Citrix outfits NetScaler with troubleshooting tools

NetScaler Insight Center uses the AppFlow protocol to harvest network performance

Citrix has released new software to help users of its NetScaler ADC (Application Delivery Controller) more easily troubleshoot application performance problems in complex network and data center environments.

Today's network-based applications are "pulling apart the model that IT departments have for troubleshooting," said Graham Melville, Citrix director of product marketing.

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An enterprise application may originate from any one of a number of data centers, or from a cloud service, and travel across multiple networks. Because of these many variables, an administrator may have difficulty finding the cause of poor application performance.

The new NetScaler Insight Center offers performance details of how traffic moves across a network. It uses the AppFlow protocol to capture information such as latency, round-trip delays, number of users on a network, server response times, available bandwidth on a network, and bandwidth consumed by individual applications or users.

"We're providing information on exactly what is happening with applications on the network," Melville said.

NetScaler Insight Center fetches this information through NetScaler appliances on the network. NetScaler is Citrix's load balancer, which offers caching, a firewall, compression, security, content switching and other features. NetScaler can emit performance data in the AppFlow format, which third-party diagnosis tools such as Splunk, and now Insight Center, can parse.

The information can be useful in diagnosing problems where it is not initially clear if the problem lies with the application or with the network, Melville said. In many cases, the troubleshooting can volley between a network administrator and the administrator for the application, with each assuming the problem resides in the other's domain. In some cases, the organization with the problem will ask Citrix itself to identify the problem.

Of course, administrators have long had command-line tools, such as ping and traceroute, to diagnose network problems. Insight Center was designed for administrators unfamiliar with such tools, especially those with more experience supporting applications than networks. "This allows the app guy, who doesn't know anything about networking, to be able to know if a problem is a network issue or an application issue," Melville said.

NetScaler Insight Center has two components, HDX Insight and Web Insight. HDX Insight monitors the performance of applications and virtual desktops delivered over the network though Citrix XenApp and Citrix XenDesktop. It uses Citrix's ICA (Independent Computing Architecture) protocol. Web Insight monitors Web applications. Traffic from any of these applications must pass through a NetScaler appliance at some point.

NetScaler Insight is available at no cost for NetScaler license holders and can be downloaded from the Citrix site. The software runs as a virtual machine in the XenServer virtualization environment.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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