Having delivered NetScaler training for about 6 years now (mainly internally within Citrix, and at the odd external or customer facing event) , I guess I could say I’ve done it more than once. 🙂 I often get asked during our NetScaler Masterclass webinars or at events:
- “Where can I get training on NetScaler?”
- “Are there any simulators?”
- “Where do I start if I want to learn NetScaler?”
- “We have a new team member who wants to ramp up on NetScaler – how can they self learn?”
I hate to state the obvious, but my first point here is that the best place to learn NetScaler is in a classroom, with a certified instructor. I’ve delivered training to some self-taught folks, and while some have been fairly proficient, I found that many have been limited by some mis-understanding in how a feature NetScaler works. All it took was one or two sentences to put the eureka look on their faces!
So – the quickest, easiest way to learn NetScaler is to attend a course. You can find out more here:
If you are still insistent on finding an alternative, or you want to find out a bit more about NetScaler before committing to an education course – then I’ll do my best to create a chronological list of links to training documents, videos and other material that you can use. This could also be something you could tinker with leading up to attending a NetScaler course. The more exposure you have, the more you will get out of one of these classroom experiences.
Each bullet point should hopefully be bite-sized – so this list is something you can work through piece by piece. Just watch and learn, or install your own NetScaler , pause the video, and configure it side by side (my favourite way of learning something!) .
If Shakespeare were a NetScaler Networking Operator he might say: “To GUI or not to GUI: that is the question”. I get asked which is my favourite, and the unsatisfactory answer is “both”. Setting up in the GUI, or Configuration Utility, is so easy and quick I tend to use this most often. I’ll use the CLI to troubleshoot tho’. The GUI has almost FULL FEATURE PARITY with the CLI so there is nothing extra to be gained by only using the CLI, other than only needing to open only one port (22) to the management IP address!
My tip – if you want to know the CLI command for something, Connect to the CLI, drop into the shell (type shell and press return) and run the following command:
tail -f /var/log/ns.log
and you will see all the CLI commands being executed as you click through the Configuration Utility.
If you’ve never seen a NetScaler before now – well – that’s throwing you at the deep end – but just be aware that unlike other network kit, you do not have to memorise all the CLI commands to setup the appliance. After following the videos below, the tip above will make sense… If you are familiar with networking / load balancing appliances and running virtual machines, you should be able to configure and setup your own NetScaler with some degree of confidence after taking in the following points:
- Get the Big Picture: 1 hour NetScaler Overview: http://training.citrix.com/mod/ctxcatalog/course.php?id=474#modalid=1
- If you want to get some hands on – you DON’T need to buy any NetScaler equipment or make any investment whatsoever. Citrix can offer you a Hypervisor (XenServer) which you should be able to obtain for free. http://www.citrix.com/xenserver
Alternatively, you can use one of these below to deploy a NetScaler VM:
* Microsoft Hyper-V
* VMWare ESX
* Cisco Nexus 1100 SeriesIf you have a spare desktop workstation that is reasonably new (CPU needs the Virtualization bit) , with at least 4GB of RAM, you can install your own hypervisor. See this 6 minute guide on installing XenServer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37NYt52lYRo
- Now that you have your Hypervisor, it’s time to install NetScaler. Import the VM, give it 2 VCPUS and 2048 MB RAM, one interface, and that’s all you need.
Below are some links to videos demonstrating how to import a NetScaler VPX into XenServer, Configure the management IP, and get it licensed. You should be able to get a 90 day platinum trial license which will allow you configure all the features. NetScalers architecture allows you to view and use all the features that you would find on our largest hardware appliance. You might not get 120GB through a virtual appliance, but it’s the same from a functional perspective! JInstallation on other hypervisors should be similar – once you get the console up and running,it’s pretty much the same thing.
License acquisition: https://youtu.be/diuQduvatd0?t=3281
Download VPX and Install on XenServer: https://youtu.be/diuQduvatd0?t=3451
- There are a few different types of IP address which you will need to get a NetScaler to operate. This video – (a bit longer at 20 minis) will explain each of the IP addresses, and (briefly) how NetScaler architecture processes packets.
SO – if you’ve been following along with your own NetScaler, you may or may not see results. The reasons why you DON’T see results is as follows:
- You don’t have any web servers to load balance!
- The web server content is the same, so you can’t tell if your load balancing.
- Use the following command without the brackets to see what’s going on under the hood!
[stat lb vserver LbVServerName ]
- There is no response from your Vserver – Check if there is a route from your client to the VSever.
IF your services are down, check the monitor status of the service –it will tell you why it’s down.
If you do have some load balancing working at this point – well done!
I like to cook – so I would call this the basic sauce – i.e. flour, butter, and milk – which – when combined with a few other ingredients, go on to make your bechmel sauce, cheese sauces, pouring sauce etc. Tasty stuff! 🙂 A lot of the layer 7 features (yummy sauces) start out with “So – you have a load balanced virtual server. . . .” so you are now ready to learn more!
It’s at this point, I’d like to give a shout out to the NetScaler Masterclass. This is a monthly webinar that anyone can join. On this webinar, we usually do a 101 level feature introduction and demo. We also do a “In the spotlight” section which goes into a bit more detail. Now – here is the really cool bit. At the end of every webinar, we mail out the slides. At the end of the slides, you will find a series of links to download previous slide decks, and also links to the video recordings. I’ve had a few partners tell me that this is how they have learned NetScaler – and some even use the NetScaler masterclass archive as a kind of internal update-training tool. So – more free and accessible learning for you right there. I’ll throw out a few links to the content and video recordings here. Unfortunately, they are not ‘free’. We want your e-mail address to watch them! That’s all though! If you want to sign up to attend a live webinar, you can do so here: http://www.citrix.com/events/netscaler-master-class.html
- If there is one area that should not be underestimated on NetScaler, it’s AppExpert. It’s how nearly every Layer 7 feature is controlled, invoked, or started for specific traffic types. It’s what lets me control where requests from different language browsers go, it’s what lets me easily delete the server header in a HTTP response so I can mask my server type and version from would be attackers… the list is endless. If you understand and ‘get’ this, you are well on the way.
- Once you understand AppExpert, the next feature to conquer is Content Switching.
This allows you to control which server or group of servers a request lands on. What are the use cases for this? One is language sites – we can look at the browser language of the client, or even determine where in the world they are coming from via their IP address, and send their request to the relevant back end server. This means one external URL – but different experiences for different users on the network or internet. Again – we want your e-mail address, but it’s worth it. J
- One of the more popular abstract topics we receive a LOT of requests on is the Application Firewall. I think this is super easy to configure, but I might be a bit biased…
You can check out for yourself here (It’s about 20 minutes from the start in the 2 hour webinar):
You can continue looking at the different topics in the masterclass, or at this stage, you’re ready to use the documentation to quickly continue onwards.
The thing I love about the documentation is that it is structured similar to the configuration utility. This makes it very easy to find information about the feature you want to configure.
So – hopefully you’ve found this useful. If I’ve missed something fundamental, drop me a line and I’ll try to source some information for you.