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BYOD Raises the Bar for Visibility Challenges into Virtual Desktops

A Contributed Article By Dimitri Vlachos, Vice president of marketing for Riverbed Performance Management

Fine-grained visibility into VDI environments is essential if IT is to get a grip on where and why performance issues are occurring. But visibility is often an overlooked part of ensuring the success of VDI, and the BYOD tidal wave only complicates the problem.  

Mobile device shipments have eclipsed desktop PCs and now IT organizations are looking at how to best manage devices such as iPads, iPhones, and Android smartphones as they make their way into the business. For many companies the only way to grapple with this trend is to implement virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) programs as a logical path to a secure BYOD policy that ultimately reduces costs and support resources.  

Network management in this new VDI environment is of top concern for IT executives as business critical applications are accessed via the virtual desktop. Businesses must plan and manage how BYOD converges with the virtualized enterprise to ensure high availability of the applications and resources end users need, while providing secure data protection.

BYOD & VDI: A marriage made in complexity heaven

The complexity BYOD brings to virtualized environments is staggering. Almost overnight, a company can have twice as many devices brought into their environment, requiring more support for more diverse form factors and operating systems than ever before.

Support teams could easily be overwhelmed to say the least.

To maintain control, IT organizations will require more insight into user behavior patterns, in terms of what users are doing and how it is impacting network resources. IT needs to have the right tools to predict and manage the environment to make sure that maximum computing power is continually extracted from existing network assets without compromising user performance.  

Troubleshooting VDI deployments

The success of VDI and safeguarding end-user performance in the era of BYOD requires total visibility into the network infrastructure. This hasn't been easy to do because VDI solutions act as a proxy for backend applications, tunneling traffic to the end user, thereby making it difficult to get end-to-end visibility needed to identify and troubleshoot problems.

One approach to unlocking VDI visibility involves analyzing packet data using leading network performance management (NPM) solutions that support ICA, CGP, and PCoIP, the protocols used by Citrix® XenDesktop / XenApp, and VMware® View. Such tools can provide detailed insight into the utilization, latency and DSCP priorities of the individual virtual channels used by the most common VDI applications. IT operations can use this visibility to understand and troubleshoot the performance of critical session or channel actions such as print, keystrokes, mouse movements, file sharing, and screen refreshes, and to prioritize more time-sensitive actions (i.e., keystrokes, screen refreshes, and mouse movements) over less sensitive commands (i.e., print and file sharing).

Leading NPM solutions can also cut down the time required to determine the cause of performance problems in VDI environments, and, in some cases, pinpoint causes that would otherwise be impossible to find. They can provide the detailed metrics necessary to quickly isolate where problems are occurring and what's causing them, dramatically reducing mean time to resolution (MTTR) and business disruption.

Prioritize high priority traffic or Prioritize time-sensitive traffic

Validating prioritization of network traffic is another technique for ensuring VDI deployments are successful. ICA, CGP, and PCoIP have ingrained methods of ensuring that certain virtual sessions or channels are prioritized over others. This enables the more time-sensitive user interface data to be prioritized and sent ahead of all other data. It also allows for differentiation based on user type and traffic type. In most networks, virtual desktop and application sessions are given the highest priority, equal to or greater than VoIP, to ensure that VDI traffic receives preference over all other traffic on the network. Yet, one of the most common problems with VDI occurs when quality of service (QoS) policies get out of alignment. Leading NPM solutions enable IT operations to quickly troubleshoot QoS issues as they arise, capturing detailed session or channel prioritization information to ensure that network prioritization is in sync with session prioritization.

Protect end-user performance and SLAs

Finally, monitoring and understanding end-user performance is critical to the success of VDI deployments. Few computing problems match the frustration caused by the delay of basic desktop functions, such as keystrokes. IT organizations should use tools to monitor perceived latency to quickly identify which clients and/or servers are experiencing issues. They should be able to validate performance and availability of transactions for all end users to help verify if contractual commitments have been met and identify outliers, which are important to managing SLA compliance.

In summary, VDI does not operate in a vacuum. Leading NPM solutions can help IT operations understand Citrix or VMware View performance in context with the other applications on the network, measure the impact changes have on end-user experience, and understand and track utilization to plan for bandwidth upgrades or WAN optimization initiatives, for instance. VDI is supposed to make things easier, and it can even in the face of BYOD. IT organizations need the right tools to monitor and control performance by mitigating latency and managing resources on the network.

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Published Friday, April 12, 2013 6:32 AM by David Marshall
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