Advances in NetScaler Management and Monitoring

05 July 2016 | By David Baird

Citrix NetScaler Management and Analytics System (MAS) is a recently released product from Citrix that provides a centralised management solution for both the Citrix NetScaler and NetScaler SD-WAN (formerly CloudBridge) series of appliances.

Incorporating aspects of Citrix Command Center (CCC) and Citrix NetScaler Insight Center (NIC), NetScaler MAS has been developed to provide both a management platform, as well as an advanced analytics and orchestration platform, which expands upon both of the existing products.

New to the line of NetScaler management tools, is the inclusion of orchestration capabilities incorporating Docker container based NetScaler CPX micro-instances, and support for OpenStack which introduces new capabilities for management of the NetScaler product line.

NetScaler MAS was highlighted during the keynote at this year’s Citrix Synergy event in Las Vegas, which indicates that Citrix are continuing to develop product sets to meet the increased demands of Enterprise as they scale out their NetScaler environments.

Whereas the Command Center and Insight Center products were based on Windows server and FreeBSD respectively, Citrix have taken the approach of releasing MAS as a virtual appliance based on FreeBSD that can be run on either Citrix XenServer, VMware ESXi, or Linux KVM (although not on Microsoft Hyper-V). This model is consistent with other recent Citrix releases including XenMobile 10 and allows organisations to rapidly install and configure the platform using the provided virtual appliance templates.

With suggested requirements of 8 vCPU, 8 GB RAM, and 500 GB of storage, as well as options for single server, high availability mode, and scale-out deployments, Citrix is aiming the MAS product at environments containing a large number of NetScaler instances and where significant aggregation of data and analytics is required.

Using a combination of SNMP, Syslog, and HTTPS, NetScaler MAS provides comprehensive monitoring of NetScaler basics including Load Balancing, Content Switching, Global Server Load Balancing, and NetScaler Gateway, altogether providing clear dashboards to show the overall health of the environment.

As with Command Center, event data collected via SNMP Traps and Syslog audit trails are aggregated into a searchable central database. Configuration audits can also be run to show the differences between saved and running configs, and new configuration information can be pushed from NetScaler MAS to the managed devices – configuration models are pre-defined for common NetScaler use cases. New configuration information can also be templated and key values replaced with variables, facilitating the deployment of the code to multiple NetScaler instances.

Other key functions include the review of SSL certificates in use throughout the environment, including dashboards that highlight expiring and / or weak certificates, useful for those admins who have to manage the yearly renewal of such certificates.

The analytics for NetScaler MAS mirror those seen in Insight Center and include Web Insight and HDX Insight functionality, as well as the new Security Insight dashboards, which is aimed at customers using the AppFirewall feature.

We still say that Command Center is a great product and for those organisations wanting the more advanced change management features it provides, but we are expecting to see that for many of our clients, the adoption of NetScaler MAS would be an almost certainty given that it contains sufficient commonly used functionality from Command Center, whilst providing all of the features that were available in Insight Center.

We do note however that the product is ‘newly released’ and as such, it is expected that it will take a few releases before the initial tranche of bugs is resolved. That said, we look forward to developments in NetScaler MAS and welcome the release of the platform as another tool to manage and monitor the expanding range of NetScaler devices.

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