In my performance engineering circles, I hear a lot about shifting left and optimizing code. The emphasis is on early feedback during the development process, and it is great that this conversation is happening. However, there are MANY companies who do not develop software and use packaged applications across large numbers of people. These applications are not developed, they are deployed. The original code may have been tested by the vendor, but it may be heavily customized or extended. To deploy these applications without doing performance and load testing greatly increases the risk of a bad user experience or production outages during high usage times.
Adding to the complexity, some of these applications are deployed using Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops. Even if the native application itself has been load tested, it requires performance validation of the Citrix environment itself. This is because the Citrix environment itself can be complex:
*From Citrix Documentation
Anyone of these access points, or layers can be accidentally misconfigured. Settings need to be validated and tuned based on the individual implementation.
How prevalent is Citrix today?
According to the Citrix website, it’s used at:
- 400,000 organizations
- 98 percent of the Fortune 500
- US “Big Ten” Universities
- Ten largest school districts
- Ten largest banks
- Five largest US government agencies
- Largest 10 US law firms
- Top 10 global healthcare companies
In summary, the landscape of Citrix is far and wide! It’s not going anywhere soon.
What are the biggest concerns or complaints from Citrix users?
The Digital Workspace & Performance Monitoring Survey for 2020-2021 revealed that the most common complaints from end-users include slow logon times, frozen sessions, and slow application launches.
Healthcare Utilizes Citrix Heavily
In the healthcare industry, the majority of EHR/EMR products from leading vendors like Cerner, Epic, Allscripts, and McKesson are all deployed through Citrix technology. Many of these applications play a vital role in patient care and emergency/critical care, a well performing and resilient application can actually save lives.
These are thick desktop applications that would typically require individual and manual installation. The primary reason to deploy these applications through Citrix Virtual Apps is to simplify the deployment of upgrades and maintenance releases across a wide range of devices.
Load Testing Reduces Production Deployment Risk
The graphic below visualized a typical load testing scenario:
A load test creates a large number of virtual users, each executing a business process (in the form of a test script) that creates an amount of load on the target application. Using a product like Eggplant Performance to provide end-to-end load testing makes it possible to understand the user experience under peak conditions prior to a production release. It can continue to verify the application for each major release, update, or patch. While under load, the server and application environment can be monitored to see how resources are being utilized and determine if the system is the right size or in danger of an outage under peak load.
Another benefit to faster response times within the EMR is increased patient interfacing time. A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (FEb 2020) found that on average a physician spent 16 minutes and 14 seconds using the EHR for each patient seen. Doctors have become data entry clerks, which is obviously not the proper use of their time. The faster the process can be for inputting the patient’s health information into the system, the more time the doctor can spend with the patient learning from direct observability and conversation – which could lead to deeper understanding, more through medical diagnosis and better treatments.
Citrix applications still require performance and load testing to avoid slow response times or outages under heavy load. Eggplant Performance is one of a few testing products that supports the Citrix ICA protocol to enable end-to-end testing of the whole Citrix application and architecture.
I will be continuing to discuss more about this with some best practices in load testing and how to ensure Citrix applications will scale on an upcoming webinar. It features myself with special guest Chuck Schneider (Redpoint Innovations). You can register at this URL:
Source: “Digital Workspace & Performance Monitoring in the New Normal 2021 Survey Report” – https://www.eginnovations.com/white-paper/digital-workspaces-survey-2021 Slide 35.