, I think, pretty sweet. I notice in conversations that administrators often tend to look within their own field of expertise and forget the fact that their component is just a little gear in a bigger complex machine. Important of course but a just one of the gears, and all the gears together keep the machine running. To be able to provide the service to your customers you need to have an overview of all these little gears in the machine. You need to know what gear is depending on which other one and get information about one that is failing. This and only this way of monitoring will make sure you are in control.
Monitoring 2016 – Players
So who are the players in the field? Of course if we would go on the monitoring market we would see a vast amount of players some small some bigger. What I’m gonna do here is focus on a couple of players I tend to run into a lot when I talk to customers. I might mention one or so other one along the article but only if there really is a need. A lot of players in the market are point solutions and not focused on monitoring as I think it should be done.
So the Players in the market are;
- Microsoft with SCOM
- VMware with their vRealize Operations Manager
- Citrix with their SCOM management packs
- eG Innovations
There are more monitoring tools in the market but for this article I’ve been looking at the ones I see and hear about in the market. I think in the End User Computing market and at the conference we visit these are the players we see. If there was a comparison white paper I’d use that list, haven’t seen one so it’s my own list. So sure HP and other companies also have some sort of monitoring but be honest you don’t want to rely your job on them when you have to manage an End User Computing environment, do you? Times are a changing as Billy Joel sang long time ago and some vendors didn’t change along.
Monitoring 2016, Why, what and how?
I’ve been writing about monitoring for a while, a short introduction for everyone who stumbles in this article and wonders what this is all about. For years I designed and implemented environment and in the end we handed it to the local administrators. Never was there any real monitoring in place, it felt like we forgot something, something important. So I started to look at monitoring and worked hard to convince others to add monitoring to designs.
So if we talk about monitoring there are a couple of things I think are important. Every tool out there that has been there longer than 5 years can monitor the uptime and that kind of metrics. I call those system monitoring or 90s monitoring. In those years we monitored for uptime as complex virtual environments were still a thing of the future. I don’t care about uptime system monitoring, important of course but they are like the “duh” in monitoring.. of course you can do that.
So if we look at the monitoring market within EUC we see a couple of vendors that are standing out. Standing out as they are large and have been there forever. So we have Microsoft and VMware as the big monitoring vendors with SCOM and vRealize Operation Manager. Citrix used to be an important player with EdgeSight but they dropped it and now put their money on SCOM these days to sell more Platinum licenses. I really don’t think we can count the really old skool companies also as current EUC monitoring solutions, so I don’t. I never see them at conferences and perhaps once a year some old folk in a meeting asks about them (and we have a good laugh, old folks together – I’m old as well ).
With Microsoft, VMware and perhaps Citrix as the big competitors others will have to add value for customers to invest. Customer might wonder if the monitoring solutions will solve the issues they have. To make a business case for a 3rd party tool you need to add value and well that the base for this article, who is adding value and how do they do that. Sales guys from VMware, Citrix and Microsoft will tell beautiful stories about why they are all you need but are they true? Let’s see. So what do you want from your monitoring solution?
- Completeness of the solution
- End to end visibility
- Insight in User Experience
- Topology overview
So that’s a list to consider and of course not all solutions are able to do everything and that’s fine. It’s like utopia to want all in one. One solution has more features in one area and the other more in another area. So depending on your requirement of monitoring you choose and pick, it’s like a candy store out there, too many choices. Depending of your use case you walk in the candy store and pick the one(s) you want. Want Citrix monitoring, walk past the VMware candy. Want automated remediation of resources issues walk past the Citrix and Microsoft candy. It’s pick and choose, problem is as mentioned before to many choices. So let’s follow the list and see who offers what.
Completeness of the solution
I think this is one of the most important thing to watch out for when picking a monitoring solution is the look for the completeness of the solution. In the old days we used to pick a point solution to monitor one server.Times have changed, our solutions have changed, so our selection should change also. Today environments are more complex, there is not one component that we can single out, every component is part of a larger chain. You need to be able to monitor the chain and understand the chain or your solution is useless. This is not just the case with monitoring but e.g also when looking at ransomware fighting.
If we look at Microsoft SCOM they have a challenge, they will argue that their product is complete but the completeness (if you can call it that) is created by adding third party management packs. The issue there is that each management pack is a different product and though the integrate somehow they give you a monster-console instead of more clarity. As you will see later on this will have a serious impact on the price. Of course the pro for a Microsoft product is that you can monitor all Microsoft components right away and you will have some I presume. Read my article about SquaredUp a valuable addition to SCOM right here – link -.
