Managing the Performance of Virtual Desktops Begins and Ends with the End-User
May 24, 2010
Bojan Simic
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As server virtualization is becoming one of the fastest growing IT initiatives in the enterprise, organizations are looking to extend the benefits from these projects to new areas. As a result, they are looking to virtualize not only their servers and storage, but also to achieve similar benefits from virtualizing their desktops. For end-users, this means that their operation systems and software that used to be installed on their desktops are now being hosted in the datacenter and accessed across the network.

Desktop virtualization enables organizations to achieve some significant benefits, such as lower cost of procuring and managing corporate desktops, reduced downtime due to hardware failures and ease of software installs and updates. At the same time, desktop virtualization brings up new management challenges and organizations need a new set of capabilities to ensure that the benefits of desktop virtualization are achieved without deterioration in the quality of end-user experience.

With the emergence of virtualization technologies in the enterprise, virtualization management solutions are also becoming increasingly important and a number of technology vendors are specializing in managing virtual environments. Many of these tools do a very good job of monitoring transactions across different infrastructure tiers and help users with capacity planning, provisioning and chargebacks, but the strengths of a majority of these technologies are in the data center and they are taking more of an infrastructure centric approach when managing virtual desktop performance.

On the other side, there are very few enterprise IT technologies whose performance can impact end-users more than desktop virtualization. For that reason, organizations need to extend the capabilities of their virtualization management solutions to be able to monitor how the performance of virtual desktops is impacting the end-user.

This is not to say that solutions for managing virtual infrastructure are not that important for the performance of virtual desktops, but the value of these solutions increases if they can allow organizations to combine infrastructure-centric with end-user centric monitoring capabilities. It should be noted that some technology solutions are able to cover both aspects of desktop virtualization management and provide capabilities for monitoring both the virtual infrastructure and quality of end-user experience.

eG Innovations is a good example of this type of vendor, as it offers robust capabilities for monitoring the performance of a data center, as well as capabilities for monitoring end-user experience. The company provides capabilities for both synthetic (active) and real end-user monitoring (passive) and it is also integrated with Tevron, an application performance monitoring vendor.

However, there are different approaches to monitoring the end-user experience of IT services and many organizations are looking for more than just metrics around application availability and response times. Desktop-based solutions for end-user monitoring allow organizations to monitor speed and availability of applications, as well as to track usage patterns, measure and analyze the business impact of performance problems and performance variations across different locations, users and user groups. These types of solutions are provided by companies such as Aternity and Knoa Software and play a very important role in ensuring optimal levels of end-user experience for virtual desktops.

Organizations also need to be aware of the additional burden that virtual desktop traffic puts on their corporate networks (especially WAN). Organizations are tasked with not only ensuring that there is a sufficient amount of bandwidth available for these applications to be delivered to the end-user, but also they are challenged with the interactive nature of this traffic, which makes it more difficult to manage and prioritize.

Quality-of-Service (QoS) capabilities have been around for a while and they are one of the key enablers for addressing this problem on the network side, but it should be noted that QoS solutions that do not have application-level visibility or those that are not equipped with functionalities for managing interactive traffic might not be as effective in managing virtual desktop traffic.

Some of the vendors providing QoS capabilities that are effective in ensuring virtual desktop traffic has a priority over other applications and prevent performance bottlenecks on the network side include Expand Networks, Ipanema Technologies and Streamcore.

Organizations that are able to effectively manage the performance of virtual desktops are able to not only improve the quality of end-user experience, but also achieve the following business benefits:
• Prevent performance issues before they cause disruption of business processes
• Measure the business impact of their desktop virtualization initiatives
• Improve utilization of their enterprise infrastructure

In order to achieve these benefits, organizations need the right mix of technology capabilities in place, and also have to understand that their process for managing the performance of virtual desktops revolves around the end-user.

About Bojan Simic

Bojan Simic is the founder and Principal Analyst at TRAC Research, a market research and analyst firm that specializes in IT performance management. As an industry analyst, Bojan interviewed more than 2,000 IT and business professionals from end-user organizations and published more than 50 research reports. Bojan's coverage area at TRAC Research includes application and network monitoring, WAN management and acceleration, cloud and virtualization management, BSM and managed services.

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