I recently wrote an article that covered all the features and benefits of Citrix Workspace Environment Management (WEM, for short), formerly known as Norskale, which Citrix acquired in September 2016.

In the days following the article’s publication, I received a lot of great feedback, especially on the high-availability configuration that uses Citrix NetScaler as load-balancing service, as well as the CPU and RAM management and optimization features, which are arguably among its most powerful.

After reading all the positive feedback, I thought to myself, “What if I were to write an even more in-depth post, aimed specifically at some of the main advantages of this great tool? What about an article that highlighted the CPU and RAM management optimizations and logon durations, including performance videos and LoginVSI before and after testing measurement results?”

I was so excited about the prospects that I set about doing it. It’s my hope that, after reading, you’ll be just as excited about this software as I am and get started building your own WEM environment!

As an added bonus, at the end of this article, I have also included a test scenario after preparing the environment with the newest Citrix Optimizer (beta) tool!

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Did you know?

  • WEM is free to use for valid XenApp or XenDesktop Enterprise or Platinum license customers?
  • It is supported for larger Enterprise environments, 3,000 connected users per Broker server
  • It provides great process management that blocks unwarranted processes, and can be very useful in avoiding ransomware processes
  • Citrix App Layering enables the ability to virtualize Windows applications and operating systems into easy to manage layers that accelerate the image update process for XenApp and XenDesktop deployments
  • The latest desktop configuration of WEM is downloaded to the client when the user logs put into the cache. If the broker(s) is down, the next most recent configuration will be published to the machine, from the cache location
  • It provides the ability to integrate with UPM
  • The user is self-able to configure application shortcuts, printers and screenshots through the agent

CPU Management

WEM provides great CPU management optimizations, which help avoid slow applications, such as when 100% CPU spikes scenarios are taking place at your XenApp or XenDesktop environments.

How does it work? Once a process starts to consume more than 25% of all CPU during 10 seconds, WEM agent will take decision to downgrade process priority during 60 seconds. This decision will continue as long as the process is consuming more than 25% of CPU.

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The Intelligent checkbox enables the Agent to use algorithms to recognize user processes and put them in a higher priority, giving the best performance available for end users in your XenApp or XenDesktop environment!

CPU priority. If you want to provide process priority — let’s say, for example, that your environment runs at 100% and you need to guarantee that users still are able to use Outlook — give in the processes OUTLOOK.EXE to ensure it can still run in case of a 100% CPU usage scenario.

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CPU Management — see for yourself!

This video shows how WEM takes care of 100% CPU spikes in your XenApp or XenDesktop workspace environment, first without the WEM agent and afterward with the WEM agent installed.

Memory Management

RAM Management helps you to reduce your memory usage, while analyzing “idle” processes (eg. If CPU activity falls below 1% during a 30-min period, the RAM usage of the application will be decreased by 80 to 90%). This results in a lower memory consumption, which can eventually result in a higher user density.

NOTE: The “exclude specified processes” checkbox will exclude specific processes from the RAM optimization list, such as those for anti-virus software.

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Memory Management — see for yourself!

This video shows how WEM optimizes your XenApp & XenDesktop workspace environment, all by reducing the RAM consumption for the application Adobe Reader.

Improve the user logon duration

When you download the WEM software, Citrix also delivers a subset of optimization templates in the WEM .zip file. In that file, look at the folder labeled “Default Recommended Settings.” It includes a set of improvements to components in WEM, including System Optimization, Agent Configuration, and System Monitoring settings.

For this article, I used the default System Optimization Settings template to decrease my user logon duration by up to 20–40%, when compared to a native desktop environment.

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The WEM logon process implements a different method in applying your personal settings to the Desktop, such as printers and network drives. In a normal native Desktop environment, all the Active Directoy settings will be applied during the logon process. WEM performs it after the initial logon and performs all the configuration steps after the initial logon process, which eventually results in a faster logon experience — an amazing 10-15 seconds in total!

Logon Duration — see for yourself!

BONUS! Citrix Optimizer (beta)

As you may have seen on social media or heard at Citrix Synergy last month, Citrix is currently working on an Operating System Optimizer tool, called Citrix Optimizer. It’s still in beta, but it looks already quite promising to me. Big thumbs up for Martin Zugec and his team! 

Citrix Optimizer can run in three different modes:

  • Analyze – analyze the current system against a specified template and display any differences
  • Execute – apply the optimizations from the template
  • Rollback (available in PowerShell only for Beta release) – revert the optimization changes applied previously

Interested in testing the tool? It’s free to download via this link.

NOTE: the tool is still in beta and bugs can still appear while the team works on further enhancements. Help Citrix improve Citrix Optimizer by sending your feedback to the team.

The third test scenario in LoginVSI covers the user density (VSImax) results after running a preparation with the Citrix Optimizer tool. I used the default settings in the template (named – Citrix_WindowsServer2016_x64.xml – for optimizing my Windows Server 2016 XenApp server).

NOTE: The template is available out-of-the-box in the tool.

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The testing environment

I will use the same redundant WEM platform that I used for my blog article, but now with a Windows Server 2016 XenApp 7.14.1 VDA Desktop placed in Microsoft Azure.

One of the great features of LoginVSI is the ability to configure own custom workloads – its own testing set of application and processes, to eventually find the maximum user density. This is what is also called VSImax.

The aim will be opening and writing in several Microsoft Office 2016 programs, such as Word, Excel, Outlook, Internet Explorer, and opening/scrolling in Adobe Reader documents.

The virtual machine sizing in Azure will be placed on DS12_V2 machine, this is a premium based on SSD storage high-end machine. I personally recommend this VM sizing to everyone who searches for the highest user density and cost-effective XenApp machine in the Microsoft Azure Cloud.

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LoginVSI Results – Workspace Manager Agent not active

These are the results, just after performing a clean Windows Server 2016 in Azure and the installation of the Citrix XenApp 7.14.1 VDA.

Maximum of (VSImax): 27 user sessions

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LoginVSI Results – Workspace Environment Agent active

After the configuration of WEM, the VSImax went to 32 users!

Ok, let’s do some mathematics: 32 – 27 = 5 more users to fit on your XenApp machine! That’s quite a few, and this eventually can save up 1 XenApp machine every 180 users, resulting in a lower Azure bill and an even more happy manager. 🙂

Maximum of (VSImax): 32 user sessions

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LoginVSI Results: Workspace Environment Agent active and Citrix Optimizer

A small higher density by one user, although you can see that the VSI index and responsive lines are almost at the same average level for 38 users. I definitely expect that we can exceed this number even more after a bit more customizing on the OS Level! 

Maximum of (VSImax): 33 user sessions

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LoginVSI Results: All the testing scenarios

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Summary

Using a Citrix XenApp and/or XenDesktop 7.x environment with a valid Enterprise or Platinum license and searching for a great User Environment Manager? I encourage you to start implement Citrix Workspace Environment Management. In fact, the software takes your workspace to the next level, resulting in better logon durations and a higher user density!

Need some help with the installation? Please check this blog article, in which I cover most of the important steps of the configuration of a high availability Workspace Environment Management environment.

Also, share the article to embrace WEM and use the Citrix Optimizer to show your appreciation for the new tool. And make sure to follow #VDILIKEAPRO on Twitter, which is an awesome community program to participate in. Mark Plettenberg and Ruben Spruijt are the great leaders of this program. They share a lot of interesting surveys and in-dept information about optimizing SBC and VDI Desktop environments. Very cool material for every Citrix expert or architect in the field!

That’s it, thanks for standing by and I hope to see you back soon!

Cheers,
Christiaan

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