Virtual Server Monitoring Tools Are Not Sufficient for VDI Monitoring. Here’s Why!

Virtual Server Monitoring Tools Are Not Sufficient for VDI MonitoringThe use of virtualization for hosting server VMs is well understood. Today, most virtualization platforms provide administration and monitoring software that admins can use to track the health of their hypervisors and virtual machines (VMs).

The use of virtualization for desktops is not as widespread. For desktop virtualization, a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) hosts a desktop operating system within a virtual machine (VM) on a centralized server, and streams a pre-built desktop image to remote endpoints: desktops, laptops, thin clients, and mobile devices. Users at the endpoints can access the virtual desktop which has an operating system and applications that need to work as they would from their local workstation. Eliminating the need to install expensive and resource-intensive applications and hardware at every user endpoint, VDI cuts down IT investments and simplifies accessibility for end-users.

Since virtual desktops are implemented as virtual machines, many IT operations team try to use their existing virtual server monitoring tool (e.g., VMware vCenter, Citrix XenCenter) to monitor a virtual desktop infrastructure.  While virtual server monitoring tools can be used to monitor the VMs and hypervisors supporting VDI, they do not provide the level of visibility and coverage necessary for true end-to-end performance monitoring, diagnosis and reporting for VDI. The table below compares the monitoring needs of virtual server and virtual desktop infrastructures and highlights why a virtual server monitoring tool is not sufficient for monitoring virtual desktop infrastructures (irrespective of whether VMware Horizon or Citrix XenDesktop is used).

  Server Virtualization Desktop Virtualization/VDI
Monitoring Focus Monitoring, alerting and reporting is mostly from the VM perspective. For e.g., which VMs are on, what resources (CPU, memory, disk) are they using, etc. Monitoring must be from the user perspective. To handle support calls from users, it is imperative to know which users are logged in, which VM a specific user is assigned to, what applications he/she is accessing and what resources the user is consuming. Even from a reporting perspective, it is important for reports to be user-based – for example, who are the top VDI users that are consuming resources?
Key Components to be Monitored The virtualization platform or the hypervisor (e.g., VMware vSphere, Citrix XenServer, Microsoft Hyper-V) and the virtual machines (guest VMs) are the main components to be monitored. The virtualization platform and the virtual machines are important components of a virtual desktop infrastructure. But there are many other tiers that are almost as important – for example, connection broker, storefront, Active Directory, profile servers, provisioning servers, data stores, etc.  The network connectivity from the user terminals to the server farm must also be monitored as it can affect user-perceived performance.

For virtual desktop success, users must be happy with the experience they are getting when accessing their desktops. Therefore, measuring the various aspects of end-user experience (e.g., logon times, application launch times, screen refresh latency, etc.) is very important.

Virtual Machine Workload The workload of a VM is similar over time because the application servers deployed on a VM do not change over a few hours. The workload of a virtual desktop varies depending on the user who is logged on to the desktop. Depending on the user’s role in an organization, the application mix running in the virtual desktop could be very different. Therefore, monitoring should be based on user activity, and NOT virtual machine activity.
Number of Virtual Machines to Monitor There are only few VMs to monitor: <10 per physical server. Further, the VMs remain powered on all the time as the application servers they host need to be accessible always. There are many VMs to monitor: 30–70 per physical server. The VMs are powered on when users log on and then powered off when users log off. From a monitoring perspective, the monitoring solution must be scalable so it can accommodate the larger number of VMs in operation.
Monitoring Applications Inside Virtual Machines   To obtain in-depth monitoring of applications (such as Citrix, Oracle, etc.) that are running on the VMs, it is likely that monitoring agents need to be installed in every VM. Virtual desktops do not have server applications running on them. So, in-depth monitoring of applications on the desktop is not required.

Furthermore, the greater density of VMs on each physical server means that the cost of installation, licensing and maintenance of the agents is higher for VDI. The resource overhead resulting from agents on every desktop is also high.

Therefore, from a monitoring perspective, the challenge is to monitor activities inside a VM (e.g., application launches, resource usage of various applications, etc.) without relying on agents to be installed in the VMs.

eG Enterprise is a purpose-built solution that addresses the monitoring needs of both desktop virtualization and server virtualization.

  • With dedicated monitoring models for Citrix XenDesktop and VMware Horizon, eG Enterprise provides deep visibility to uncover complex performance issues in VDI environments. Learn more about eG Enterprise for VDI Monitoring »
  • A patented inside-outside monitoring approach provides comprehensive VM, host and hypervisor metrics for server virtualization environments (VMware, Microsoft, Citrix, Nutanix, Red Hat, and more). Learn more eG Enterprise for Virtual Server Monitoring »

Flexible deployment options allow monitoring of VMs in server virtualization environments either with or without agents inside each VM. For desktop virtualization, without installing an agent in every VM, organizations can obtain the performance visibility and user experience insight that is needed for virtual desktop deployment success and end user satisfaction.