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Straightening out virtual desktop snags with VDI monitoring tools

A virtual desktop infrastructure can be so complex that it makes desktop troubleshooting difficult at best -- or at worst, impossible -- but there's a pile of VDI monitoring tools out there that can help you eliminate the thorniest of problems.

Before you can get to work solving issues in your

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VDI environment, you need to identify and diagnose the problem. Here are some of the most common areas where you'll run into complications:

  • Network connection (user can't connect to the remote system)
  • Authentication (user can't log on to the virtual machine)
  • User experience (applications behave unexpectedly)
  • Functionality (remote user can't print or access data)
  • Performance (remote system performs too slowly to be used)
  • Persistence (system frequently disconnects)

Once you narrow down the nature of the problem, you can determine which virtual desktop troubleshooting steps to take and which tools to use.

What's the problem?

Network connection. If the problem is related to the network connection, native Windows utilities such as ping, tracert and IPconfig can test connectivity and domain name system, or DNS, and IP address resolution, and validate the TCP/IP configuration. Basically, you need to first check whether the endpoint can "see" the virtual host. Normally, a connectivity problem proves to be the easiest to solve, but many troubleshooters overlook this first, critical step for diagnosing a remote desktop problem.

More on VDI monitoring

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Authentication. Authentication issues prove to be a little more complex. The first, most obvious problem to check for is the account settings. Are the username and password correct? Do the credentials match those assigned? Do other user accounts work correctly on the endpoint? Are there any improper account security settings (group memberships, domains, login schedules and so forth)? Going through these questions should help a fix for an authentication problem reveal itself.

User experience and functionality. Problems with the user experience and with functionality often prove to be unique and require a much deeper dive into analyzing them. First, determine what the experience problem actually is. After all, the issue could lie directly with the user and be caused by a lack of proper training or understanding of how a given application should work.

Often, users have the wrong expectations of what an application should accomplish and what steps can garner the end result. Other user experience problems can be attributed to improperly configured applications, improper rights to the application and its associated data, or simply bad code.

Performance and persistence. When it comes to desktop troubleshooting, problems with performance and persistence are the most complex to solve because there can be multiple root causes. For example, a performance problem could be attributed to bandwidth issues, storage, processor utilization, software hiccups and endpoint issues.

Plus, there might be no rhyme or reason to the problem: It could be an intermittent issue that only occurs under certain circumstances. That's especially the case if you're encountering availability issues. To ensure persistence, start by determining what's happening and what's being used at the time of the disconnect.

Turning to VDI monitoring tools

To prevent these problems from occurring in the first place, you can use VDI monitoring tools that will keep track of performance, alert you to potential snags and offer suggestions for virtual desktop troubleshooting.

Different tools tend to have different personalities. Some VDI monitoring tools focus on issues from the client side, while others look at problems from the server side. What's more, many are actually part of a larger tool set, such as an application monitoring solution or network monitoring system. So, should your remote desktop troubleshooting tool be part of a larger systems management platform?

The obvious answer is yes, because problems with virtual and remote desktops could be caused by the networking infrastructure or by the hardware. Because those components can become part of the problem, administrators must have a unified view of the network, starting at the application level and reaching down to the core routing technology. Take, for example, products from SolarWinds, EG Innovations, OpenNMS, IpSwitch and ManageEngine. Those vendors offer comprehensive network monitoring and management suites, with virtual desktop troubleshooting tools included.

With a comprehensive understanding of the situation, it becomes easy to resolve even the most complex VDI problem. The key to success lies with an integrated view of network traffic, coupled with hardware and applications.

This was first published in February 2013

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