+ All Microsoft products are covered
– Pricing as you need to add management packs
– Clunky console and no root cause analysis
VMware has the same issue with vRealize Operations Manager, it is designed to operate within the VMware datacenter and manage resources there. From my point of view it’s not really a monitoring solution but more automated-management solution. The thought behind VMware vRealize Operations Manager seems to be that you need to change resources in case a virtual machines of an application (what they see as an application) is short of them. In e.g. non-persistent environments this is not an option, changing the CPU count or the memory value of a virtual machine would break the solution. Of course the thought is interesting but they would need to integrate more with Horizon to get this working. VMware vRealize Operations Manager can be expanded in functionality by adding management packs you can find in the marketplace. Depending on the licensing the management packs can have a serious impact on the price.
+ Integration with vSphere environment
+ Ability to act when resources are needed
– pricing due to management packs
Citrix has acquired the Microsoft SCOM Citrix management packs from Comtrade, read my article about that here – link -. The reason behind that, in my opinion, was more to add value to the platinum license than it was to really add value to their products. Microsoft SCOM is not that popular and to force people to implement it to get monitoring for Citrix seems a foolish thought. There are many other good products on the market that deliver better options for customers. Citrix used to have a good monitoring solution for Citrix products, it was called EdgeSight. It was a quirky product but it delivered for Citrix environments. What it lacked was monitoring outside the Citrix stack and still without the SCOM management packs the Citrix console have an issue looking what is beyond their horizon. With the NetScaler offering and the monitoring offered there, they offer a way to look at how the user is connecting. The issue I have with that is that it is a number of consoles and a high price for licensing (multiple products) to get the result. I hope that with Norskale and Pierre on board they will work on the Director console and combine several tooling to offer one point of view on the whole environment.
+ Easy to use for service desk
+ Ability to see the user experience for some part
– pricing as all good features are in Platinum
So let’s look at some 3rd party vendors offering solutions and see how they complement or sometimes even could replace.
If we look at products like eG Innovations, ControlUp and Goliath you see vendors that have worked hard to get their act together. They all offer a very complete solution where they monitor a broad range of components and understand what they are monitoring. Goliath for one has the ability to simulate a user session from internal agents but also from remote cloud environments, I wrote an article about that earlier, read it here. – link – Next to simulation they of course offer very deep insight in Citrix sessions which gives administrator the much needed information to troubleshoot. They now offer a logon simulator as a service that is being used by e.g. airliners to check availability of the Citrix environment from around the world. No management packs no hidden costs.
If we look at eG innovations we see a product that is focused on the end to end side of monitoring. Their product understands layering and looks at a component through all the layers. after the topology is created, manual or automated, the context between components is displayed showing the root cause in a darker color.
They work with two types of agents, basic and advanced where the basic one gives standard information retrieved by remotely accessing this data. The advanced agent is an agent that is installed on a server/desktop and collects detailed metrics. Again read my articles I wrote about them to learn more – link -. No management packs no hidden costs.
ControlUp is a very interesting product, they monitor resources, the user environment and servers and desktops. They also enable you to manage the samen environment through the same console. You have the ability to change e.g. register settings across all servers at once just like that. Another feature is the ability to support service desks where you can get a screenshot of the users desktop or remotely assist them. All this is done from one console. Is this monitoring pur sang? I don’t think so, it’s a combination of a lot.. I you look for a monitoring solution only ComtrolUp is not what your looking for , if you look for a swiss knife they are interesting for you.
There are some more like PRTG which is a normal network monitoring tool but one you can customize if you know your way around with PowerShell. It’s a basic monitoring tool and I see it around a lot because it is free up to 100 servers to monitor. If we look at Xangati it used to be the talk of the town for VMware Horizon environments, they moved on towards monitoring cloud environment and more right now. I can’t say I heard that much from them since then. Same goes for Extrahop, they were a cool Citrix monitoring product that could be used to monitor the Citrix channels. They lacked the completeness like PRTG and Xangati do, they moved on and now monitor more than just the Citrix channels. Perhaps we’ll see more of them in the future. One product I mentioned earlier in articles is SquaredUp, I really like what they are doing to make SCOM more attractive, they are not a monitoring solution they are the visagist to make SCOM look beautiful.
We could go on with a list of products but I think in the End User Computing field the ones mentioned in more detail are the ones customers are talking about and considering for implementation.
