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A successful VDI deployment must have good UX. VMware administrators can take the pulse of their end users' experience with a built-in VMware Horizon Performance Tracker, but they must know how to use it.
Challenges of UX monitoring for VDI
It's often a challenge for IT to measure UX because it takes into consideration a variety of factors. IT must understand how an end user consumes a remote application or desktop. For example, does an application appear immediately after the user starts it? How long does it take before a user can access a desktop when a session has been established? Is it a cumbersome process when a user tries to access a certain file? The better these processes behave, the better the UX.
When VMware released the first version of the product that is now VMware Horizon, most VDI platforms were managed by sys admins who also managed other VMware infrastructure, such as servers. Many admins monitored VDI platforms with their existing monitoring systems, such as Nagios or vCenter Operations Manager, which is now vRealize Operations.
From an administrative standpoint, this makes perfect sense. This approach fails to effectively monitor performance, however, because these tools present data with a certain lag. If CPU starts to spike, the tool will show the data within a couple of minutes, and alerts start to appear. For server infrastructure, this is perfectly fine. For UX monitoring, however, this is far too late.
UX monitoring differs from server and availability monitoring; for UX monitoring, the data needs to be as real time as possible -- preferably just a couple of seconds old. It's difficult for IT teams to troubleshoot an end-user performance issue with older data. IT must have real-time information, such as frame rate, latency, bandwidth consumption and CPU/RAM resources, to be able to help a user.
Using VMware Horizon Performance Tracker
To address the nuances of UX monitoring, VMware introduced Horizon Performance Tracker in VMware Horizon 7.5, which comes free with all editions of VMware Horizon. Admins can easily install it as one of the options in the Horizon Agent setup (Figure 1).
After the installation is finished and the user can access the virtual desktop, an icon will appear on the user's desktop (Figure 2).
When IT accesses VMware Horizon Performance Tracker, there are two main tabs: At a Glance and Session Properties.
The At a Glance tab will show metrics associated to the remote connection to the virtual desktop or remote app -- or remote desktop in the case of Remote Desktop Session Host or Windows Virtual Desktop (Figure 3).
The most important metrics, such as bandwidth usage, frames per second and CPU usage, are all located in this main tab and will show the latest value. IT can change from a grid to graph view (Figure 4). IT should look at the last 20 minutes of the most important metrics to troubleshoot UX-related issues.
Finally, the Session Properties tab shows the session details which can help IT determine the location, device and peripheral details, such as keyboard settings (Figure 5).
Shortcomings of VMware Horizon Performance Tracker
VMware Horizon Performance Tracker is a useful tool, but there are a few shortcomings.
It doesn't show information such as which channels are used in the connection protocol and how much bandwidth they consume. It doesn't track GPU details, such as framebuffer usage, GPU usage and GPU profile type. VMware Horizon Performance Tracker doesn't include detailed resource consumption, such as CPU usage, including clock speed, RAM usage and disk I/O. The free Horizon Helpdesk fling includes most of these metrics but lacks enterprise support.
VMware Horizon Performance Tracker also lacks the ability to tweak and tune the connection protocol for a single session. Remote Display Analyzer, however, can push the UX buttons and adjust the connection protocols for different end-user situations.