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.

Tracking Attendance for Telecommuters and Local Users – Remote Desktop Reporter

We recently made a few tweaks to our “Attendance By Day” and “Attendance By Hour” reports – appearing In Version 1.9.4 of Remote Desktop Reporter. This creates a new class of user attendance reports that also factor in console user sessions when building the reports. If you’ve been tasked with tracking attendance for telecommuters and local users, this will definitely help conserve time and money.

The “Console” Session and Why It Matters

Are telecommuters goofing off? Track attendance with Remote Desktop Reporter.
Bueler? Bueler? Telecommuters are generally more productive than office workers. Still, you may be tasked with tracking their attendance.

For the uninitiated, the “console” session is the local, interactive logon session a user creates when they sit down at a Windows workstation or server to do work.

There can only be one console session per computer running at any time.  This is in contrast to Remote Desktop sessions, which are created when a user connects to a workstation or server remotely to do work.

More recent versions of Windows workstations (such as Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8) have some nifty user session techniques. These can automatically convert a previously logged on console session to a remote desktop session if the same user who established the console session starts a remote session later.

Similarly, if a user leaves a remote user session open but disconnected, and later signs on to the computer locally, that remote session gets converted back to the console session.

Tracking Attendance for Telecommuters and Local Users

Report on attendance by hour  - console users.
A report from Remote Desktop Reporter shows how attendance can be tracked for telecommuters and on-site workers.

Some managers may wish to get a feel for total employee attendance regardless of whether they are telecommuters or working locally.  Using these new attendance reports can help solve that issue, as they look at whether or not users had either type of session open on their workstations or servers.  While idle and active time cannot be tracked in the console session, whether or not a session was established in the first place during certain hours or days can be.

Administrators who wish to implement this approach with our software would be wise to consider implementing the free WinExit screensaver or equivalent, which will automatically logoff console sessions after a certain period of inactivity.  This guarantees that locked but inactive console sessions will not be included in the reporting.

Interested in setting up a system like the above? Or, maybe you just want to track telecommuters. Contact us to review your objectives.  We’ll be happy to make some recommendations.

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.

Yahoo Decision On Telecommuting

Much has been made over the past few days regarding Marissa Mayer’s decision to ban telecommuting at Yahoo! … personally, I think this is a poor decision, and will lead to some of Yahoo’s star performers bolting to Yahoo’s competitors who embrace teleworking cultures.

The reality is – SOME individuals do better working onsite in close collaboration with their team members. However, there are plenty of introverts out there who are much more productive when they can work in the sanctuaries of their home offices, away from the stresses of driving to work and dealing with the constant workplace interruptions and distractions. I wonder if Marissa has ever heard of the Myers-Briggs personality test? Not all of us are extroverts, Ms. Mayer.

The smart companies realize the inherent diversity of personality types and work behaviors, and put each employee in their best respective position to succeed. Then, the even smarter companies put a few safeguards into place so that they can audit teleworker productivity should they have reason to suspicion a problem. Our utility, Remote Desktop Reporter, excels at doing just that. For more on how to audit remote desktop sessions, refer to our previous blog posts here and here.

As is often attributed to Ronald Reagan, trust but verify. Trust that you made the correct hires in the first place, and empower them to be as productive as possible given their preferred working styles. Then verify that you made the correct decision.

Marissa, why don’t you trust your employees?

Terminal Server Logging on Workstations Is Important Too (Part 2)

In our previous post, Terminal Server Logging on Workstations Is Important Too, we discussed why the monitoring of Remote Desktop Sessions on workstations should not be neglected.  Now, let’s take a look at some of the reports built into Remote Desktop Reporter that can track that sort of activity.

The Terminal Server User Sessions Hourly Activity Report (click to view sample) is a wonderful way to track the hours of the day when a user is active in a particular Remote Desktop session on a particular workstation.  Paired with a filter that restricts the report data to a particular user, and a particular hour range in the day (e.g. normal business hours versus after hours, for instance), it’s easy to spot activity that is out of the ordinary.

Next, The Terminal Server Performance User Bandwidth Report (click again to view sample) provides you with RDP traffic statistics by user and server for each user session.  Both the total bytes transferred and the average number of bytes/sec over the Remote Desktop Protocol are displayed, so it is easy to pinpoint users who are consuming the most bandwidth in their sessions, and/or highlight a particular user session that used a much greater amount of bandwidth then most.

Finally, The Terminal Server Client Workstations and Addresses Report (click to view sample) displays all of the remote workstation names and IP addresses each Remote Desktop User is associated with.  Utilizing this report, you can quickly find out if your users are using non-corporate issued devices, or connecting from a previously unrecognized IP address.