Buyer's Guide

Assess and evaluate the range of VDI tools for monitoring deployments

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Rounding up and diving into some of the top VDI monitoring tools

Buyers have a wide range of VDI monitoring tools to select from to effectively manage, monitor and troubleshoot VDI deployments and desktop user experiences.

Buyers have an array of options to effectively manage their VDI deployments. When considering the available VDI monitoring tools and vendors, administrators must look at the size of their deployments, as well as the kinds and scope of data they need the chosen product to monitor and analyze.

Although buyers may need more than one tool to meet their VDI needs, the desktop virtualization monitoring market offers plenty of products for solid insights into virtual desktop user experience.

Citrix has been in the market for around 20 years, and VMware also offers popular VDI monitoring tools. There are also a host of third-party VDI monitoring tools that support managing and monitoring Citrix XenDesktop and XenApp deployments, as well as VMware Horizon View. Most of the smaller VDI vendors provide their own management tools because they do not have the market share to attract third-party management products.

Read more about the VDI monitoring tools and vendors that make up the market. A group of TechTarget editors selected the following vendors after extensive research into the top market-share holders.

Citrix Director

Citrix offers a range of management and monitoring products in various license levels. Basic licensing includes the usual user, session, and desktop monitoring and management tools. Basic management is available in almost every VDI product Citrix offers and is sufficient for small VDI deployments. For medium-sized deployments, Citrix Director offers some useful insights into VDI deployments for both help desk and operational tasks.  

Director shows workload trends, helping to identify when a XenDesktop deployment needs additional hypervisor hosts. Director can also show insight into applications that individual users are running or the time it takes them to log in to their desktops. Admins with larger Citrix deployments will want additional management tools to supplement the Citrix tools.

To get an in-depth view into the network and the HDX remote display protocol, Citrix expects customers to deploy NetScaler appliances. NetScaler is Citrix's application delivery controller and load balancer. The appliances can be either physical or virtual and provide network optimization and insight. Some other management products get their network and Independent Computing Architecture (ICA) and HDX intelligence from NetScaler appliances.

Citrix Director is included in the Enterprise license level of XenDesktop. Customers with large Citrix deployments are likely to buy the Platinum license level, which includes the Citrix management packs for Microsoft System Center Operations Manager (SCOM). These management packs provide good operational insight into the health and operation of XenDesktop or XenApp deployments. Citrix does not publish pricing for XenDesktop or XenApp; it customizes pricing according to each customer's specific requirements.

ControlUp

ControlUp allows admins to start correcting problems directly from their consoles. The console presents a lot of data in a user-friendly form and allows admins to perform corrective actions directly.

ControlUp is usually a hybrid cloud deployment. An on-premises server gathers data and hosts the operational console, which has real-time data. This server feeds data into a cloud information warehouse. Admins can use the cloud console for historic data and reporting. VDI shops that do not want their data in the cloud can run the information warehouse on premises.

ControlUp Logon Simulator is available as a free download, as is the company's Application Profiler. These two free tools provide a lot of insight into the user experience around accessing a VDI deployment. ControlUp is most beneficial for medium and large VDI deployments with specialized operational and help desk consoles.

Full-use licenses come in three tiers: Pro, Enterprise and Platinum. Each has a different cloud data retention policy and support service-level agreement (SLA). The Logon Simulator and App Profiler are integrated into the paid ControlUp software. Licensing is on a per-concurrent-user annual subscription basis. Pricing starts at $15 per user for Pro, $21 for Enterprise and $24 for Platinum. There are substantial discounts for thousands, or tens of thousands, of concurrent users. This discounting makes ControlUp more attractive to larger VDI deployments. Admins can also access a 30-day trial and a free tier for deployments of less than 50 desktops that do not support SLAs.

