I was recently asked “What was one thing, from my experience, that separated successful Citrix implementations from challenging ones.”
I gave them two.
- You only get once chance at a first impression with your end users, make sure the Citrix experience is better than what they are doing today and that you have a way to manage the quality of the experience going forward.
- Get some good Citrix training. Find a good Citrix training provider and take a class. Ask questions; get informal Citrix training during your deployment. Just knowing Microsoft server and Active Directory are not enough.
In retrospect, what is funny about my answers is that the second answer, not having experience, or access to good experience to fill in the gaps while you learn, is one of the primary contributors to failing on the first answer.
Almost invariably 12-14 months after we have done an initial deployment we are back onsite remediating issues that are negatively impacting performance or that have ground the Citrix, VMware, Hyper-V environment to a near halt.
The same engineer that was confident of his or her ability to just figure it out the year before has either been fired, quit, is deathly afraid to touch Citrix, or just hates it.
The sad part is it does not have to be this way at all.
If you find yourself needing to learn how to use Citrix, before you do anything, at least get a basic handle on Citrix and how Citrix works. Buy a book, take a basic Citrix class (though a book would be an order of magnitude cheaper, FYI,) learn from the Citrix partner doing your Citrix project, build a test lab, something. It does not have to be fancy, or formal, just get the basics so you have something to build on with the Citrix training recommendations below.
In general terms, the best path to learning Citrix that I have found is as follows:
- See your environment accurately.
Ideally, get a Citrix assessment of your environment from someone who works with Citrix on a regular basis, not an IT company that does 3 Citrix projects a year. Formal Assessments with 50 to 120 page deliverables cost money to perform; light assessments with two pages of high points are relatively inexpensive.
- See where your Citrix environment needs improvement.
Get a clear picture of the state of your Citrix environment, where it is solid and where it is lacking.
- Compare your skillset against the needs of your Citrix environment.
Evaluate your skills against the strengths and weaknesses of your Citrix environment. Which problem areas are you skilled enough to address today, and what skills would you need to learn to be able to fix all of the problem areas?
- Participate in remediation, ask questions.
Bring in a good Citrix consultant to do the remediation and bolt yourself to the side of the Citrix engineer doing the work. This will help you learn how your environment is architected, learn why the environment is configured the way it is and give you practical knowledge with the actual production Citrix environment you support. Learning from your own environment is always preferred to learning from generic labs when possible.
- Reinforce your new knowledge with formal Citrix training from a practicing Citrix Certified Instructor
Get some formal Citrix training. Make sure your instructor is an actual Citrix engineer that does regular field engagements so you can learn real life best practices as well as the course curriculum.
Standardized Citrix classes with labs are available which will help you on your way to achieving your Citrix certification if that is the path you choose. The good part is the content is solid and the labs are good, the difficult part can be the time, expense, and number of classes (at 3 to 5 days each) you will need to take to get a full grasp of everything Citrix.
- Bonus – Custom Citrix training condensed to the Citrix technologies you use
The best path I have found, where practical, is to bring a trainer onsite to teach a custom class built around the actual Citrix technologies you have in your environment, skipping the components discussed in the standard curriculum that you do not have or use. Often these classes are less expensive than formal classes because you can learn about more technologies in a single class and the content can be tailored to your environment.
- Bonus - Complete labs built on how you use Citrix in your environment
Labs are important to help the classroom training become practical knowledge. In custom training sessions, labs are also customized to how you use Citrix technology.
What to do if:
…your Citrix environment is performing poorly today.
Bring in a consultant with verifiable Citrix expertise to help get the environment right with the understanding that the person supporting Citrix in your environment is going to be with them every step of the way asking questions. If they are not comfortable with that, keep looking.
For Whitehat, the smarter our customers are on Citrix or other virtualization technologies, the easier it is for us. I want our customers to be as smart as they want to be on the technology.
…your Citrix environment is brand new or yet to be built.
Get engaged from the first conversation, through the Assessment, Design, Proof of Concept, Pilot and Build stages to understand the technology. Learn the basics on your own time and ask questions all through the design and build. Ideally, get a Citrix support agreement in place to help you cover the questions and issues that come up while your internal skillset comes up to speed.
With Citrix, training of some kind is essential. Citrix is a complex technology that interacts with several different technology systems in your environment. Without a good understanding of how it works, making improvements, quickly finding issues, and making sure end users are able to be consistently productive with the environment will be nearly impossible.