Version 4 of Remote Desktop Commander Almost Ready!

Hello friends and existing customers! We’re excited to let you know that the release of Remote Desktop Commander v4 is just about ready, and wanted to give you a sneak peak of all of the new features it contains.

We will be releasing Version 4 shortly after the start of the new year, along with a small price increase – our first price increase in over 18 months. If you’d like to test drive a release candidate of version 4, please complete the form here and mention that you want to try the release candidate of Version 4 in your comments.

New Remote Desktop Commander 4 Features

Now You Can Pinpoint Historic CPU, Memory, and Other Session Load Bottlenecks on Servers Instantly With the “Historical Performance and Load Across the Farm” Dashboard

Previous versions of Remote Desktop Commander allowed you to view recent performance metrics across your servers, as well as pull up snapshots of performance for all user sessions given a specific period of time. However, the new Historical Performance And Load Across The Farm Dashboard allows you to scroll through hour-by-hour graphs of when your RDS session host servers were under peak load, in terms of memory, CPU, or session count. The graph is interactive, so you can click on a point of interest, and you will immediately be transported to another dashboard that shows you all of the sessions active in that time frame, so you can review the user session(s) that contributed most to the server load and determine what they were doing at the time.

Historical Performance And Load Across the Farm
Track CPU, Memory, and Session Counts On Your RDS Servers Over Time
Historical Performance And Load Across the Farm (2)
Pinpoint Times of High Resource Utilization on RDS Session Hosts.

Historical Performance And Load Across the Farm (3)

Review Which Users Caused High Resource Utilization
After Clicking On a Timeframe of High Resource Utilization, Immediately See Which Users Impacted the Session Host(s) Most.

Quickly Filter Dashboards By Date Range and RDS Collection Name / Server Groups

For organizations with larger RDS deployments, attempting to review all of the session host servers in a single dashboard can get complicated. Version 4 of Remote Desktop Commander allows you to quickly filter dashboards by an 1.) RDS collection name, 2.) a user-defined group of RDS servers, and 3.) in some cases, a date range lookback. By doing so, you can keep multiple dashboards up and running inside the Remote Desktop Commander Client, with one dashboard per RDS collection.

Filter Dashboards By RDS Collections
Limit the Scope of Session Hosts Shown in Dashboards By Filtering By Collection Name or Computer Grouping.

 

Filtered Dashboard By Computer Group
A Dashboard With Fewer Elements Filtered By RDS Collection Name / Computer Group

Azure and Standard SQL Server Authentication Support

Previous versions of Remote Desktop Commander required use of a local SQL Server deployment with Windows Integrated Authentication. Version 4 now also allows you to use a.) an on-premise SQL server with Standard (explicit username/password) Authentication and/or b.) a Microsoft Azure SQL Server deployment. This provides organizations with the flexibility to create multiple SQL databases for multiple RDS deployments on a single SQL Server, even when each deployment is isolated in a different, non-trusting Windows domain.

Now Use Standard SQL Connections and Azure SQL Connections to Store and Review RDS Data
Now Use Standard SQL Connections and Azure SQL Connections to Store and Review RDS Data

Other Performance Improvements

In addition to the features listed above, we’ve made many other performance improvements and bug fixes in this version. Stay tuned for our official launch announcement shortly!

Why XenApp Monitoring Is So $#%!?@ Expensive

This post is likely going to irritate some folks in our industry, and that’s OK. Frankly, that’s the point.

Let’s Pull Back the Curtain On How Server Based Computing (SBC) / End User Computing Software Is Sold

I’ve now been in the SBC industry for nearly 2 years. Prior to that, I was the CEO of Dorian Software, a Windows log management vendor that helped governments and businesses shore up their network security and compliance.

At Dorian, we sold some through the channel, but sold direct to the end user most of the time. Because of this, we we could deliver max value because we didn’t have to pad our pricing to leave tons of margin for channel partners. It was a win-win for everyone involved – we could close deals quicker, and our customers saved a ton of money and realized a quicker return on their investment.

The Citrix and Server Based Computing Markets Are Heavily Channel Driven. Which Means Businesses Of All Sizes Get Soaked By Higher Costs Down the Line.

In my two short years as RDPSoft’s CEO, I’ve been amazed by how insular the server-based computing / end-user computing market is. Big channel players effectively act as gatekeepers of the market, and unless you bring an expensive product to them from which they can extract healthy margins, they’re not going to talk to you.

When I’ve challenged them in conversations on why more customers don’t buy solutions directly from vendors, they speak with open contempt about how “businesses don’t have the skill or expertise to deploy these solutions on their own.” Given how complex, buggy, and temperamental SBC solutions have become, they may well have a point.

However, there are plenty of admins who deploy these products every day with nothing more than online E-Docs and message boards to guide them. I know, because I talk to them each and every week.

