Tag Archives: desktop virtualization

What You Need to Know About GPUs for Windows 10

Dedicated GPUs aren’t just for gamers and designers anymore. The modern workspace is experiencing increasingly vivid and interactive software that is challenging entrenched beliefs about the nature of corporate work. Back in the day, IT supplied users with hardware and software that far exceeded anything employees interacted with in their off-time. The field has changed, and now users are the ones setting the pace for technology needs and adoption. Virtual assistants like Cortana have piqued user interest in AI and intuitive software experiences, which users now expect to follow them across locations and devices. Business leaders are looking to harness this evolving demand to accelerate the implementation of technology with the aim of enhancing employee engagement and performance.

We see growing awareness of this shift in conversations with our clients, who are looking for smarter ways to manage hardware and software transformations. One of the most discussed projects in this space is Windows 10 adoption. Many CIOs have yet to upgrade their users to Windows 10, but are gearing up for a transition in hopes of improving end-user experience and productivity. While we’ve been talking to IT professionals about the differences between Windows 7 and Windows 10 since the Windows 10 launch in 2015, recently we’ve noticed an uptick in questions specific to graphics requirements. “How will my Windows 7 users be affected by Windows 10 graphics demands?” is a fair question, as is “What can I do to prepare my VDI environment for Windows 10?” We knew that the user-focused features available in Windows 10 would demand increased GPU usage, but to answer the question of degree, we turned to data supplied by our customers to achieve an accurate view of graphics needs in Windows 10. Our analysis of customer data focused on GPU and CPU consumption as well as user experience, which we quantify as the percentage of time a user’s experience is not being degraded by performance issues.

Key findings from our assessment include:

  • The amount of time users are consuming GPU increases 32% from Windows 7 to Windows 10
  • Systems without dedicated GPUs show higher average active CPU usage
  • Windows 10 virtual systems with GPUs consume 30% less CPU than those without

  • Presence of a dedicated GPU improves user experience with either OS on both physical and virtual machines

Overall, we found sufficient evidence to recommend implementation of discrete GPUs in both physical and virtual environments, especially for Windows 10 virtual users. Shared resources make the increased graphics requirements in Windows 10 potentially damaging for VDI because high CPU consumption by one user could degrade performance for everyone; however, we found that implementation of virtual GPU could allow IT to not only avoid CPU-load issues, but actually increase density on a server by 30%. Scaled, increased density means fewer servers to purchase and maintain, potentially freeing up resources to direct towards other IT projects.

Whatever stage you’re at in your Windows 10 transformation or other software projects, SysTrack can help you anticipate your users’ graphical needs. As developers continue to release software that enables users to have greater flexibility and creativity in the way they work, IT teams will need to ensure that users have adequate tools at their disposal to power a tech-charged workforce.

Microsoft Guest Blog: SysTrack and Windows Modernization Planning

Hi, I’m Divy Sharma with Microsoft Services, and I’ve been working with Lakeside Software’s SysTrack product for quite some time. SysTrack has proved to be extremely valuable for Data Center Modernization assessments and now for Windows 10 planning. Personally I’ve had the most experience helping customers understand their enterprise infrastructure and application portfolios, and assisting them with the complex process of determining what platforms and pathways forward are available to them to optimize their core infrastructure.

Legacy data center systems and workloads are a massive problem in the enterprise. Because these systems have a tendency to evolve naturally over time without centrally structured planning it can be difficult to determine some of the basic needs these systems are addressing. The key for all of the decisions necessary to migrate workloads and users is context. This requires answers to questions such as: What application connections are necessary? What resource consumption do we expect for applications? What kind of user experience do people get today? How many backend dependencies does this application require?

These questions led us to conclude that we really needed a robust way of collecting detailed, continuous operating metrics and usage details to understand how best to help our customers with their pathway forward. With numerous black box servers, unknown assets, and supporting systems distributed geographically across numerous physical locations it would be a difficult proposition to get a complete inventory, much less understand the characteristics of the existing workload and plan how to migrate it. With some of the existing tools in our portfolio we were able to get pieces of the information we needed, but what was missing was the actual activity and capacity analysis for forecasting costs and understanding the purpose of the systems. This is where SysTrack reporting filled in the gaps for us.

