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Choosing performance monitoring tools

There are many performance monitoring tools to choose from. In this tip, we describe which tools do what and how to choose the best monitoring tool for your desktop environment.

Desktop virtualization promises to save enterprises from rising data center costs and management headaches. IT administrators, however, have had to contend with immature technology, inconsistent terminology and executive and user reluctance. Fortunately, you can get the most out of virtualization by assembling a toolbox of assorted technologies.

Performance monitoring

The performance monitoring landscape is pretty overwhelming. There are dozens of tools to help you get a grip on your virtual desktop environment. Some tools do very specific things, while others are broad, complex solutions that monitor just about everything. Choosing the right one can be tough, but there are some questions to ask before considering a VDI performance monitoring tool that can help you narrow down the options.

What do you want to monitor?

Because performance monitoring can be so many things, you need to choose exactly what you want to monitor. It could be only a few things or it could be everything, so pick something that meets those needs without going overboard or falling short.If you're looking for something that monitors everything in your organization, products from Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Dell, CA, BMC Software and other vendors in the enterprise space offer products that do it all.

Other products that offer broad insight but don't reach down into back-end data center components, such as storage and networking, are available from eG Innovations, Liquidware Labs and Lakeside Software. These tools deal specifically with desktops.

It's possible to get a high-level overview of your environment without going overboard, too. Companies such as Xangati can provide views of a virtualized infrastructure from the endpoint to the hypervisor. You can get a holistic view of the environment -- including a neat "health index" score with Xangati -- but you have to trade off granular detail of the endpoint and the VM to get it.

If you're looking for a point solution, the companies mentioned above can certainly help, but something less complex and more focused on a single aspect of your environment might be better. VMware, Citrix and Quest Software all have in-the-box utilities in addition to tools from networking, storage and hardware-focused vendors.

Why do you need performance monitoring?

There are many different reasons to use a performance monitoring package. Lots of organizations try to get by without monitoring (or only use built-in features) until they need to find the root cause of a performance problem. This is what's called "reactive performance monitoring" and it's where people make the biggest mistakes because they don't consider all the factors that they should when choosing a product.

The opposite of reactive monitoring is proactive monitoring. With proactive monitoring, you keep an eye on your environment before it gets out of control, at which point, many people could be affected, as opposed to just a few. While there's usually only one reason for reactive performance monitoring -- failure, crazy applications, bad configurations, etc. -- proactive performance monitoring can have one or several catalysts.

One reason to proactively buy a performance monitoring system is to make the move to VDI as smooth as possible. When migrating to virtual desktops, capacity planning, load testing and user-experience testing are important capabilities to have. In the next and final installment of our virtual desktop toolbox series, we'll look at those capabilities.

Unfortunately, there's no definitive answer on which performance monitoring tool to use. Before choosing a product, look at why you want to monitor performance and what exactly you want to monitor. Do you need visibility into the VM or the endpoint? Do you need to monitor storage or network components? Answering these questions will help you decide which product you need and help keep you from under- or overspending on a performance monitoring tool.

Gabe Knuth is an independent industry analyst and blogger, known throughout the world as "the other guy" at BrianMadden.com. He has been in the application delivery space for over 12 years and has seen the industry evolve from the one-trick pony of terminal services to the application and desktop virtualization of today. Gabe's focus tends to lean more toward practical, real-world technology in the industry, essentially boiling off the hype and reducing solutions to their usefulness in today's corporate environments.

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