EG Innovations eG Enterprise

Admins probably won't buy eG Enterprise for VDI alone because it works best if they deploy it across their whole network. In regards to VDI management, eG Innovations offers eG Enterprise, which can monitor XenDesktop, XenApp and all the supporting components, Horizon, Oracle VDI and Leostream. Customers have the option of going all-in with one management tool. The eG Enterprise tool serves as the primary VDI assessment utility for all of a company's infrastructure and application management and monitoring.

VDI shops can test the product with a five-server free trial that runs from the cloud. For production use, admins will want something a little more extensive. There is a perpetual license option, a monthly subscription option and a software-as-a-service option if admins don't want to install a server on premises. Licensing is based on the agents that monitor elements such as hypervisor hosts or infrastructure servers. Pricing is not published; it varies depending on the number and type of agents IT deploys, with discounting for large deployments. This product has a sliding scale pricing system, so eG suits a variety of organization sizes.

ExtraHop

ExtraHop, a network wire analytics company, observes the network between an organization's users and its VDI clients and between the desktops and the users' applications. ExtraHop's monitoring appliances take a feed of an organization's entire network to monitor and report on the applications using that network.

The company licensed the ICA protocol from Citrix to allow deep analytics into desktops. Monitoring the network removes the need to deploy a monitoring agent into the desktops or the XenDesktop infrastructure. Admins can set up reporting and alerting for issues such as slow logins or high network latency.

ExtraHop also provides insight into a diverse range of other applications. For example, it can monitor the responsiveness of web applications VDI users access from their desktops. ExtraHop is available as a virtual, physical or cloud appliance with a range of features and the ability to monitor networks at different data rates. Pricing for the various appliances is not available on the ExtraHop website, but the website does allow prospective customers to request a quote.

Goliath Technologies

Goliath Technologies is focused on users' VDI experience from the moment they launch their VDI clients and use applications. The Goliath Performance Monitor serves to monitor and reports users' sessions to identify the causes behind user-reported issues. In addition, admins can work with synthetic users to start sessions and launch applications to identify problems before users report them. Admins can even launch a synthetic session from every site their users visit.

The Goliath Logon Simulator is an effective way to be sure that changes to the infrastructure do not affect users. Goliath for NetScaler lets workers view the network-carrying VDI traffic by extracting data from Citrix NetScaler appliances.

Goliath is available with separate licenses for each type of object it monitors: VDI desktops are $56 each, XenApp servers are $650 each and logon simulators are $1,600 per remote site. The company offers 30-day trials for its main components: Goliath Performance Monitor, Goliath for NetScaler and Goliath Logon Simulator.

Liquidware Labs Stratusphere UX

Stratusphere UX is another tool focused on desktop user experience that oversees users on virtual desktops or physical PCs. Stratusphere UX includes a user experience score, which is a compilation of the overall user experience. This is a good metric to monitor for trends as the user count or application load changes. A user experience that diminishes over time is a sign that the VDI deployment is becoming overloaded and user satisfaction is falling.

For operational monitoring, Stratusphere UX offers deep insight into the individual processes inside users' desktops. Stratusphere UX also has network packet tracing in its origins and provides information about the various networks desktops use. To monitor desktops and servers, the monitoring features require agents on each desktop. This approach reduces the need to monitor the network or virtualization infrastructure and allows admins to monitor and manage physical desktops using the same tool.

Liquidware Labs distributes the software as a management virtual appliance, which enables fast deployment. It issues licenses by named user or per concurrent user. A perpetual license begins at $39. Liquidware Labs also has products for user environment management and application virtualization. VDI shops can buy all three as a suite for $79 per user.

Login VSI

Login VSI focuses on predicting and measuring user experience. Its VDI monitoring tool, which bares the same name as the company, is designed to benchmark VDI deployments. It will identify the maximum user load for an acceptable experience. Admins can use this benchmarking tool on preproduction systems to identify scalability.

The company's operational monitoring tool, Login PI, measures production user experience and simulates user logins all the way through application usage. Admins should replicate the actions of their users in their applications inside Login PI, because the simulated users in Login PI mimic the real user experience.

