This content is part of the Buyer's Guide: Assess and evaluate the range of VDI tools for monitoring deployments

Buyer's Guide

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Explore the features and functions of VDI monitoring tools

When looking at VDI monitoring tools, buyers must know how the options compare with one another in addressing needs such as integration, capacity planning and load testing.

Buyers must carefully consider which VDI monitoring tools on the market best suit their existing management landscapes. They must also remain mindful of the scale of their VDI deployments and what management tools their VDI products can support.

There are three major third-party products for managing and monitoring virtual desktops: ControlUp, eG Innovations and Goliath Technologies. In addition, Citrix and VMware have their own advanced management tools for larger deployments.

A number of vendors offer products focused on filling specific gaps within VDI. It is imperative for buyers to recognize what products best suit their own infrastructure and what gaps, vulnerabilities and actions they most need their VDI monitoring tools to address.

VDI deployment size matters

For small VDI deployments, the built-in management and monitoring tools that come with both Citrix and VMware's VDI products may be sufficient. Both vendors provide basic session and user support tools inside their management consoles. And both vendors have a graduated license scheme, which allows small VDI shops to purchase the cheapest licenses, because they do not require more advanced management.

One wrinkle for tiny VDI deployments is that ControlUp, a third-party VDI monitoring vendor, has a completely free tier, which could give VDI shops with fewer than 50 concurrent users a powerful VDI management product at no cost. The free tier is also a great way to evaluate ControlUp in the proof-of-concept phase of a larger VDI project.

When VDI shops deal with a few hundred virtual desktops, they have to invest in the more expensive VDI license levels. VMware customers can use vRealize Operations for Horizon for deeper insights into their deployments. Buyers should note that vRealize Operations for Horizon also supports Citrix VDI, while vSphere Desktop licenses support Citrix XenDesktop, as well as Horizon. Citrix also has its own advanced management tools. At the Enterprise license level, Citrix includes Director, which delivers visibility into sessions and user experience, as well as health monitoring for XenDesktop and XenApp infrastructure.

VDI shops that manage thousands of virtual desktops need more advanced management tools. Citrix Platinum licenses include the Comtrade management packs for Citrix, which plug into Microsoft System Center Operations Manager (SCOM). Comtrade also offers Citrix management packs for Hewlett Packard Enterprise Operations Manager. The management packs provide deeper insight into a Citrix deployment, both at the infrastructure layer and in the individual desktops. Many of the same visibility features are available from Goliath Technologies, ControlUp and eG Innovations.

Integration with existing tools

VDI shops must keep products they already own in mind when picking a VDI monitoring tool. They can use existing products as integration points for the new software. For example, a single product that does an adequate job in multiple areas is usually a better choice than a more specialized but disjointed product.

If IT administrators use the vSphere suite as their virtualization layer, then the vRealize Operations for Horizon plug-in is worth evaluating for an integrated view of the VDI deployment. If admins are already committed to SCOM, then the Comtrade management packs for Citrix will give them visibility inside the existing console. An integrated view is particularly helpful for customers with both virtual and physical desktops.

One standout product is eG Innovations' eG Enterprise. It is a comprehensive data center performance management tool. The eG Enterprise tool covers a wide range of applications and works with more than just VDI. With eG Enterprise, admins get an integrated view across all their server and desktop applications.

When to look beyond existing tools

After admins evaluate what they already have, they can look to specialized VDI monitoring tools to fill in the gaps. Here are some common areas where existing tools probably fall short:

Synthetic load testing. Identifying the maximum desktop workload for a particular hardware set is a specialist function. As such, the average VDI management tool probably doesn't do it. The leading product in synthetic load testing is Login VSI. VMware also has a tool called View Planner, which admins can use to simulate real users. Both tools are designed to test desktop scaling on a nonproduction cluster.

Capacity planning. One of the primary strengths of vRealize Operations for Horizon is its capacity forecasting. It includes a time-remaining report feature that identifies when resources will run out and how soon admins must add new resources. The various Comtrade management packs provide some solid capacity-planning functionalities for Citrix environments. The Comtrade packs for SCOM are part of XenDesktop Platinum licensing.

Admins may also choose to use a general-purpose capacity-planning tool for VDI, such as Turbonomic or eG Enterprise. Other VDI monitoring products show historic trends, but lack resource exhaustion forecasting. Goliath Technologies is planning to add resource forecasting to a future release.

Logon performance and availability. Some products can generate a synthetic user workload inside desktops on a production system, so admins can evaluate the user experience. Login VSI's Login PI and Goliath Technologies both launch synthetic sessions. The tools measure the logon experience and application response time for synthetic users to remove user variability and deliver objective measurements. Both tools allow admins to initiate synthetic user sessions from multiple network locations to validate end-to-end connectivity. Usually, admins can initiate the synthetic sessions from the same locations as real users. The synthetic sessions can give an early warning of end-user issues.

Admins can also monitor real users' logon experiences to identify slowdowns. Identifying the cause of slow logons is a common task all VDI monitoring tools offer. The Comtrade management packs for Citrix have particularly robust visibility features to view logon times, down to the time to apply each Group Policy Object.

Application performance monitoring. Real-time application performance monitoring for desktops is hard because end users can be unpredictable in how they use applications. ControlUp can show how quickly an application loads. Goliath, eG Innovations and ControlUp all report resource utilization at multiple layers -- from the hypervisor, to the VM, to the user session and to the individual applications. All three show the relationships between objects in the different layers and the causes behind common problems such as slow desktop performance due to storage congestion on an ESXi server.

Real-time management. The help desk needs tools to resolve a variety of end-user issues from a single console. The ControlUp console allows admins to perform a variety of actions from within the console. Citrix and VMware's products show admins where issues reside, but not all of them let admins take immediate action to resolve the issues.

Next Steps

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