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How to choose the right VDI performance, management tools

There are many VDI performance monitoring tools on the market with varying levels of functionality, so choosing the right one can be daunting. This checklist can help.

A surprisingly high percentage of VDI implementations never make it beyond the prototype or proof-of-concept phase, thanks to high costs, poor performance and end-user complaints. Combating these and other problems can make desktop virtualization an unbearable project for IT admins.

However, third-party tools can take some of the pain out of managing a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and reduce the number of problems that normally accompany complex IT systems. Those tools come in many flavors and forms and usually offer a subset of abilities that, when combined, can cure many of the ills of VDI.

For example, one of the biggest challenges associated with VDI is delivering a level of performance that is acceptable to end users, so performance monitoring and management tools are critical. There are several performance tools on the market, with varying levels of monitoring. The segment leaders include EG Innovations, SolarWinds, Ipswitch, Zenoss, Login Consultants and ManageEngine, all of which offer tools for monitoring end-to-end VDI sessions.

Choosing the right tools

After you've chosen a VDI platform to standardize on, you can begin researching third-party tools, many of which work only with a particular VDI product or ecosystem.

Finding a tool that offers all of the functionality needed to monitor end-to-end connectivity takes some research. However, some best practices should make the vetting process a little easier.

Here are some important features to look for in a virtualization performance and management tool:

  • Independence: A third-party management tool should eschew vendor bias in every virtualized application tier, including virtual servers, virtual hard drives, virtual desktops and connection brokers. The tool should be neutral with respect to problem diagnosis.
  • Usability: The product should offer real-time, actionable information via a customizable dashboard that is easy to understand and use.
  • Data: The tool should collect and use relevant data and offer analytics, recommendations, research capabilities and reporting.
  • Database: The collected information should be configurable, support access from multiple tools, offer import and export capabilities, and support multiple concurrent users.
  • History: The virtualization management tool should store activities and trends and provide the information needed to build historical analysis reports or provide the basis for auditing.
  • Depth: The tool should gather detailed metrics across a range of technologies for monitoring VDI at all levels, ranging from throughput and latency to applications in use.
  • Real-time management capabilities: The tool should offer the ability to monitor events in real time, as well as the ability to filter, reorganize and sort data using real-time updated charts and alerts.
  • Extensible: The management tool should integrate across multiple virtualization domains and be able to combine data into comprehensive reports. It should also enable you to drill down to individual domains, segments, users and endpoints.
  • Low impact: The product should have out-of-band capabilities, use passive monitoring and support updates without disrupting network links. Installation of modules, data collectors and endpoint agents should not disrupt network usability.
  • Integration: The product should offer additional modules for other monitoring capabilities, such as storage consumption and application performance.
  • Interoperability: The tool should provide integration with existing management tools or use application programming interfaces offered by virtualization vendors.
  • Monitoring proactively: The product should be able to identify performance dependencies, bottlenecks and relationships among various VDI components.
  • Ease of deployment: The tool should support deployment options that allow customers to incrementally add features, data-collection modules and updates as needed without disrupting operations.
  • Ability to scale: The product should be scalable enough to support the widest range of target networks, from small multisite concerns to the largest enterprise, which may have thousands of servers and petabytes of storage.

While the above list highlights critical capabilities, it is also important to remember the basics, especially how things are measured. In other words, the metrics recorded should include more than just latency and bandwidth. Comprehensive tools will measure everything about the physical and virtual machines, including CPU performance and load, as well as the performance of other components that can affect end-user experience.

The product should also track elements such as virtual machine refresh rates, endpoint response times and what is accessing endpoint devices. Simply put, finding a product or suite that enables performance management, monitoring and analysis while meeting corporate needs is no longer impossible.

Frank Ohlhorst is an IT journalist who has also served as a network administrator and applications programmer before forming his own computer consulting firm.

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