Login VSI does not publish its pricing, which varies based on multiple factors. The software is licensed as an annual subscription -- both the Login VSI and Login PI products are licensed by the number of users the product needs to simulate. The Login VSI tools are generally most valuable to larger VDI deployments.

Microsoft System Center

Microsoft does have its own management stack built around System Center, which suits customers with a few hundred desktops. For larger VDI deployments, Microsoft recommends Citrix either as an on-premises deployment or in the Azure cloud. Citrix is returning the favor by including management packs for SCOM in its Platinum license.

Admins may already use System Center to manage their infrastructure. This integration minimizes the learning curve for admins as they add VDI management tools. System Center includes the ability to manage the virtualization layer through System Center Virtual Machine Manager. System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) can manage Windows desktop builds, including full clone desktops. Most aspects of management are integrated into a single platform, which is beneficial for customers committed to a Microsoft platform for their VDI.

Customers with medium or large VDI deployments should consider Enterprise Agreement (EA) for licensing with Microsoft. Usually, the EA license includes management products like SCOM and SCCM. System Center is licensed per physical server -- the Datacenter edition, at $3,607 per server, will fit VDI environments.

Paessler PRTG

Paessler's PRTG started as a network monitoring tool. The current VDI monitoring tools also provide admins with visibility into the servers on their networks. PRTG does not have sensors specifically for VDI products like XenApp or Horizon View. PRTG has strengths in monitoring the network, starting with identifying WAN availability and performance for each site. PRTG also monitors the availability and configuration of VDI services and resource consumption within infrastructure servers.

PRTG issues licenses by the number of sensors it can monitor. PRTG defines the number of sensors as the number of aspects admins want to monitor on each device. A large VDI deployment has tens of thousands of sensors, so the unlimited license at $16,900 likely makes the most sense.

Splunk

Splunk is another general-purpose tool capable of focusing on VDI monitoring and troubleshooting. It provides information from log files from anywhere in an organization. A log file includes desktop VMs and clients, as well as the entire infrastructure in between. One example was using log analysis to identify Group Policy Object processing as the cause of slow desktop logins. The logs contained sufficient information to identify the Internet Explorer restrictions policy as the cause of slow logins.

Splunk licensing costs vary depending on how much data it consumes.

VMware Horizon View

VMware's basic offering is the management and monitoring console built into Horizon View. It provides basic operational tasks around the desktop VM and monitoring of desktops and infrastructure services.

Larger customers should buy the Horizon Enterprise licensing, which includes vRealize Operations for Horizon. The vRealize Operations tool is the infrastructure management utility that assists with infrastructure troubleshooting and capacity planning. The Horizon module adds dashboards for monitoring VDI, whether it's VMware's Horizon View or third-party VDI, such as XenApp.

For customers running Citrix VDI on top of VMware's vSphere hypervisor, vRealize Operations for Horizon supports both XenApp and XenDesktop. VMware licenses vRealize Operations for Horizon per concurrent desktop user either bundled with VMware Horizon or as a stand-alone product for use with other VDI products. These VMware native tools suit small and medium-sized VDI deployments. Larger VDI shops may want additional visibility or planning capabilities.

VMware Horizon Enterprise is sold in multiples of 10 desktops, either for named users or concurrent users. Ten concurrent users cost approximately $7,000, with discounts for large deals. The license includes full vSphere licensing, as well as vRealize Operations for Horizon. Pricing for vRealize Operations for Horizon without Horizon itself was not immediately available.

Next Steps

Look at the options to compare and contrast when considering VDI management tools.

How to evaluate VDI monitoring tools to make the best purchase.

Learn about how VDI monitoring tools work and how they benefit the enterprise.

This was last published in May 2017

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Buyer's Guide

Assess and evaluate the range of VDI tools for monitoring deployments

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