Citrix Consulting is seeing more and more NetScaler deployed in field. While we typically get involved post sales, our scope tends to encompass complex assessments, design, deployment and maintenance strategies for a customer’s infrastructure. We have seen the evolution of management tools for NetScaler ranging from Citrix Command Center, Insight Center and now NetScaler Management & Analytics System (MAS).

Command Center was one of our earliest systems management tools that was offered free for our customers. This tool would integrate with Windows or Linux Operating Systems and many popular third-party databases, like MYSQL or MSSQL, and allow for automatic backups, management of VIPs, certificates, custom reports, etc. Insight Center was introduced subsequently to provide detailed analytics initially for ICA (HDX Insight) and then for Web Insight.

NetScaler MAS was built from the ground up to combine features and functionality of both Command Center and Insight Center allowing customers to eliminate multiple consoles and software builds for systems management and monitoring.  MAS uses the Insight Center model where the software (a VM) includes both the core services and database built into the virtual appliance. The virtual appliance is loaded onto hypervisor platforms like VMWare, XenServer, Hyper-V, etc.

As part of our November 17 webinar on NetScaler MAS, we covered our experiences in the field, specifically with MAS architecture, recommendations on firmware and NetScalers versions, security considerations, tips and tricks, troubleshooting and other best practices.

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Not sold yet? OK, allow me to offer up a couple of items we discussed in greater detail during the webinar. One of the challenges that we have run into in the field are recommendations on the version of MAS. While CCS was initially recommending 11.1, we ran into several issues that resulted in enhancements that were ultimately brought to fruition in NetScaler MAS 12.0 (latest GA). NetScaler MAS 12.0 should be the de-facto version of MAS to be used in all new deployments. Ideally, we would also recommend that our customers upgrade their version of NetScalers to the latest 11.x or 12.x release to take advantage of various MAS features.

A common question subsequent to the version of MAS would also yield questions about the built-in database and scaling to support more storage. The built-in storage of 120 GB today cannot be changed; however, a second hard disk is supported and strongly recommended. Generally, we recommend the following specifications as a starting point:

  • vCPU: 8
  • RAM: 32 GB
  • Primary Hard Disk: 120 GB (Preferably SSD)
  • Secondary Hard Disk: > 1 TB (Preferably SSD)
  • vNIC: 1
  • Throughput: 1 Gb

Redundancy can be supported by building a duplicate VM with the same specifications and adding it as part of a high availability pair in MAS. Today, MAS supports high availability for MAS in an Active/Standby configuration for the latest versions of 11.x and 12.x

We also covered the most commonly used features, as seen in the field with MAS including details on Configuration Jobs vs. Stylebooks. We discussed when Configuration Jobs should be used vs. Stylebooks, the caveats of Stylebooks, as well as tools and logs that can help troubleshoot Stylebooks effectively.

Last but not least, we have a great section on tips and tricks that includes caveats of hypervisor platforms with MAS including tips on changing MAS IP addresses/deployment types and securing MAS. Security is a big focus for Citrix as you’ve probably heard, and MAS is no different.

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