End to End visibility
Important in todays environment is the ability to see the whole environment, end to end, in context. Environment are more complex than ever before. Standard monitoring is not gonna do the job in these environments. They don’t see end to end and are still focused on monitoring silos or single components. If we look at Microsoft SCOM or VMware vRealize Operations manager we see products that focus on a single component. You can drill down to the underlaying hypervisor or storage but that is not end to end visibility. There is no way you can create visibility that will show the relation (in context) between different components in a network easily if at all.
What you want, what I want in a solution is to be able to see the overview of the whole application chain. I wrote several articles about this so we will just scratch the surface to explain. Let’s pick a SAP application that is being deployed in a Citrix or VMware VDI desktop solution, perhaps even through a portal like Workspace ONE. A user connecting to that application is coming a long way, using or connecting to many components before it will see the application. In that same way the application is using and connecting to many components before it can offer any functionality to the user. Those two worlds meet and offer the functionality the user is looking for. You want visibility in this proces so you can predict when the shit hits the fan and prevent that if you can.
I dare you to right now walk to a whiteboard and draw a circle and in that circle you write your most critical application name. Now start drawing components that the user needs to be operational to connect to that application. Next start drawing the components that the application needs to be operational. I hope you had enough space on that board, it’s some overview isn’t it? If you could have that in a topology overview and if you get root cause alerts for that chain, that would rock. That would rock big time.
…and next to that if you see the whole chain and all is green you still want more, I know I do. If a system or anyone says all is well go to sleep I would lay awake. I want to see all is well, I want to test this and test it over and over again. so next to having a topology I want to log on as a user would and test the functionality from start to finish, several times a day. Perhaps even from different locations so I can promise my users that we are in control.
So how do the vendors discussed earlier fit here?
If we look at VMware, Microsoft and Citrix we see that Microsoft is able to add some sort of end to end visibility but only when you add some management packs. out of the box Microsoft is not offering end to end visibility of any kind. VMware is offering a bit more of this as they have an ability to add a application with components it depends on in monitoring. VMware is lacking the ability to monitor anything outside the VMware control sphere and hey not everything is running on a vSphere environment. This was a major disappointment when we were testing. Citrix offers with NetScaler insight a end to end visibility where you see what the user is going through. They however lack the functionality to monitor the complete application stack and to be honest they don’t really report a root cause.
From the “I want to test it by doing it” point of view all three vendors are not doing anything and not offering anything, which I think is a pity and would be very useful in Enterprise environments.
The 3rd party vendors really add value here as they offer simulated logon, root cause analysis and an end to end visibility of the environment. So let’s take a look at them and show what they offer in this region. Again don’t expect anyone to offer everything, there is not pot of gold anywhere.
So if we look at eG Innovations they got the end to end visibility as their core offering, they can setup a topology that will reflect your drawing on the whiteboard. I won’t go into techniques now but they got agent and agentless monitoring offering that can help you get a good view of your environment. Will it replace current tooling I get asked often. Some it will and some it won’t, if you monitor a 3PAR with eG you will see very detailed information about it but when something is rond and eG pointed that out to you, you might want to open the 3PAR console and work from there. It’s a monitor solution not your management console. From the emulated client side they got some possibilities but they could work on that one as I told them. The work however would be more GUI that technique but there is some work to do. They offer value added for any network as they offer visibility and control.
If we look at Goliath we see a totally different solution where they offer a very interesting emulation solution and lesser the end to end visibility. With Goliath you can monitor your whole environment, any component in your network with you ware not building a topology as eG is offering. What Goliath is offerings, as I mentioned before, is simulated logon for Citrix environments. they would be a very good add-on for any Citrix environment and would certainly be value added. They recently released the Application availability testing service where they test the availability of your Citrix environment periodically from a remote location. That’s a very interesting offering for global companies I think, monitoring 2016.
ControlUp is offering less end to end visibility but they monitor you whole environment, they offer the simulation of the user. Since may this year they introduced a script based simulation to test the availability. What they offer in monitoring is a very detailed overview and possibilities of your environment and the ability to manage it all from one console. So if you look for a end to end monitoring solution you won’t look at them but if you look for a monitoring/management/simulation tool they surely are interesting to look at and they add value for sure.
Insight in User Experience
We talked about it already as user experience is very important, the most important factor in any environment. With the standard tooling from Microsoft and VMware this is pretty hard to measure. Citrix is doing a bit a better job there, default out of the box they offer some good Director console that will show things like latency per user and so on. When you buy the Platinum license and have a expensive NetScaler license you also have the ability to see the Citrix channel. Citrix is doing a nice job but with that comes costs and multiple consoles. Microsoft and VMware are really lagging behind here, Microsoft is not offering anything and VMware offers something with vRealize Operations Manager but far from being useful.