As a consequence of the above, most XenApp Monitoring solutions sold through the channel cost more than $600 per server or $50 per concurrent user. When compared to the nearly $300 difference per concurrent user between XenApp Advanced Edition and XenApp Platinum Edition (which ships with all the EdgeSight / Director monitoring goodies), I suppose $50-$100 per concurrent user becomes a relative bargain for larger enterprises. But it’s still out of reach for most SMB shops. And it’s a complete non-starter for Managed Service Providers.

Here’s What You Get To Pay For When You Buy a XenApp/XenDesktop Monitoring Solution From the Channel

Yes, let’s dissect this. It’s not pretty.

  • The portion of the sale paid to the channel partner by the vendor (typically anywhere from 20% to 50%)
  • All those steak dinners and “lunch and learns” the vendor gets to treat the channel partner to once a quarter, in the hope that the channel partner a.) actually knows how to sell their solution, and b.) doesn’t jump ship to a different vendor that’s promising higher margins.
  • All the “under the table” payments made by the vendor to those “independent” server-based computing / end-user computing “experts” you know and love, so said experts will hawk their products in blog articles, online reviews, and at trade shows. Yes, I know said experts have to eat too, but there’s an appalling lack of transparency about how prevalent this practice is in our industry. Could we have a little more voluntary disclosure, please??!!

The Net Result: SMBs Often Get Priced Out Of the XenApp Monitoring Market

Most of the channel fat cats described above (and by extension, the vendors they partner with) have no interest in dealing with Citrix and RDS deployments in organizations with fewer than 100 concurrent users. Many of them also don’t want to deal with shops that have fewer than 500 concurrent users. However, the irony in all of this is that the *vast majority* of Citrix and RDS farms feature fewer than 500 users. Because of this effective orphaning of the SMB market, admins in these smaller networks don’t have a lot of options in their budget range. They may cobble together some scripts, lean too heavily on traditional Network Monitoring Software that doesn’t have much depth when it comes to monitoring/reporting on SBC activity, or sadly, go without. This needs to change.

It’s Time To Disrupt This Industry To Benefit the SMBs and MSPs

Now that we’ve studied this market, and seen it for how it truly is, warts and all, we’re throwing down the gauntlet.

For only $9 per server per month, or $1 per workstation/virtual desktop per month, you can now acquire subscription licensing from us. Yes, you read that correctly.

Want to continually monitor 10 XenApp servers year around? No problem – that will cost you $1080 a year.

Want to do a simple 90 day assessment of remote worker productivity on your 5 RDS servers? Easy enough – just carry a subscription for 3 months, and pay only $135!

Have two RDS servers you need to check bandwidth consumption on for 30 days? We think you’ll find that $18 to be a bargain.

Now It’s Your Turn. Help Us Get the Word Out About Our New Flexible and Affordable Pricing.

Let your colleagues and friends know about our new offering, via social media, forum exchanges, trade shows, and simple word of mouth. As a token of our appreciation, if you send us a link to a post or share you made about our new pricing model and feature set, we’ll give you a 2-month subscription credit on monitoring in your own environment! Help us shake up this niche so that organizations of all sizes will benefit.

BriForum Recap: Storm Clouds Over Citrix, Microsoft Rising

It’s been a little over two weeks since BriForum 2015 ended out in Denver, and as usual, it was a blast, filled with knowledgeable speakers and engaged attendees covering the entire gamut of virtualization and server-based computing.  This year, I had the privilege of being a BriForum speaker, focusing my talk on the hidden benefits provided by Version 8 of the Remote Desktop Protocol available in Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server 2012 and later operating systems.

One of the larger trends I’m seeing, which was echoed by many speakers at BriForum – at least in the server-based computing segment – is how Citrix’s star is fading as a viable solution for mid-market companies.  It’s gotten so bad that key shareholders in Citrix (e.g. Elliot) have effectively forced Citrix to start the spin off of some of its assets and have forced out Mark Templeton as CEO.  There’s a lot to this story, and Gabe Knuth has summed it up much more comprehensively than I can, so read his post for all of the gory details.

What is getting less press, but in my mind is just as or more important, is the fact that Citrix has made critical internal personnel decisions over the past few years leading to offshoring of certain departments with rather poor results.  I noticed the fruit of these decisions years ago when I merely attempted to get XenDesktop/XenApp 6.5 up and running in a lab environment.  A quality software product should not require multiple patches to fix critical issues just to get a solution installed.  And I’m sure CIOs continue to question a.) the high costs of the software itself combined with b.) the high costs of bringing in consultants or other hired guns just to keep their stuff running.  For a smaller or mid-market company without an unlimited budget, this creates a huge incentive to divest themselves of Citrix, and look towards other solutions like VMWare’s Horizon product and “Citrix-lite” alternatives that run on top of RDS.

