ControlUp - The free management tool I wish I had when I was a full-time admin

Have you heard of ControlUp yet? Smart-X, its creator, has received a bit of press lately for it due to it's simple, unique approach to monitoring and management.

Have you heard of ControlUp yet? Smart-X, its creator, has received a bit of press lately for it due to it's simple, unique approach to monitoring and management. I had a chance to meet with Yoni Avital and Asaf Ganot when I was at Citrix Synergy in Barcelona, and while Control-Up isn't going to be everything to everyone, it is a free monitoring tool with some snazzy features.

Like a lot of people, I'm likely to glaze over when it comes to monitoring apps. VMware's Kevin Goodman coined the term "YAM" a few years ago, which is a TLA (Three Letter Acronym) for "Yet Another Monitor". There are probably a dozen, if not more, monitoring solutions in the desktop virt space, and while some are very comprehensive (and complex), others are just dashboards that find new ways to display PerfMon counters. There are exceptionally powerful ones that use their own technology, but in many every-day situations, those solutions can be overkill.

ControlUp takes a different approach. As it is today, ControlUp runs entirely in memory. On the server side, the management console collects data from lightweight agents that have been pushed out to the clients using RPC. There's little impact on the client side, but since all of this is not cached or otherwise stored for later, the memory impact on the server side can be substantial. Nothing a typical box can't handle, mind you, but you're probably not going to roll this out in production on a Windows 7 VM with 1GB of memory.

What I like about ControlUp is the real time aggregate view of the organization's computers. It works on physical and virtual desktops, including both VDI and TS-based. From the management console, you can get sortable views of every single process running on monitored machines, sessions, accounts, and executables with process-specific and aggregate CPU and Memory information. From there, you can also dig into some of the more subtle features of ControlUp, all of which can be done on single or multiple machines at once, in real time:

  • Group policy refresh
  • Filterable event log aggregator
  • Session screen shots (Check out the comments on this blog post from Citrix)
  • Manage Windows services
  • Copy files/folders
  • Registry edits
  • Shutdown/reboot
  • Remote Desktop Connection console to access multiple computers via RDP from one interface

Click for a larger view

While many of these things can be done with scripts or existing tools, ControlUp gives you the ability to do it from a single console, for free, and without the complex backend to worry about installing or maintaining. If you want oodles of metrics saved off to a massive database to correlate events with historical data, this isn't for you. But, if you've got a bunch of homemade or disparate solutions to accomplish what ControlUp enables you to do, check it out. That's what captured my interest. During the demo, I found myself thinking back to how much I could've used this (free) app back in my days as a full-time admin.
Things to note:
  • I'm not sure how well some of the features scale, especially when dealing with less-than-optimal networks. Things like file copies could be problematic, I think, but I could be wrong.
  • Control-Up does require you to have an account on the Smart-X website to verify your license (even though it's free) and collect usage stats. It seems legit, but unnecessary.
  • There is no offline way of using this as an ongoing monitoring solution. When you shut down the management console, all the info goes away.
  • Smart-X is working on an enterprise version of Control-Up, so if you have ideas for features you think it should have (like offline use, database storage, etc…), let them know. Many features, like being able to turn off the desktop screenshot feature, have come from user requests.

For more info, check out the ControlUp website or watch some demos on their YouTube Channel. If it's not quite where you'd like it to be, get in touch with them and let them know how they can enhance the product. They seem more than willing to listen.

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Pretty cool tool.  It does install an agent, but you can do it in a "temporary" mode which uninstalls it when you are done.  Little things like that earn my respect.


Well said - it's nothing earth shattering, but you can tell it was my people that have been there and just want it to work well.


Wow, fantastic little app.  As suggested, it is very lightweight and just works.  Has lots of great useful features for someone monitoring a TS farm.

Cheers Gabe.


I've been using ControlUp for a few months in a large financial institution, monitoring 355 Citrix servers in a provisioned envrionment on XenServer hypervisors.

It's been great to have a single place to see instantly if CPU, memory, disk space are out of kilter. It also allows a quick overview of last reboot, so you can catch those servers that might have missed their regular patch cycle.

The snapshot tool is a nice idea, but when you use it on someone with multiple Citrix applications, you never know where the focus will be.

Their support is amazingly responsive and eager to improve the product.

I'm very impressed and haven't even begun to use the advanced features.

Keep up the good work!



I work at the same large financial institution as Al, monitoring the same 355 Citrix servers in a provisioned environment on XenServer hypervisors. Control UP has been a major tool in using EdgeSight to monitor the farm.  Having ControlUP running constantly on my second monitor allows for quick validation or glancing of real time data. This allows for validation of current alerts, allows for a quick assessment of other alerts and rules that may need to be created in

EdgeSight.  When trouble shooting user reported issues, or checking into data pulled form EdgeSight, the ControlUP program has also been of a great help.  EdgeSight notified me of a resource thresholds crossed on various applications such as IE etc.  I was able to use the Screen

Capture function on that user and see what specially were they doing within IE, or the other applications to get a quick idea of what was occurring.  The centralized access to the Event Logs has also come in very handy why snooping around to resolve issues.

As a long time UNIX and Linux Systems Administrator, preventive monitoring and watching logs and system resources has always been part of my routine. ControlUP offers me a centralized location to function in a similar manner.  As more features are added, and functionality improved on, I foresee this to become a valuable tool for many. Their support is amazingly responsive and as stated they are very eager to improve the product. They take into account, and respond back directly when dealing with real time industry use.  

On several occasions their CTO has connected us in regards to not only issues, but feature request.  

Even though this is a free product, they are using this as a great foundation for their enterprise edition, while building a good customer base from the core product.  Very similar to how many Open Source projects function.

The easy “submit a feature request” option right in the menu system will have me making suggestions as more real world use occurs.