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VDI assessment tools put the horse before the cart

Many shops dive into a virtualization migration without assessing first. Save yourself time and (maybe) money by using VDI assessment tools first.

When it comes to desktop virtualization migrations, many people initially take the "ready-fire-aim" approach to determining which applications and users are good candidates. It's more fun this way because it represents a unique challenge at every turn, but it's not the ideal way to set up a desktop virtualization project for success. As the IT people who are more inclined to plan have already learned, the right way to start a project is to do a proper assessment.

There are lots of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) assessment tools available to you, all with the goal of evaluating how users actually use their physical desktops. For instance, the tools watch each user's disk I/O usage to establish average use across all users and help identify those who might need more resources than others. After the tools scrub the information to remove the stuff that doesn't matter for desktop virtualization, you can use the pertinent data to gauge exactly what you need to do for storage.

Assessment tools help IT get a grip on what's actually happening inside users' desktops, including resource consumption and how workers use applications.

These tools also look at the rest of the hardware utilization, like CPU and memory, which you can use to properly gauge the size of an average virtual machine's (VM) resource footprint. The shotgun approach can easily lead to under or oversized VMs. With hundreds or thousands of desktops in play, that could amount to a significant performance improvement -- or a significant cost savings -- across the board.

VDI assessment tools look at applications, too. They look at how, when and what aspects of applications workers use. That information helps determine how the applications would best be delivered to users. The tools can determine whether applications are good candidates for virtualization; some will even use the information they've gathered to help create the application packages. Ultimately, they help decide whether they should be installed in the base image, as is the case with Office, Adobe Reader and others, or if they should be delivered as a published application.

An added bonus of using VDI assessment tools is that while all of your applications are being evaluated, you can use the information to see how many licenses you're actually using. In some cases, this means you have to buy more (whoops), but it could also mean that you've bought too many licenses of a certain application. Many companies run into this and actually save money.

VDI assessment tools also help find those one-off applications that you only learn about months after a migration. You've been in that situation before, probably. You migrate a desktop, then next June the helpdesk receives a call asking about an application you knew nothing about but that is critical to someone's job function in the third week of June every year.

That's not all, though. Many of the VDI assessment tools will look at more nuanced aspects of the desktop that even the most seasoned IT person wouldn't be able to track on his own. With an assessment tool, you can look at each application's effect on graphics and identify apps and users that are more graphically active than others. You can evaluate when and where to use 3-D acceleration, and whether or not software or hardware improvements would be more appropriate.

More on VDI assessment tools

Four third-party VDI assessment tools

How to select a VDI performance measurement tool

Why you need a VDI readiness assessment

VDI assessment tools even observe networking. They take note of which applications tend to consume more network than others, as well as the kind of network traffic they use. You can use this information to evaluate how much networking you need. Networking may not seem like a big deal, but you're potentially taking thousands of desktops that are normally spread across network segments and moving them to a single location. You likely have the bandwidth to accommodate them, but you still need to take time to configure the VDI host network(s) appropriately.

VDI assessment tools should be a part of every single VDI migration. They help IT get a grip on what's actually happening inside users' desktops, including resource consumption, how workers use applications and what their baseline experience expectations are. With so many options available, like Lakeside SysTrack VMP, Flexera AdminStudio, Liquidware Labs Stratusphere, eG Innovations Perform, Dell ChangeBase and even Citrix AppDNA, there's no shortage of information available to you. As fun as it is to wing it, there's no excuse for not knowing important details ahead of your project.

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