Which leads me to Microsoft.  Fueled by their expansion of Azure as a comprehensive cloud computing platform, they have been investing *significantly* in remote desktop technologies, especially the latest Remote Desktop Protocol versions.  Their most recent version of the Remote Desktop Protocol, RDP 8, features incredible improvements over previous versions, primarily in the adaptive graphics department AND in the use of UDP as a transport protocol to vastly increase data throughput and responsiveness over less than reliable links (4G, WiFi, Satellite, etc).  While not as bleeding edge as Citrix’s emerging Framehawk technologies in extremely high loss networks, it’s simply *good enough* for the vast majority of corporate networks and teleworking scenarios.  And as we’ve seen in the past, once Microsoft gets *good enough* in a certain market / technology area, they tend to dominate.  Remember Novell, anyone? :)

As for us, we’re charting our path alongside Microsoft.  While our software continues to support Citrix and other configurations running on top of RDS, woe be to vendors who are “Citrix only” in their design focus, as I think they’re going to be competing for an ever shrinking piece of the pie.  There will be a lot of money to be made over the coming years on migrating people AWAY from Citrix on to pure Remote Desktop Services, and we will be a proud part of that vendor ecosystem.

Automating Microsoft SPLA Reporting With SPL Tracker – Part 1

Automate SPLA ReportingSPLA reporting is an expanding and increasingly complicated need as cloud and subscription-based solutions become more prevalent in Microsoft Windows environments.

And Really, It Isn’t Just About SPLA Reporting

In addition to Microsoft’s Service Provider License Agreement (SPLA), there is the Citrix Service Provider licensing program as well. Those aren’t the only two examples where subscription-based license reporting is necessary – more and more software vendors that cater to the Managed Service Provider (MSP) community are also offering this form of licensing.

As a result, one of the monthly chores that can considerably complicate the life of an MSP is recurring, subscription-based license reporting.

While monthly subcription based licensing greatly reduces startup costs and large, capitalized expenses, the reporting requirements can be challenging. Every month, the MSP must provide a report to various licensing authorities based on the number of users who used, or more frequently, had the ability to use specific classes of software.

This gets very tedious and labor intensive for MSPs. Some will attempt to script a solution, others will do simple counts based on AD membership or equivalent. However, both of these approaches are problematic, and they do not reflect total costs or utilization rates over time.

SPL Tracker for SPLA Reporting and More . . .

Our new Service Provider Licensing Tracker (SPL Tracker) is a powerful and cost-saving solution for this specific challenge. Leveraging the software usage history and RDS/ICA usage history collected by our Remote Desktop Reporter tool, the SPL Tracker can analyze the difference between actual usage and ability to use certain classes of licenses.

Best of all, it only takes a few steps to configure, and once configured, can completely automate your SPLA reporting and similar MSP license reporting requirements.

 

Two classes of license types are shown in this screenshot from SPL Tracker, an SPLA reporting software.
SPL Tracker targets the increasing need for SPLA reporting. Above, two classes of license types are shown – Microsoft Office Users and Remote Desktop Users.

Step 1: Defining License Types

By default, two of the most common license classes are defined for you automatically in the software – Microsoft Office Users, and Remote Desktop Users.

Microsoft Office Users

This class represents all users who have accessed Office components (e.g. Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, etc) in your shared computing environment, based on Remote Desktop Reporter’s usage history.

Remote Desktop Users

Similarly, the Remote Desktop Users class represents all users who established an RDS or Citrix XenApp session in a given time period.

Additional Definitions / Classes

You can create additional definitions to track the usage of other applications – those that access SQL Server, for example. Simply create a new license type definition, select the processes that reflect the usage, and save it for later use.

Keep in mind that you can automatically omit disabled user accounts from reports. And, you can also prevent the SPL Tracker from marking newly on-boarded user accounts in a client’s Active Directory as inactive.

Upcoming Insights on SPLA Reporting and More . . .

In Part 2 of our Service Provider Licensing Tracker series, we will demonstrate how to correlate historical license usage with the Active Directory groups that control access to those license types.

Do you have questions about what you’ve read here? Respond below!

RDPSoft Announces Support for Citrix XenApp Reporting and Monitoring

RDPSoft is pleased to announce support for Citrix XenApp reporting and XenApp monitoring in Version 1.2 of its flagship product, Remote Desktop Reporter.

As many Citrix administrators already know, Citrix XenApp servers create ICA sessions on demand when users connect through Citrix client software, such as the Citrix Receiver. These sessions can run alongside traditional RDP sessions on the same Windows server, and are visible from both the Citrix administration tools and the Microsoft Terminal Services Manager.

As a result, RDPSoft’s Remote Desktop Reporter can poll, store, and report on both RDP and ICA sessions completely transparently. All key reports, such as the User Productivity and User Session Activity reports, function absolutely the same, regardless of the protocol used to establish the session. So whether or not you use Remote Desktop Services or XenApp to benefit your teleworkers, Remote Desktop Reporter can audit much of their activity.

Given that many Remote Desktop and Citrix monitoring tools are priced based on concurrent users, it’s important to note that Remote Desktop Reporter is priced instead on the number of servers and workstations monitored, starting at only $199 per monitored server with volume discounts.

Citrix XenApp users, feel free to weigh in above in the comments section regarding the types of XenApp specific reports you need the most. Thanks!

** Citrix, XenApp, and the Citrix Receiver are registered trademarks of Citrix Systems, Inc.