Citrix VDI-in-a-Box is a simple, affordable and centrally managed desktop virtualization solution that can be used by businesses of all sizes. Users can login to the virtual desktops through a thin client and access the same applications as they did on physical desktops. Enterprises look at Citrix VDI-in-a-Box to simplify management of desktops and lower the total cost of ownership of desktops.

For a VDI-in-a-Box deployment to be successful, users should see the same performance when accessing their virtual desktops as they did when they accessed applications on a physical desktop. Hence, performance monitoring of VDI-in-a-Box is important, in order to ensure that virtual desktops deliver the same or better performance than physical desktops.

Performance monitoring for VDI-in-a-Box is challenging because even though VDI-in-a-Box offers a simple usage model, its underlying infrastructure is heterogeneous, multi-tier and interdependent. A typical VDI-in-a-Box deployment includes one or more physical servers hosting a virtualization platform (Citrix XenServer, VMware vSphere or Microsoft Hyper-V), the VDI-in-a-Box appliance(s) which includes the connection broker, load balancer, user manager, and desktop provisioning server, local storage on the hypervisors and the virtual desktops (see Figure 1). Multiple VDI-in-a-Box appliances can be linked in a grid for scalability and redundancy.

Figure 1 : A typical VDI-in-a-Box infrastructure

To access their virtual desktops, users connect from their client devices to the VDI-in-a-box broker. The broker authenticates the user using Active Directory and then provisions a virtual desktop. When a performance problem happens, IT managers need to be able to quickly determine where is the slowdown – is it due to the network? Or the hypervisor? Or the VDI-in-a-Box broker? Or the local storage? Or could it be due to one of the applications running in the virtual desktop?

Often, virtual desktop administrators use monitoring tools available with the hypervisor for monitoring virtual desktop infrastructures. Here are three main reasons why a virtual platform monitoring tool like VMware vCenter or Citrix XenCenter is not sufficient for monitoring VDI-in-a-Box deployments:

  • Monitor users, not just VMs: The workload of a VM (virtual desktop) depends upon which user is accessing a virtual desktop and what activity he or she is performing on the virtual desktop. Therefore, VDI-in-a-Box monitoring must be based on which user is logged into a VM and not just based on the VM name itself. Virtualization platform monitoring tools do not have this capability.
  • Monitor activity inside the desktops: Virtualization platform monitoring tools provide the “outside” view of a virtual desktop – i.e., what CPU or memory resources is a desktop consuming. This outside view of a virtual desktop does not provide details into why that desktop is using excessive resources – is it because of one malfunctioning application, or is it due to some activity the user is performing, etc. A VDI-in-a-Box monitoring solution must be able to monitor activity inside each and every virtual desktop. Furthermore, since tens to hundreds of desktops could be hosted on a physical server, the VDI-in-a-Box monitoring solution should not require agents on each and every virtual desktop to provide this “inside view” of virtual desktops.
  • Monitor the VDI-in-a-Box service infrastructure end-to-end: A VMware vCenter or a Citrix XenCenter only tracks the health of the virtual platform. A VDI-in-a-Box monitoring solution must be able to monitor every layer and every tier of the virtual desktop infrastructure. It must provide visibility into the hypervisor, the physical server hardware, the Active Directory servers, the VDI-in-a-Box appliance, the local storage, the interconnecting networks and the virtual desktops themselves.

The eG VDI-in-a-Box Monitor is a turnkey monitoring, diagnosis and reporting solution for VDI-in-a-Box infrastructures. It offers dedicated monitoring models for each of the hypervisors that VDI-in-a-Box supports; these models are, namely – VDI in a Box / VMware, VDI in a Box / XenServer, VDI in a Box / Hyper-V. These models provide detailed insights into all the critical tiers of the VDI-in-Box infrastructure – i.e., the physical server, the hypervisor, the virtual desktops, and the VDI-in-a-Box appliance - thus enabling administrators to quickly spot current/probable slowdowns in the virtual desktop service and accurately pinpoint the reasons for the same.