The addition of the Kits concept has greatly streamlined the process of gearing up for a DCM project; because the DCM content that was co-developed with Lakeside is made up of a large number of reports and dashboard content this makes reporting of the data as straightforward as the collection.

With Windows 10, Microsoft has started providing the next level of enterprise productivity, security, manageability and advanced threat detection. Solutions such as Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) offer leading-edge capabilities for identity management, device management, application management and provides enterprise-grade security. Additionally, new Windows 10 features such as Device Guard, Enterprise Data Protection and Microsoft Passport disrupts modern cyber-threats with revolutionary security. I have found SysTrack extremely valuable in assessing an organization’s current state of readiness for adopting these features. We have been able to get answers to questions such as – which devices are ready for Windows 10 migrations, which devices have TPM chips for using Windows 10’s advanced features, which devices are capable of supporting virtualization through Hyper-V to protect system memory and kernel-mode apps/drivers from malicious tampering, what is the device profile (desktops/laptops/tablets/touch-enabled devices/VDIs), and, what desktop/web applications are used in the enterprise, by whom, how often and what’s the performance portfolio of these workloads.

I really like the fact that SysTrack can work either as an on-premise solution or purely via Azure cloud. It can work on machines on your Active Directory Domain or on BYOD devices that contingent staff may bring in. It can easily help develop a workload’s profile – CPU loads, memory utilization, disk I/Os, network interaction with other servers – all with minimal impact to host performance. Moreover, it can help aggregate data over thousands of devices, laying a strong foundation to develop data-driven models for multiple scenarios, such as, Windows 10 deployment planning, Application Workload Assessment and Migration planning, Azure migration assessment and cost planning, etc.

For us the real mark of success is what happens after the migration is completed, and this is where the SysTrack data makes the largest difference. Previously it was difficult to really come up with a proof point to demonstrate that the user experience in the environment is quantitatively better than what end users used to get. With the comprehensive reporting in tools like Enterprise Visualizer it’s now possible to connect the starting user experience before the improvements with the steady state experience after all of the optimization and workload migration has taken place, proving success.

Really this gets to the heart of a broader key for ensuring that end users get the best possible experience: point of interaction telemetry. As IT’s role evolves it’s critical to have measures in place to track the performance of the various services that make up the EUC environment. By allowing SysTrack to track things like Office 365 adoption, system performance, and application consumption it’s now possible to track delivered services in a unified way. This makes Lakeside an ideal partner as Microsoft grows its incredible portfolio of traditional and cloud based services. Windows 10 in many ways is the start of a transformation for Microsoft’s offerings, and I think the more service driven direction for IT in the enterprise will benefit from it and Azure offerings tremendously.

Keep an eye out for more posts on Windows modernization and how Microsoft can help deliver the best possible end user experience to your environment.

VMware’s new cloud-based assessment service based on SysTrack

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It’s an exciting day here in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (not because Spring has come – that hasn’t happened yet). Today sees the culmination of many months of work and years of experience.

You may have noticed that today VMware announced a new cloud-based desktop assessment service called “SysTrack Desktop Assessment.” Many of you have long known us as “the assessment company” – but this offering takes our capabilities to a new level by removing the operational requirement of standing up a SysTrack server in your infrastructure, and putting it all in the cloud.

We believe continuous assessment is the most important component of ensuring EUC success – first, assessing the needs of your users in order to provide them with desktops and endpoints that keep them productive, and then ensuring that those desktops continue to meet their needs as operating systems are patched or upgraded, and applications are added or updated.

SysTrack end user computing assessment technology running on top of VMware vCloud® Air™ helps optimize VMware Horizon® installations, and continuous assessment keeps Horizon desktops running smoothly.

systrack_desktop_assessment_chartBetter Plan, Optimize and Deploy

Available directly from VMware, SysTrack Desktop Assessment is our free cloud-based assessment solution that enables customers and partners to capture detailed metrics and user behavior data from diverse and evolving environments. Built upon nearly two decades of end user computing assessment experience, this assessment tool provides you with a self-service platform to assess and quantify user, application and infrastructure requirements to better plan, optimize and deploy virtual desktops and applications. Our goal is to help you accelerate time to value and ensure that your environments are right-sized to best meet the requirements of your end users, and keep them productive.

