Monitoring Citrix Linux VDIs
- Published: Tuesday, 18 May 2021
When you are a returning visitor on my website you probably already know that I have done several product selections for VDI monitoring. Out of those selections I have knowledge and experiences with a large list of monitoring solutions around the VDI landscape…….for Windows operating systems. When a customer asked me to execute a product selection for Linux VDIs with the focus on End User Experience monitoring I could not use lot of my experiences. In this article I will write down my experiences during the product selection.
What are the requirements?
Although I have already have done a couple of product selections around VDI monitoring my opinion is that you need to start from scratch. Although the article Selecting a Monitor solution for SBC/VDI infrastructures2 is almost six years old the way of working is still valid and we used the steps and rating/scoring techniques as described.
Therefore the process started by gathering the requirement/wishes from the stakeholders. Although there will be some similarities within all the selection, also (big) differences will be there based on the group stakeholders and the background why monitoring is required/wanted. In this specific case the majority of the VDIs are Linux VDIs. However the differences in requirements with earlier project were not based on a different operating system, it looked like that from a VDI/End User Experience view the operating system does not makes a big difference. But that is makes a difference in the product selection process became clear real soon.
Research on possible candidates out of the (well)known VDI monitoring solutions
With the majority running on the Linux operating systems the requirement that Linux VDIs are supported within the solution was an real important one. I found out real quick that I should start to check that the Linux support requirement could be met at first. Many many (I should actually write almost all) products don’t have support for Linux VDIs. In other words lots of possible candidates fell of the list directly.
In a Windows oriented world, which the VDI monitoring landscape is, it is not easy to determine if Linux is in the picture of the product. Therefore I had contact with lots of the vendors in the monitoring space. It became clear that you can divide them in a few groups:
- Does Linux VDIs exists/actually used?
This group of vendors did not have any experience on Linux VDIs. A couple of them even dared to mention to me that Citrix does not have Linux VDA agents 😉. The majority of this group did not see Linux VDIs at their (potential) customers or received request for monitoring Linux VDIs.
- It’s a niche market and not high on our roadmap
The largest group is that they know that Linux VDIs are being used and there are customers and use cases for such a solution. Most of them see there is a growth in Linux VDIs, but it is still a marginal amount in comparison with Windows VDIs. Those vendors need to decide what will be developed and logically they chose for those features where a big market is available. So some of them have it plotted it on a roadmap, but most of them have noted it down as we would like to have it but not in the near future. Several of them were really interested in the use case of Linux VDIs and understand why this is big at this customer and in several industries.
- We have support for Linux VDIs, however……
Luckily for me there were also some vendors that are support Linux VDIs. It is not a big group and most of them were directly mentioning that I should not expect the same features/possibilities that I know from them products on Windows VDIs. Every vendor was also directly stating that some data would not be available as Citrix is not providing the information in their protocol/agent. See the paragraph limitations for some mor information on this topic.
At the end in the group of (well)known VDI monitoring solutions just a few looked as possible candidates. I will continue on this group in the paragraph Shortlist, but first I needed to do a research on a different monitoring category.
What’s available in the Linux world
Besides the usual suspects (the solutions I know from Windows VDI monitoring and/or the well-known general monitoring solutions) I also needed to research monitoring solutions focusing on Linux monitoring. A new category for me, also I have heard the names and existence of most products. In this category I found a remarkable that most of them still have an outdated interface and focusing mostly on metrics monitoring. None of them have any knowledge of Citrix or remote protocols, in other words user experience monitoring is not available. Unfortunate the traditional Linux monitoring solutions available cannot fulfill the requirements.
As already mentioned earlier each vendor was stating that monitoring Linux VDIs will not be the same as I’m used from the Windows VDIs. This is caused by the fact that Citrix is not exposing the data, like
- ICA bandwidth consumed
- ICA bandwidth per virtual channels
- Session start-up
Also Linux has some limitations for example application launch times are not available.
Based on the first responses overall it is not that bad as I expected. Logically you would like to have as much information as available, so hopefully Citrix will exposing the data in the (near) future.
Based on the research I did Q4 2020/Q1 2021 the amount of products that have support of monitoring Linux VDIs is limited to four solutions: ControlUp, Liquidware Stratusphere, Lakeside Systrack and EG Innovations. There are two methods of monitoring, agentless (connecting to the VDI using SSH) and using an agent. The method of using an agent looks like the most promising method to get the most insights especially on the user experience. Also the available features can also depend on the way of publishment. Some vendors already show more for multi-user set-ups (formerly known as XenApp) than single-user environments (XenDesktop style). However none of them are currently offering all the features you would like to have for End User Experience/VDI, but some of them are working on getting the information/insights which are available into the product. If more can be mentioned on that one/is available, maybe I will write another article to show the actual possibilities in the solution(s).
As Windows is the most used operating system for (virtual) desktops it is logical that most vendors are focusing on that topic for their products. Although Linux VDIs (both via Citrix and VMware) are available for quite some time monitor possibilities are still limited. Just a small amount of solutions have (some) Linux VDI support. Luckily some of the vendors see demand on this topic and are adding (additional) Linux VDI monitoring features in their product/roadmap.