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.

RDP Latency – Yes, Virginia, You Can Track It Now…

RDP Latency IS Now Trackable in Windows Server 2012

Several weeks ago, I gave a really fun talk at BriForum about the hidden benefits found inside Version 8 of the Remote Desktop Protocol – specifically, the fact that for any given RDP 8 connections to a Windows Server 2012 (or Windows 8) system, you can now track things like session latency, data throughput, assessed bandwidth, error rates, and much more. Provided you know which performance counters to query and how to query them.

The big catch here is not on the client side – you can get Windows 7 updated to use RDP Version 8, and Windows 8 and Windows 10 already run it natively. Plus, most thin clients (the good ones anyway) now support RDP 8.

No, the challenge is on the server side. Each week I talk to evaluators of our tools and ask them what server platform they’re running. Inevitably, the majority seem to answer Windows 2008 R2. Yes, I get it. Windows 2008 still gives you that nice Start Menu that your users know and love. But, to be frank, RDP Version 7 (which is what Windows 2008 uses) stinks when compared to RDP 8.

Why is Version 8 So Awesome For Higher RDP Latency Connections?

Two words: UDP transport. Yep, Microsoft’s RDS gurus REALLY did things right in RDP 8. By default, unless you disable it intentionally or unintentionally (more on that in a later blog article), RDP 8 uses both TCP AND UDP to serve up remote desktops to your clients. I won’t bore you to tears with the internal mechanics, but the key takeaway is this – on marginal, high latency connections (e.g. spotty Wifi, 4G mobile hotspots, overseas WAN links, or satellite), adaptive UDP transport overcomes much of the inherent “guaranteed delivery” limitations of TCP. In doing so, it effectively can increase data throughput from 3x to 10x over previous RDP versions, all while improving the responsiveness experienced by clients interacting with their sessions.

So Beyond Improved RDP Throughput and Responsiveness, Why Should I Upgrade to Windows 2012 Server?

Good question. Because once you do, you can use our software to track every aspect of network connection quality between your RDS servers and your client sessions, whether you want to do it in realtime, or via leveraging the ever expanding set of reports we’re creating. Seriously, what we can do with this information is awesome – it lets you, the admin, get in front of those annoying damn calls from users kvetching about how the connection is dropping, or their screen updates are too slow – etc. See for yourself by watching this video we just recorded showing these features in action:

Tracking RDP Latency and Connection Quality With Remote Desktop Commander

 

That is really awesome stuff. And I have some Windows 2012 servers already deployed. How can I get a copy of your software to profile my users’ RDP latency and connection quality?

That’s super easy – simply start a monthly subscription of our Remote Desktop Commander Suite for only $9 per server per month. For this extremely affordable monthly rate, you can track RDP latency, RDP bandwidth consumption, CPU and memory consumption by session, plus review detailed session recordings for root cause RDS performance problem analysis and/or terminal server user auditing.

We haven’t rolled on Windows Server 2012 yet. We may wait for Windows Server 2016 next year. Is there anything in the meantime we can do to get some of this information?

Absolutely. Stand up at least one Windows Server 2012 instance in your farm, populate it with the same apps/desktop environments your users need, and then send your “problem children” clients directly over to the Windows 2012 server. If you do that, you can use our software to keep tabs on their connection quality, PLUS they’ll be able to leverage the awesome UDP transport offered by RDP 8.

SaaS Over Remote Desktop: License and Resource Metering Techniques

Believe it or not, there’s a nice sized portion of SaaS vendors in the marketplace that are delivering their SaaS applications to clients over RDS (Remote Desktop Services) as opposed to the Web.

Why Remote Desktop and RemoteApp?

There are several reasons many software vendors choose remote desktop (or RDS) and RemoteApp as the mechanism by which to provide their software as a service over the Internet. Here are the big reasons:

  • Inherent limitations in building a web application with a consistent, rich, and responsive user interface.
  • Additional development and QA costs associated with web apps.
  • The costs to migrate an existing non-Internet based application.
  • Security considerations.

But Don’t Forget License and Resource Metering

As we do more and more business with “Saas over Remote Desktop” vendors, one of the biggest problems we see them experience is license and resource metering.

SaaS vendors using remote desktop have some numbers to crunch.
If you’re an SaaS vendor using Remote Desktop to deliver your application, you’ve got some numbers to crunch when it comes to license metering.

It’s one thing to develop and bring a SaaS application to market.  It’s quite another to figure out how to:

  • Capacity plan for additional hardware / virtualized servers in your server farm as your client base grows.
  • Attribute costs of business to specific clients (How much bandwidth/memory do they use?).
  • Reliably meter client usage of your application for billing purposes . . . and to know when to bump your clients up to the next subscription level based on that usage.

. . . or the Bottom Line

We then help SaaS vendors solve those very problems. As an aggregator of Remote Desktop Session metrics, our Remote Desktop Reporter solution is being used to produce lots of different reports that help a SaaS vendor stay on top of client license and resource usage, and in turn, significantly improve their bottom line.

Some of those metrics include:

  • RDP bandwidth by user.
  • Peak concurrent sessions by server and/or by user.
  • Distinct RDS users by time period.
  • Total time by RDS user.
  • Specific application use by user.

Are You a SaaS Vendor in a Similar Situation?

We can provide a web demonstration of how to configure our software and establish these reports. Reach out to us here or message us on Twitter @RDPSoft.

Or, post a question below and continue the discussion!

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.

RDP Bandwidth Monitor Now Available

Recently, we added a new free tool to our Remote Desktop Admin Toolkit – the RDP Bandwidth Monitor!

Lots of terminal server admins want to monitor remote desktop bandwidth, so we fashioned a simple little utility to track the bandwidth consumed by one or more user sessions on one or more terminal servers. The full help on the tool is available here, but here are the basics on how it works:

Step 1 – Tell the RDP Bandwidth Monitor about which servers you want to view bandwidth statistics on, then click “Monitor.”  Of course, if you’ve already built an RDAT file with computer names for other tools in our Toolkit, those computer names should populate automatically.

Step 2 – Sit back, and watch all the RDP Traffic statistics update in the window.  You can control how frequently the terminal servers are polled for new bandwidth data, and even export the current bandwidth data to a CSV file for later review.  Our RDP Bandwidth Monitor tool also will conveniently aggregate bandwidth metrics by server in the lower listview for your convenience.

(click the above image for a higher resolution view)

Of course, if you’d like to collect this bandwidth data automatically so you can produce recurring reports, please download our full Remote Desktop Reporter solution.  Remote Desktop Reporter ver 1.2 currently ships with 3 reports that target RDP Bandwidth Consumption:

1.)   Bandwidth Consumption By Server (Daily)
2.)   Bandwidth Metrics By Server
3.)   Bandwidth Metrics By User

Here’s an example of the RDP Bandwidth Metrics By User Report:

Tracking Terminal Server Session Bandwidth
Sample Report – Session Bandwidth by User

(click the above image for a higher resolution view)

Click here to download the current version of the Remote Desktop Admin Toolkit, which includes the RDP Bandwidth Monitor.