Use Before Your Horizon Migration

Moving to virtual desktops and applications such as VMware Horizon lets our customers manage their desktops from a central location while allowing users to access applications from any location and any device. But developing a strategy for deciding what users fit where requires information driven insights that can be significantly challenging without the right tools for continuous user and system data collection. We want more people to be successful, so we made initial desktop assessment easy and free.

The SysTrack Desktop Assessment gathers baseline performance data to fully understand all end user computing requirements and help you determine which platform is best for your corporate environment and users: Desktop as a service (DaaS), a hybrid managed physical deployment, or on-premises desktops and applications. We’re already seeing approximately 20 new assessments kick off every day.

Dynamic Reporting and Metrics

The custom report you’ll receive will contain:

  • System level build and configuration reports
  • User behavior
  • Recommendations
    • Managed physical vs. virtual
    • Horizon product selection (on-Prem vs. Flex vs. Air)
    • Horizon Air Desktop (Standard vs. Advanced vs. Enterprise)

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It’s easy (and free).

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Visit the SysTrack Desktop Assessment launch page at assessment.vmware.com to learn more and get started with our solution – and keep coming back. In the coming months we’ll be adding additional features to help you gain visibility, understand deployment options, manage costs, and make better EUC decisions.

THE dashboard for the Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop Manager

Our SysTrack product collects a lot of invaluable data points across a potentially very large and diverse IT environment. Each individual system provides up to 10,000 data points every 15 seconds and the IT landscape can include everything from physical desktops and endpoints to a myriad of servers with various functions to the Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop environments.

Because of that broad diversity, it is sometimes important and desirable to boil down the data to the specific use case and area of interest for a key class of IT stakeholders.

The dashboard builder functionality that was first introduced in SysTrack 7.0 provides just such a facility. SysTrack users can create their own dashboards and even include data from a variety of non-SysTrack data sources (such as Citrix Director, but also other items like HR systems or software license management tools). In many cases, the construction of a meaningful dashboard requires good knowledge of the underlying data structures. Therefore, we at Lakeside develop dashboards and make them available at no additional cost to any of our customers through the dashboard builder functionality.

Today, I would like to introduce a series of very useful dashboards specifically targeted at the XenApp and XenDesktop administrators and stakeholders.

Here’s how they work:

First, as many of you know, SysTrack assigns a health score to each system or user session. It is expressed as a value between 0 and 100 and is an indication of the percent of time (measured in clock minutes) that the system is operating without resource limitations. We have a secret sauce algorithm internally that weighs the various factors depending on their severity; i.e. an application crash may weigh heavier than a temporary spike in CPU or disk utilization.

I took the health score as a starting point and provided a mechanism to group the relevant systems. For example, I would look at all the servers and images in each of the following categories:

  • Connection Broker
  • License Server
  • Provisioning Server
  • SQL Server
  • Store Front
  • Web Interface
  • VDI Images
  • XenApp Hosts

Each group can contain one of more systems depending on my environment. At first, I pick a time frame in the dashboard and it shows the lowest observed health score in each group. That gives me an idea in which area I might want to have an additional look.

Citrix Health Dashboard
Citrix Health Dashboard

In this case, it looks like my infrastructure servers are doing mostly fine, but at least one of my XenApp hosts experienced a health score of 50, which I am trying to investigate now.

Citrix Health Dashboard with expanded node
Citrix Health Dashboard with expanded node

The expanded node shows the server with the potential issue and a double-click on the system name takes me into the next dashboard:

Citrix Health Details Dashboard showing all health related alarms
Citrix Health Details Dashboard showing all health related alarms

This view shows all the health alerts that indicate a reduced health score over the past 24 hours and I highlight the one with the score of 50. By doing so, the rest of the dashboard refreshes and shows only data that is time correlated to the time frame around that diminished health score – give or take a few minutes in each direction. The next pane in the dashboard now gives me a pretty good indication on where I need to focus my attention:

Percent contribution of each focus area to the diminished health score
Percent contribution of each focus area to the diminished health score

50% of the diminished health score was related to disk, 10% related to Event Logs and 40% related to application faults.

The rest of the dashboard has a number of detailed panes that I can use to get a better idea of what’s going on here. Let’s start with the Disk:

Application Disk details show all the running applications along with their disk related performance indicators:

Application Disk Details
Application Disk Details

The one application towards the bottom sports almost 700 read IOPS, 29 write IOPS, and large number of total IO operations and data read from disk. Now, let’s have a look at the disk volume metrics:

 

Disk Volume Metrics
Disk Volume Metrics

The C drive (which happens to be the only drive on this server) has a 32% disk time, indicating that the disk is not fast enough to deliver the IO load demanded by the applications.