This is a field where the 3rd party vendors are really adding value.
ControlUp has always had a lot of metrics in place to show the user experience. They are showing the metrics for logon duration, GPO load, profile load, desktop load time and so much more. Seeing this kind of metrics per user is so important and they have a nice console where they show the “stress” level of metrics and that level shows instantly if there is an issue. The levels go from green to red depending on the stress. ControlUp is available for Citrix, Microsoft and VMware. If you want to see more about this, take a look at their site for more information – link.
Some screenshot I copied from their site to show you what they offer, mind you this is just a small part there is more to see where this came from.
Goliath like ControlUp will collect the GPO load, profile load, desktop load time, brokering time, latency and so much more. Goliath is focused on Citrix, VMware and Microsoft with their monitoring. They have very detailed insight in the Citrix channels for you, on that part they are more focused on Citrix. As they can test the availability of your Citrix environment from remotely they will show the user experience also for remote users.
Some screenshot I copied from their site to show you what they offer, mind you this is just a small part there is more to see where this came from.
eG offers a end to end visibility and integrates with Citrix and VMware so that the user experience is measured from gathering metrics form virtual machines and the chain. They have a end user experience dashboard that shows, IOPS, latency, resource load and PCoIP and HDX channel metrics. With their simulation client they can show the performance of a specific action and do that over time so actions users would do can be measured over time.
The next version of eG Innovations, I learned today will have Citrix logon simulation available. I’ve seen the sneak preview of this and is will do an actual test of the Citrix infrastructure by doing an actual log on. The version is not live yet but will be soon they promised me.
The next topic is one that I mentioned already, take a look at your whiteboard and you know why you want a topology overview. Citrix has no ability to offer a topology of any kind. Of course one would debate that with the SCOM management packs they offer a topology but that is so basic and so focused on only the Citrix environment that I can’t even mention it. Microsoft with their SCOM of course offer it if you are ready to pay the money you can make some very nice topology overviews. You need management packs from Savision from this but they come with a price. Even with the management packs SCOM never offers the ability to see alerts in context so an alert is just an alert for SCOM. VMware has the ability to create a topology but it is limited to what vROps is able to monitor and so you are bound to the VMware hosted environment.
The one vendor that is really building their product around topology is of course eG Innovations. Their product is build on layer and once a component is setup in a topology the alerts are changing depending on the way the topology is setup. So a major alert could become a minor alert if a even more major alert is happening and if that is the root cause of the issue. Once that is solved the minor could be going up to be a major… depending on context things change as they should.
ControlUp and Goliath
Both ControlUp and Goliath are not really offering a topology, they offer and overview of your environment and monitor for a different perspective. With Goliath you can group your servers and desktops and so have an overview on what is happening, with colours you can see how the component is doing. They see monitoring from a simulation/testing perspective.
ControlUP works almost the same way as it comes to grouping, they don’t have a topology but you have an overview of the servers you monitor. Through dashboards and per component you get very detailed information.
I tried to write a comprehensive article to show the value add some 3rd part vendors offer. While writing I noticed there is more to tell so sorry for the longer article, I hope you had a bit of time reading it and found it useful. I’m not saying Microsoft, VMware and Citrix offer bad monitoring. I’m just saying that Microsoft is offering too basic monitoring without management packs and that with the management packs it is very expensive and a business case would be difficult. VMware has a powerful monitoring solution and together with other products does if offer a powerful solution. Looking at monitoring it is more designed for datacenter management as it will change resources when needed. From a modern management perspective I just feel they need to move on create or buy a monitoring solution that can work with their EUC offerings, VMware AirWatch should be integrated for one. Citrix is trying to justify the Platinum license and acquired the SCOM management packs. Together with that they extended the monitoring offering in Director and NetScaler, this for sure is a good job. Citrix from the two big vendors is doing the best job. What they lack is that topology overview where you take the dependencies in account, but that can change of course.
All three 3rd party vendors can add value for customer, not one of the big three (Citrix, Microsoft, VMware) are offering EUC monitoring as a complete solution. Goliath, eG Innovations and ControlUP have different approaches of monitoring so depending on the use case one of them will fit for sure. If you are looking for in-depth citrix availability testing Goliath would be a very good choice, if you look for a combined management and monitoring solution ControlUp is a good pick and if you want an end-to-end solution eG Innovations would be good to check out. With writing that I leave out many other big plusses of each vendor but it gives a direction. Please check out their offering and take a look at your business case and make sure to test, pilot before you spend money, it can only be spend once.