The BYOD wave: A challenge for visibility into VDI

By : |May 10, 2013 0

Robert Healey, marketing evangelist, APAC and Japan, Riverbed Technology.

In the eagerness to achieve VDI success, visibility drawbacks are often overlooked. However, accurate visibility into VDI environments is vital to pin-point the location of performance issues. With employees bringing their own devices into the network, the only gets further complicated.

Mobile device shipments have eclipsed desktop PCs and now IT organizations are looking at efficient means to manage devices such as iPads, iPhones, and Android smartphones as they make their way into the business. For many organizations, the only logical way to deal with this is to implement virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) programs and secure their BYOD policy in order to contain costs and support requirements.

In the new BYOD / VDI environment, network management is of superlative concern, as business critical applications are run through virtual desktop interfaces. 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 cascade of complexity
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 network performance management (NPM) solutions that support ICA, CGP, and PCoIP. 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).

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.

End-user performance and SLA Protection
The success of a VDI Deployment critically depends on monitoring and understanding the performance of business applications for the end-user. 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 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. Even in the BYOD environment, VDI is capable of making things easier, but it needs the right management tools to be successful. What IT organizations need to focus on and invest in are the right NPM tools to monitor and control performance by reducing latency and efficiently managing network resources.

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