Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) has come a long way since its initial enterprise deployment and adoption. Today, VDI workloads are predominantly cloud-hosted, include automation capabilities, and frequently have baked-in monitoring features – all capabilities designed to ease the management burden placed on admins.

Understand VDI market shifts from traditional VDI to cloud

The transition to cloud-hosted VDI or desktop as a service can be complex because of various definitions of these services, application integration and a constantly changing market. Just when many organizations finished their VDI deployments, cloud-hosted desktops and desktop as a service (DaaS) disrupted the VDI market. To address these new technologies and services, many organizations have been creating diagrams and running proofs of concepts (POCs) over the past year, and some have already transitioned to cloud-hosted VDI or DaaS.

Cloud-hosted VDI vs. DaaS
The lines between cloud-hosted VDI and DaaS are somewhat blurred, but cloud-hosted VDI generally refers to resources that enable enterprises to create and manage customized application and desktop environments. Microsoft, Citrix and VMware offer the cloud-based infrastructure for cloud-hosted VDI, but IT staff must generally manage and maintain those workloads. An increasing number of organizations choose to host VDI workloads in the cloud rather than on premises.

Differences in service offerings and varied definitions among vendors can be thorny points when shopping for cloud VDI or DaaS. It’s critical to have a clear understanding as to which components and processes are owned by the provider versus those that are managed by IT staff. To further complicate the quest for the right vendor and products, vendors frequently announce new or updated offerings, causing the VDI market to change often.

Similarities between cloud-hosted VDI and DaaS

When VDI was introduced in its infantile form about 12 years ago, organizations kicked the tires for a year or two before adoption started. At that point, VDI was a compilation of numerous systems that had several moving parts, including the hypervisor, gold imaging system and distribution, registration, licensing and load balancing. Failure of any one component was sometimes easy to isolate, but sometimes not.

Cloud-hosted VDI or DaaS minimizes or even eliminates many of these complexities. That’s good news for IT administrators and the industry as a whole, but cloud-hosted VDI and DaaS also add a range of new options and costs.

Vendors in the DaaS market
As with many disruptive technologies, this shift in the VDI market is being nurtured by the industry leaders, i.e., Microsoft, Citrix and VMware. Microsoft and Citrix were painfully aware that VMware held the lead in the on-premises hypervisor market and that challenging VMware head-on was fruitless, but completely altering the architecture to the cloud changed the playing field. Microsoft and Citrix initiated cloud adoption, with VMware following suit.

4 VDI automation use cases that lower IT’s management burden

Successfully managing VDI isn’t always easy; VDI administrators must invest substantial time and effort to create, deliver and monitor desired desktop images to client endpoints, and manage and provision VDI resources.

Automating the more routine tasks of VDI management is invaluable for virtual desktop admins because it can speed up those processes significantly. VDI automation maintains consistency in virtual desktop management processes and helps assure repeatable results.

The following use cases lend themselves to VDI automation, and organizations should consider automating these tasks to ease the burden of management on their IT departments.

What features should IT look for in VDI monitoring tools?

VDI monitoring tools can vary significantly, and IT needs to evaluate each tool to ensure it meets the organization’s needs. A virtual desktop environment can be complex.

VDI monitoring tools help IT oversee every component to achieve visibility and an understanding of the end-user experience. When evaluating VDI monitoring tools, IT should examine five categories of functionality:

Insight into VDI layers. An effective monitoring tool should provide insight into all layers of the VDI stack, starting with the infrastructure itself, which includes the components that support the VDI environment, such networking and storage resources. Next come the server environments that host the VDI components, which include the physical servers, the hypervisors running on those servers and the virtual machines. The monitoring tool should have clear visibility into the endpoints and user sessions.

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Comprehensive metrics. VDI monitoring tools should produce meaningful and comprehensive metrics and include a wide range of information, such as login performance, protocol latencies, peak usage, network bottlenecks, Active Directory authentication, session durations and hardware resource utilization. The metrics should also include application and workload data, such as memory usage or response times, as well as details about failures, configuration changes or any other metrics necessary to get a complete picture of the VDI environment.

Security information. The tool should collect the metrics necessary to identify potential security issues, such as tracking access to sensitive resources. It should also be able to identify security vulnerabilities and detect potential threats. In addition, the tool should track compliance and privacy issues to ensure an organization is meeting applicable regulations and internal corporate policies.

Centralized management. The monitoring tool should provide a centralized, intuitive dashboard for easily accessing features and data, as well as carrying out monitoring-related operations, with support for point-and-click functionality wherever possible. The product should also provide drill-down capabilities to get more granular information and include a natural-language search feature for quick and easy discovery.

Reporting and alerting. VDI monitoring tools should offer a wide range of preconfigured reports that are comprehensive, customizable, simple to understand and easily accessible. The tool should also include dashboard key performance indicators that provide real-time insights into VDI-related issues and the status of various components. In addition, the tool should support root-cause diagnostics; provide configurable alerting capabilities; and offer actionable insights, optimization recommendations and capacity planning. It should also track historical data to establish baselines and trends and to compare systems at different intervals.

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The VDI Evolution: Cloud, Automation, and More