Assess and evaluate the range of VDI tools for monitoring deployments
A collection of articles that takes you from defining technology needs to purchasing options
When evaluating VDI management and monitoring tools, buyers must make sure their evaluation criteria fits the needs of their organizations. To do so they should determine what they need from a VDI management or monitoring tool, including who will use the tool and what problems the tool must address.
Next, buyers must evaluate the products they currently have and determine if they can meet their VDI management and monitoring needs. Many businesses have multiple management tools they underutilize or simply forget, so putting existing tools to work makes great business sense.
Once admins determine what they want and what they have, they must address the gaps in between. Admins can narrow down their deployment needs by verifying the top five or ten VDI-related help desk call types and looking for tools to best address these issues. They will likely find a few different needs that they can categorize by IT role. The operations team may need better visibility into long-term trends while the help desk probably wants better insight into single desktops, for example. A single tool that can fulfill all requirements is obviously ideal, but it's not always practical. Buyers must pay close attention to whether a VDI management tool provides better long-term visibility, single-desktop visibility or both.
Don't overlook in-house tools
One prerequisite for VDI is virtualization software and vendors often bundle that software with some management and monitoring products. As a result, many VDI shops have management and monitoring tools at their disposal already. VMware bundles vRealize Operations (vROps) with a lot of its vSphere licenses and Microsoft tends to include a lot of System Center tools in its license bundles, for example. The vendors aim these tools at general hypervisor management but they can fulfill some VDI requirements and are well suited to capacity planning.
The more specialized management and monitoring tools often use hypervisors as a data source. For admins to realize advanced monitoring, they often need the specialized tools vendors offer. Citrix includes Director in its top license level of XenDesktop and VMware includes vROps in the top View license level.
When an entire office of users is unable to access their desktops or a whole vSphere cluster is running slow, the operations team must know and act before the help desk gets inundated with questions and complaints. The operations team should look for a clear and configurable dashboard that shows the big picture. Tools that test real user access from remote sites give the best indication of what real users experience. These tools often also show the responsiveness of applications inside real desktops.
Buyers should look for tools that narrow the focus when issues arise. Operations must know if a host or a cluster is overloading, or if a WAN link is down, for example. Identifying the data center, remote site or desktop pool experiencing problems can speed up the resolution. A good operations tool also draws from the VDI platform and highlights unresponsive desktop VMs, RDSH hosts or infrastructure.
Help desk troubleshooting
The help desk needs tools that focus on individual desktops to address user issues. The right VDI monitoring tool should possess thorough search capabilities because the help desk needs to find the problem session and quickly identify what layer is causing the issue. The problem may lie in the user's device, the network, the desktop VM, the applications or the surrounding infrastructure. Tools must consolidate detailed information about the different areas into a single console.
The chosen VDI management tool should also link directly into other tools, such as a virtualization monitoring tool. The help desk should look for a tool that consolidates as many data sources as possible into a user-centric view. Buyers should consider whether history is important, particularly whether the problem can be linked to a behavior pattern from the user rather than a VM. Seeing that a user logged in to a floating assignment desktop five times in the last hour helps identify where the issues lie, for example.
Like any workload, VDI usually demands more resources over time. The underlying physical hardware must deliver sufficient resource for the growing workload. Capacity planning tools forecast resource exhaustion based on trends from historic growth. A generic virtualization capacity planning tool helps with planning for the virtualization layer. A VDI management tool should link budget styles to the forecasts it generates. Nobody wins when admins are notified that a cluster will be out of RAM in 60 days when they don't receive the budget for upgrades until the following quarter.
Capacity planning also covers license management. If the concurrent active user counts change, the tool's licensing limit must exceed its peak usage. Business changes IT does not hear about can affect concurrent user licensing as well. Recognizing a trend can stop a problem that prevents users from logging on.
Load testing is related to capacity planning. Adding or updating applications can have a large effect on desktop resource consumption. Large VDI deployments use workload generation tools to test the effect of changes before deploying them to real users. Load testing tools simulate a large number of active user sessions against a test VDI deployment.
To predict the load change, admins need a workload that represents the user's actual usage. The VDI monitoring tool that IT chooses should have load testing capabilities that make it easy to add both applications and user behavior within applications, to the workload. The load testing feature should also deliver visibility into a single session as well as the whole test population. Changes to Group Policy, applications or login scripts can alter user experience. The best place to measure these delays and their affects is in a loaded VDI test deployment. User login time is a key measure of VDI usability so admins need a load testing tool that shows login time and application responsiveness.
VDI management and monitoring tools can solve different problems for different teams. Buyers must know what problems they need the product to address. Many organizations simply must make better use of the products they already own. Several specialized VDI management and monitoring tools give deeper insight into VDI and users' desktop experiences. Ultimately buyers must know what they need to achieve with VDI monitoring tools and select the proper tools for the issues they and their desktop users face.
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