Before we dig deeper into the disk topic, let’s have a quick look at application faults and the events:

Application Faults
Application Faults

It looks like that this example shows a single application that is faulting, which in this particular case is also showing up in the events log. This may or may not be related to the disk topics we investigated earlier and we can now focus our investigation. The application memory list may show more relevant information:

 

Application Memory Metrics
Application Memory Metrics

I may also wish to look at additional panes on this dashboard that show virtualization impacts like CPU Ready Time or the effects of memory ballooning, network details, latency to user sessions or backend systems, and a slew of other metrics.

Alternatively, I can simply drill down into the black box data recorder by double clicking on the alarm that was shown at the very top. This brings me right to the specific server and the specific time frame:

Black Box Data Recorder
Black Box Data Recorder

From here I can see the general state of the XenApp Server, the applications that were in focus at the selected point in time, and a slew of other data to help me in the IT efforts. In this particular case, the disk state, application focus, and application faults all point to the same application that I can now investigate further and work with the vendor or the in-house development team to address.

To summarize:

  • SysTrack provides a wealth of data about the infrastructure and the happenings from within the XenApp or XenDesktop workload, as well as from within the physical end-point. It can sometimes be daunting to focus on the pieces of information that are  helpful for me in my specific role in the IT organization. I hear from Citrix administrators over and over again that their primary objective is to either show that “it is not Citrix”, or to resolve the problem quickly and efficiently and take steps to prevent a reoccurrence.
  • The dashboards provide customers and partners the opportunity to create detailed visualizations that can be very specifically targeted at a job role, team, or function within the organization. SysTrack dashboards also integrate very easily with non-SysTrack data sources such as the Citrix Director database, ERP systems, HR systems, etc.
  • This specific pair of Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop health dashboards is available to all SysTrack customers and partners via the download function in the Dashboard Builder.
  • All health alarms described here can be disseminated to the right target audience in the organization via SNMP or email alerts in real time.

What ideas do you have? Please provide your feedback and comments!

Florian Becker

Florian Becker

 

Twitter: @florianbecker

 

Lakeside Software at GTC – vGPU Planning and Optimization

With GTC coming up shortly it seems like an ideal time to discuss some of the key concepts that we’ll be covering in our talk at the conference about designing and optimizing a virtual environment with complex graphical needs using NVIDIA’s innovative GRID technology.  A recurring theme with us here at Lakeside is a focus on characterizing end-user demand, and planning for successful vGPU provisioning is another thing that’s totally contingent on taking the actual user usage and applying solid mathematical analysis for use case development. This is where SysTrack comes in.

The overall strategy is covered in more detail in a white paper and a MarketPlace report, but to summarize, the key to assessing and delivering a useable environment is understanding the usage habits and needs of the users, including the GPU demand of the current applications they interact with. By continually collecting these details and providing quantitative analysis of the different types of graphical profiles people may require SysTrack provides an in-depth, accurate way to architect a solution that will provide the best possible experience for end-users.

Once this plan has been developed, the next step is delivering and ensuring steady state performance through observation and optimization. Through the use of NVIDIA-specific driver details SysTrack can provide vGPU utilization metrics in the virtual environment to ensure that as usage evolves the profiles and provisioning can keep up. Ultimately this improves the adoption rate by providing advanced users with more demanding needs a seamless, well performing experience.

For more details, check out the talk that Florian and I will be giving at GTC on Tuesday: “S4686 – NVIDIA GRID for VDI: How To Design And Monitor Your Implementation” or our website (www.lakesidesoftware.com) for details about solutions for your VDI or application delivery implementation.

Brian Madden on The State of Desktop Virtualization

TechTarget published the E-Guide “The State of Desktop Virtualization in 2013″ towards the end of last year. In it, industry analyst and renowned virtualization specialist Brian Madden analyses the results of a large scale survey that Tech Target conducted earlier.

