Performing a SpotCheck Inspection with Stratusphere UX

The ability to meet expectations and deliver the appropriate user-experience on shared infrastructure platforms such as VMware View and Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop can be a complex and a challenging endeavor. One of the ways you can stay ahead of the curve is through a point-in-time analysis called the SpotCheck. Liquidware engineers and our partner community have been using Stratusphere UX and this technique—leveraging known levels of acceptable performance and baselines—to identify infrastructure and platform constraints that can contribute to a poor user-experience.

The SpotCheck inspection takes a broad look at overall infrastructure and platform health as a means to provide a picture of resource usage and performance of the virtual or cloud environment. The objectives of the SpotCheck are as follows:

  • Provide a 360° view of virtual desktop resource use and performance
  • Gain visibility of critical issues, both known and unknown
  • Identify and provide analysis of performance issues
  • Establish real-world baselines to gauge normal/abnormal operations
  • Document and report on findings

How is it Used

The inspection methodology focuses on the most important metrics that are relevant to the user-experience. It is not a comprehensive process with complete visibility of all details. Rather, the technique is used to bring issues into focus without a time-intensive diagnostic exercise. Watch our webinar video to learn how you can use the SpotCheck inspection to provide visibility and user experience.

Before jumping in, it is important to understand your business or industry as well as company and departmental elements such as work habits, seasonality, time of day, expectations, approximate system loads, core applications, etc. These elements are critical for data interpretation as well as for threshold evaluation. For example, where shift and other time-dependent staff workloads may exist, moderate-to-high storage latency may be acceptable during shift changes (with high numbers of people logging in and out). However, these storage characteristics will not be acceptable during work hours, as they will impede productivity and contribute to a negative user-experience and loss of productivity.

SpotChecks leverage both known best-practices as well as trended user-experience metrics as a means to diagnose and remediate workspace, infrastructure and platform issues. And not all steps in the process will be relevant in all instances, but the overall methodology applies a broad-to-narrow approach to troubleshooting and remediation.

A Repeatable Series of Steps

SpotCheck steps include a situation analysis, where an assessment of your reasons for performing the inspection are considered. This may seem obvious and unnecessary but understanding the situation and rationale will guide analysis and help ensure that you attain your desired outcome. After the initial situation analysis, a cursory data review is employed. Stratusphere UX is used to gain insight into metrics and information to help identify patterns and trends. For example, the screen capture below provides data on all users by user-experience (UX) score. At this stage we’re simply looking for yellow and red indicators. Later, you’ll take additional steps to further examine machine-level resource constraint (CPU, memory, login delay, applications not responding, etc.).

SpotCheck-One

After the cursory data examination, you’ll leverage the details, metrics and information to narrow the field and begin to identify key resolution points—as well as the specific users, machines and applications affected. This step in the process is about peeling back the layers of information to examine potential areas of concern. You may approach this exercise with known and accepted industry values at hand for comparison. On subsequent inspections you may leverage specific points-in-time to baseline and compare what is deemed normal (or abnormal) in your environment. The approach and guiding methodology should be consistent with the situation-analysis and cursory data review.

For example, Stratusphere UX can be used to look at machine indicators that may have contributed to a decrease in overall UX score. Below you will see a graph depicting CPU percent average. At this point, we do not know what is causing CPU spikes in activity; we simply know that there are sustained (Peak 1 and 2) CPU metrics in the timeframe under consideration.

SpotCheck-Two

With Stratusphere UX, you can zoom in on detail for one of the affected machines. Below you can see CPU details on a specific machine presented by hours on the same day. Here we see a somewhat level CPU utilization during the entire day with a spike at 13:00 hours.

SpotCheck-Three

We know that CPU spikes can occur for a number of reasons (poorly provisioned machine, badly written application, etc.), however in this case, we can use Stratusphere UX to drill into the 13:00 hour segment and see a few applications that are consuming the CPU and likely are causing the utilization spike. Below you can see Adobe Illustrator, Camtasia and Windows Explorer are the culprits. Of course you should ensure that these are not user error (browser tabs) and that they are not isolated cases—by looking at other application use and timeframes to gain a well-rounded and informed picture.

SpotCheck-Four

The last steps in the SpotCheck methodology involve defining a resolution plan and documentation of relevant findings. Documentation may already be a part of your organization’s IT practice. A SpotCheck inspection should conform—or be adapted—to any best-practices already in place. Using Stratusphere UX and the SpotCheck inspection methodology will make it easy to compile the details and information to take appropriate remediation steps.

Periodic SpotCheck inspections are a good way to stay ahead of the complexity and challenges associated with supporting common platform and cloud architectures. A solution like Stratusphere UX provides you with the visibility—details, metrics and information—necessary to minimize risk in your environment and make sure you are meeting performance expectations and delivering a satisfying user-experience. If you’d like to learn more, download our SpotCheck Inspection Whitepaper.

This type of inspection previously required a substantial amount of guesswork, but as analysis and best-practices have evolved, so have the solutions to support this endeavor. We’d love to learn more about your challenges and how a Stratusphere UX SpotCheck inspection has helped.

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