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Desktop as a service ultimately requires IT pros to sacrifice a level of control to a service provider, but it doesn't mean management is completely out of IT's hands.
Windows Virtual Desktop is Microsoft's foray into the desktop-as-a-service market, an offering that stands out due to its inclusion of a multiuser version of Windows 10. Windows Virtual Desktop is hosted in Azure, which makes the consumed resources inherently less visible to IT. That means it's important for IT to track resource utilization to avoid higher, unnecessary cloud costs.
"Initially, those using Windows Virtual Desktop are probably going to explore the core capabilities of Windows Virtual Desktop, then discover where they may have to look for better management beyond what Microsoft can provide," said Mark Bowker, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass.
The need for third-party tools depends on the use case, Bowker said. For example, an organization may look to monitoring tools to provide data logs and diagnostic information. Monitoring tools can help provide deeper insight to the security team that IT was previously unable to provide with the information from native Windows Virtual Desktop management tools.
Tools for deeper Windows Virtual Desktop management
There are a few third-party tools from official Microsoft partners, which means Microsoft has internally tested the vendor's tools to ensure a smooth integration with Windows Virtual Desktop. Get to know the following options:
Lakeside Software. Lakeside Software's SysTrack monitoring tool can provide insight into Windows Virtual Desktop. It monitors the activity of both the VMs that host desktops and applications and the managed client devices. The tool can help with Windows Virtual Desktop management by identifying whether errors originate from within Azure or the organization's IT infrastructure.
SysTrack also generates an end-user experience score that determines when users have issues such as application crashes, low disk space or latency.
Lakeside also offers a free assessment tool that can help IT plan its migration to Windows Virtual Desktop. The tool gathers usage data from existing endpoints to determine whether a certain workload, apps or desktop will be a good fit for Azure.
ControlUp. ControlUp provides resource consumption and user experience monitoring for Windows Virtual Desktop. The tool installs on VMs that run Windows Virtual Desktop and connects to Windows Virtual Desktop machines.
ControlUp's user community helped to develop appropriate thresholds for metrics based on historical data and reporting. This way, the tool alerts IT when UX metrics such as application load time and logon duration reach concerning levels. It constantly monitors user input delay, which measures the length of time that an input, such as keyboard or mouse usage, stays in a queue before the system recognizes it. These hang-ups can account for performance issues such as typing delays.
The tool also enables IT to automate actions for Windows Virtual Desktop management through user-created scripts.
PolicyPak. PolicyPak performs a variety of Windows Virtual Desktop management tasks, including assigning admin rights and configuring security and compliance settings. IT can use PolicyPak to manage Windows 10 settings, such as the Start Menu, taskbar, Group Policy Objects and file associations.
Liquidware. Liquidware has a suite of tools designed to support a Windows Virtual Desktop deployment: Stratusphere UX, ProfileUnity and FlexApp. ProfileUnity and FlexApp help with user profile management and image management, respectively.
Stratusphere UX is Liquidware's monitoring tool that provides information on login times, resource usage and desktop health. The tool makes automatic adjustments to workloads' CPU processes to prevent poor performance.
IT can set up automated actions to receive PowerShell notifications if Windows Virtual Desktop adds a new host to the pool, for example; although, it's not a native function within Stratusphere UX.
Login VSI. Login VSI offers a monitoring tool, Login PI, that performs tests on Windows application performance, factoring in metrics such as legacy application usage and logon times. It can run alongside more traditional VDI monitoring tools or on a stand-alone basis.
One of the main benefits of Login VSI is its ability to monitor continuously, rather than just during business hours. It also has an API that integrates easily with other analytics tools, such as Power BI and Excel.