Four options for third-party VDI assessment tools

Before you take steps to deploy a virtual desktop infrastructure, it's a good idea to use VDI assessment tools to track resources, app usage and more.

A comprehensive VDI assessment is necessary to plan a rollout properly -- and even to determine the efficacy of a rollout in the first place. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools on the market to help assess your environment.

Unlike server virtualization, gauging virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) performance levels and creating a good picture of the user experience is difficult at best. Think of the time involved in creating hardware and software inventories, conducting user interviews, and gathering performance data from local computers. The results of those tasks are necessary to identify users or computers that should be considered for virtualization. This is where VDI assessment tools come into play.

These automated tools typically scan a target machine or group of machines and gather data on memory and CPU, and on disk usage, storage capacity, networking bandwidth consumption and more. Some assessment tools focus mainly on VDI planning and decision making. They help you measure typical desktop workloads by user or machine and determine which physical desktops are a good fit for virtualization. Other tools are designed mainly for tuning and optimizing a VDI environment. Some do both.

Let's review several third-party assessment tools designed for multi-platform use. You can also use tools provided by virtual platform and cloud providers, but they tend to focus on their own specific platforms. For example, Citrix Desktop Transformation Accelerator is an assessment tool for administrators who are preparing a XenDesktop installation, but it's not going to help with a VMware implementation.

Liquidware Labs Stratusphere FIT

Liquidware Labs is considered one of the go-to companies for desktop management and transformation products. Stratusphere FIT is the company's desktop assessment tool, which lets you gather details on hardware, software and applications, as well as on a plethora of resource utilization and performance metrics.

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This VDI assessment tool scans and monitors an environment in the background, then provides highly detailed reports. For example, one report includes data on user logins, CPU usage (including user percentage), network response time, disk drive IOPS, network card speed and bandwidth, and total number and size of user files. Another report lists and compares installed applications against apps that are used, which helps keep licensing under control. You can also get trend data and graphs that help you see at a glance if certain desktops are good candidates for VDI.

Liquidware Labs offers a 10-day trial version of Stratusphere FIT in a virtual appliance, letting you pick the platform file type -- Citrix (XVA), Microsoft (Virtual Hard Disk), VMware (Open Virtualization Format  and Virtual Machine Disk), Windows, or generic Open Virtualization Format. You can contact Liquidware Labs to purchase Stratusphere FIT for longer-term use.

Quest Workspace Assessment

Formerly named VDI Assessment, this product is now owned by Dell and is another heavy-hitter in the VDI assessment tool lineup. Interestingly, Workspace Assessment's underlying technology is from Liquidware Labs.

You can use Workspace Assessment to inventory desktops, applications, network and storage; capture configuration information; and generate VDI readiness data. After running the agent-based Workspace Assessment, you'll get detailed statistics and graphs showing user, application and network usage. The tool also provides a VDI Fitness Profile, which identifies the suitability of a target technology (machine, group of machines or application, for example) for hosted VDI and local VDI, or as Terminal Server or Remote Desktop Session clients. Workspace Assessment offers only a subset of the metrics you get with Stratusphere FIT, but the data is concise, and the dashboards and graphs are easy to analyze.

Workspace Assessment is available as a free, downloadable virtual appliance for VMware ESX, VMware Workstation, or Microsoft Hyper-V, and it supports an unlimited number of users. Be aware, however, that the installation key is good for a mere five days. If you want to continue using the product after that time and save your assessment data, you need to contact the company for another key. There's also no technical support, only community pages, if you need help using the tool.

EG Innovations Perform

The eG Perform tool proactively identifies and reduces performance bottlenecks in production deployments and helps right-size the environment. The tool first gathers baseline VDI performance data, then captures real-time production statistics to help you determine the cause of latency and other performance issues. The eG Perform interface is easy to use and does a great job displaying graphs and trend data.

EG Perform works across several platforms, such as VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix, as well as a slew of application servers, Web servers, databases and so on.

Lakeside Software SysTrack

Lakeside Software's SysTrack suite of desktop transformation and analytics tools includes assessment features for pre-rollout planning, and it provides a deep dive into user and application analyses, load characterization and what-if projections. The modeling functionality of SysTrack, which sets it apart from the competition, automatically selects targets wherever they're located in the enterprise, analyzes their characteristics, and determines which targets are candidates for virtualization and their optimal configurations.

SysTrack licenses are available for Windows migrations and popular virtualization platforms from Citrix, VMware and VCE Vblock Systems.

About the authors:
Kim Lindros is a full-time content developer who also writes on technology and security topics. Coming from a background in project management, she has run large, multifunction teams to produce entire book series, online curricula and classroom training classes. She has also contributed to several books on Windows technologies and applications and IT certification.

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year IT veteran who's worked as a developer, networking consultant, technical trainer, writer and expert witness. Perhaps best known for creating the Exam Cram series, Ed has contributed to more than 100 books on many computing topics, including titles on information security, Windows OSes and HTML. Ed also blogs regularly for TechTarget (IT Career JumpStart, Windows Enterprise Desktop), Tom's IT Proand PearsonITCertification.com.

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