Even though a majority of the survey respondents indicate that they are going to increase the adoption and investment in desktop virtualization, a few key concerns remain:

  • 43% of respondents are nervous about VDI performance over the WAN
  • 46% indicate that they’d had issues with end-user experience not being good. Some of the highlights in this category are challenges related to slow networks (read slow overall performance), unsupported peripherals, and video performance.

User satisfaction with any new solution is key to its adoption. Most users are willing to accept virtual desktop performance that is slightly lower than that of a traditional PC – mostly because the virtual desktop allows them to work in ways that they could not previously (more flexibly, from home, while on the road, etc.). However, it is very difficult for IT to accurately figure out ahead of time how the solution will perform and how the end-user experience will look like.

Here at Lakeside Software, we have been building solutions for end-user analytics and performance management for almost two decades with an early focus on virtualized applications and desktops. User experience is not impossible to manage or predict, and it’s actually easy to do when the right tools are used. Check us out at http://lakesidesoftware.com.

XenDesktop 7.5 – It’s all about the user

At Lakeside Software, we are very excited that XenDesktop 7.5 is being released – the third 7.x iteration in a few months puts customers on a great footing with the first unified architecture for both application and desktop virtualization.

Citrix has been doing a great job integrating design principles into the products for a couple of years now. Back in 2009 and 2010, we worked closely with the Citrix Consulting Services organization and took a “design thinking” approach to the implementation of XenDesktop and help determine organizations what their users need and expect from the solution. Those thoughts eventually led to the Desktop Transformation Methodology and the Desktop Transformation Assessment service offering from Citrix Consulting Services, which uses Lakeside SysTrack to gather the requisite data. I wrote about the methodology about two years ago on citrix.com.

A few years ago,  I wrote another brief blog post about observing end-user behavior. I felt that IT owed it to the end-user community to try and understand their business, their work, their desires, their frustrations etc. in order to provide the best possible  experience.  This is obviously difficult to do in person and on a large scale and IT leaders who are willing to apply this type of approach either have to select a small sample size or try to automate the task. That’s where Lakeside Software’s SysTrack comes into play. It has been around for 17 years and is a Citrix Ready certified product. It is primarily used for on-going and in-depth, non-intrusive end-user experience monitoring in cloud-hosted or traditional Desktop environments, but also plays a vital role in any transformational project such as the virtualization of desktops with XenDesktop 7.5 – whether in an on premise fashion, cloud hosted, or in a hybrid cloud architecture.

SysTrack can easily be deployed to existing XenApp servers and desktops (no matter if physical or virtual) and it seamlessly records and summarizes key usage patterns. What are the applications in use (and which ones are not used and thus consuming expensive licenses)? How often are they used? What resources do they consume (CPU, memory, network, graphics (including detailed NVIDIA GPU / GRID consumption))? How do end-users connect? What are the network and surrounding parameters?  All these are questions that must be answered before architects can meaningfully design and size the infrastructure, the application landscape, and the master golden images.

Within SysTrack, there are several modules that complement XenDesktop  7.5 wonderfully:

  • Virtual Machine Planner (VMP) for application rationalization, environment sizing, and master image design.
  • SysTrack Transform to manage the migration process from the old to the new. Citrix Platinum edition customers can share AppDNA compatibility data directly with SysTrack Transform and get more value out of their platinum investment.
  • SysTrack’s dashboard builder lets non-programmers quickly build dynamic dashboards and metric about the specific aspects of the environment that they care about. This is particularly valuable to hosting providers and IT shops that are building public or hybrid clouds to see the things that matter globally or to just one tenant.
  • Proactive alerting of any changes on the server or desktop side. This is often used to detect unauthorized changes or malicious software packages.
  • NVIDIA GPU and GIRD instrumentation allows customers to gather data for GRID vGPU Planning and for operational monitoring in order to allocate the right GRID profiles to users based on their actually observed needs.
  • SysTrack vScape to  instrument the Hypervisor layer and provide real time summary data across the environment – invaluable in private, public, or hybrid cloud environments.
  • Broad user experience scoring that can be observed over extended periods of time to identify high level trends.
  • SysTrack visualizers and the Resolve tool to direct IT efforts and pin point issues and resolve them quickly.

In summary, short of sitting an IT admin next to every user in the environment for a months and have them take copious notes, Lakeside SysTrack is the leading tool to apply design thinking to any deployment of  XenDesktop 7.5 and keep a high level of end-user satisfaction for many years to come.