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What to expect from VDI monitoring tools and when to use them

VDI monitoring tools help IT oversee virtual desktops. Deployment size, troubleshooting and capacity planning needs determine how critical dedicated VDI management is.

Virtual desktop monitoring and management tools help IT administrators ensure that every VDI user has a virtual desktop experience that meets business requirements.

These VDI monitoring tools must also minimize the cost of delivering that experience by optimizing resource usage. Not every VDI deployment needs dedicated tools, however. Identifying the size of the deployment and IT structure helps determine the tool admins require. As with most technologies, VDI shops dealing with larger deployments benefit more from management tools.

Admins should be able to identify the kinds of issues their VDI deployments may experience to understand the tools they might need. They should also anticipate overlap between virtual desktop monitoring tools and more general purpose virtualization monitoring. An important aspect of managing and monitoring complex VDI deployments is ensuring the coordination and cooperation of the various support teams. When teams have tools they can use across management silos, they can interact more efficiently which is important because when VDI falters, it affects multiple IT teams.

Who needs VDI monitoring tools?

Businesses with fewer than about 200 virtual desktops seldom build dedicated infrastructure for VDI. The virtual desktops live in the same cluster as the servers. The low number of desktops makes a separate hypervisor cluster just for desktops cost-prohibitive for smaller organizations with tighter budgets. Dedicated VDI monitoring tools just don't make financial sense in these circumstances.

When teams have tools they can use across management silos, they can interact more efficiently which is important because when VDI falters, it affects multiple IT teams.

Medium-sized VDI deployments, which usually consist of upwards of 1,000 desktops and have their own vSphere cluster just for desktop VMs may require a dedicated performance monitoring or capacity planning tool. These deployments certainly require a dedicated virtualization team to look after the infrastructure and the basic desktop VMs, but the same deployment can probably use its standard virtualization management tools for capacity planning and infrastructure error handling.

Once the number of desktops and users soars into the thousands, admins need extensive management and monitoring tools. In large deployments, a dedicated team should look after the entire VDI deployment. This team should look after the virtualization layer, the infrastructure, the desktop VMs and the applications. It may also manage everything all the way to the end users' devices. The dedicated VDI team should be a peer to the virtualization team who looks after the server virtualization platform and server VMs, but still has all its own management and monitoring tools. The VDI team should also equip itself with capacity planning and troubleshooting tools focused on desktops rather than just virtualization infrastructure.

A small number of organizations have tens of thousands of virtual desktops. At this immense scale, VDI implementations are broken into modular blocks. Each block contains a complete infrastructure for each group of users. The block size depends on the scaling limits of the VDI platform. Essentially each block has the same requirements as a complete large VDI deployment, including its own support team. An architecture team works across all the blocks to set consistent standards, including selecting a cohesive set of tools across all the blocks.

The purpose of dedicated VDI management and monitoring tools

Effective VDI management and monitoring tools should give admins visibility into the root cause of issues. VDI draws resources from multiple pools, networks, storage and compute. Identifying whether a performance issue is due to an overloaded WAN link or an overloaded hypervisor cluster is crucial. Slow login could also be due to a poor Wi-Fi implementation in a branch office or a broken Windows Group Policy. Generic virtualization or network management tools are not tailored to identify these problems so dedicated VDI monitoring tools may be the only way to rapidly identify the cause of a problem.

Growing user counts can lead to increased resource usage. Resource demands also grow when admins add applications to the deployment. Even software updates can result in significant changes in resource requirements. As with performance optimization, resource demand for a single desktop multiplies across the entire deployment. All organizations should use retrospective capacity planning, essentially anticipating resource demands to help plan for additional hardware purchases, such as RAM upgrades or new hypervisor hosts.

VDI performance centers on the subtle optimization of each desktop. A small change in each desktop is multiplied over hundreds, or tens of thousands, of desktops. As a result large organizations should have proactive capacity planning so they can test changes before deploying anything to users. Testing can expose when an upgraded application requires twice as much RAM as admins anticipated because of an architectural change in the application. Catching the increase in RAM before deploying the app into production is crucial to ensuring that VDI workloads don't exceed the available resources. Testing before production requires a dedicated test cluster and VDI infrastructure. Similarly, a change in user behavior such as a new product or organizational change can cause a large difference in workloads.

For smaller VDI deployments it may be sufficient to manage and monitor the virtualization platform with less awareness of VDI specific issues. For large VDI deployments, the dedicated support team needs dedicated VDI monitoring and management applications to oversee desktop performance activity. If companies utilize VDI monitoring tools correctly and efficiently, they can deliver the type of experience their users require to remain productive and happy.

Next Steps

Learn the role of VDI monitoring tools in the enterprise

Discover the top players in the desktop virtualization monitoring tool market

VMware and its big role in the growing VDI market

This was last published in April 2017

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