This blog will discuss VMware’s new ‘Horizon 6’ offering and how it helps customers manage RDS and VDI environments with its built-in consoles. Additionally, we will look at how ControlUp complements Horizon 6 admins by aiding in troubleshooting performance issues in real-time and managing end users.
VMware recently announced the newest version of its desktop virtualization solution, Horizon 6 (with View). The main difference between View 5 and Horizon 6 is that VMware now offers Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH) support, which is the ability to connect to Microsoft RDS servers via Horizon 6. Up until now, View 5 only supported connecting to virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) instances, namely client-side operating systems, such as Windows 7 or 8; whereas Horizon 6 supports connections to Microsoft terminal services (aka RDS), which is the most popular way to distribute applications in an enterprise environment. Thus far, Citrix XenApp was the only solution in the enterprise environment that provided the ability to manage Microsoft RDS servers as well as publish applications to end users. However, now that Horizon 6 joined the game, VMware has entered as a major player in this arena, creating a stiff competition for Citrix XenApp.
Respectively, we, at ControlUp, welcome Horizon 6 to the VDI/RDS market and think it is wonderful that VMware has enhanced its solution to now manage RDSH farms. With VMware in the market, the entire VDI/RDS community has a strong alternative for infrastructure management. Brian Madden, the lead blogger in the field of VDI/RDS expressed his enthusiasm about VMware’s new solution in a recent post, stating:
“I have literally been waiting over 15 years for there to be a viable competitor to Citrix, and now it’s finally here. Wow.”
Most of our customers currently use Citrix XenApp to deploy their enterprise applications, and leverage ControlUp to perform management tasks, such as solving XenApp performance issues and troubleshooting. Now that Horizon 6 has entered the playing field, we are pleased to announce that Horizon 6 admins will have the exact same management and monitoring capabilities as XenApp admins. By utilizing ControlUp, Horizon 6 admins will be able to enjoy features such as performance management, visibility, real-time management, and historical analytics, to name a few.
There are two relevant management solutions from VMware: the View Administrator, which is included in any Horizon 6 edition, and vCenter Operations Manager for Horizon (with View), which is included in the Enterprise edition.
The View Administrator is designated for overall configuration and management of the environment. It can be used to publish new applications and VDI pools, create new RDS farms, configure policies, and perform session management tasks. It is the default management system that is included in any edition of Horizon 6 and therefore includes a few basic monitoring and management features. A default dashboard is provided to illustrate the overall health of the environment as well as a session management screen that shows all of the sessions that are currently logged on to the VDI and RDS farms. In addition, while performance data is not visible, the main management tasks that can be performed include sending messages to logged-on sessions, logging off of sessions and resetting the virtual machine.
The second management solution, the vCenter Operations Manager for Horizon (with View), is VMware’s general monitoring solution. It is a massive infrastructure solution that aggregates all of the historical performance and usage data from the entire infrastructure. After performing some correlation and analysis, it shows a near real-time performance view of your entire environment (as seen below), and allows you to drill down to the VM level to get a better picture of what’s going on. This can be seen through the various custom views it offers, including storage, VM, sessions, as well as the top CPU and memory consumers. Additionally, the vCenter Operations Manager for Horizon (with View) creates a dynamic baseline of how performance metrics tend to behave in various customer environments. This enables it to detect anomalies and notify the admins when something is out of place. Unlike the View Administrator, the vCenter Operations Manager for Horizon (with View) does not contain management features and is solely available in the Enterprise edition of Horizon 6, under the title, ‘cloud analytics and operations management’.
ControlUp is a well-known, established solution for managing RDS and VDI environments. It is currently used by many Citrix admins for real-time performance visibility, troubleshooting as well as XenApp and XenDesktop management. Moreover, it fully supports VMware’s View 5x and Horizon 6 environments. As mentioned above, the existing VMware consoles are great tools, however critical VDI/RDS management features are missing, such as real-time performance visibility, the ability to drill down from the data center layer to the sessions and processing layers, as well as full contextual management actions.
Real-time monitoring is critical in VDI/RDS environments due to the nature of live user sessions. As a result, performance issues immediately affect user experience. ControlUp’s unique architecture supports real-time monitoring that can reveal performance issues within a matter of seconds, whereas VMware solutions, alone, can take anywhere from 5-10 minutes. For example, to test our real-time response, we logged on to an RDS server and used a small utility to load the CPU to 100%. What we found was that in approximately 3 seconds, ControlUp’s real-time view showed the specific VM that carried the full CPU load that ran the risk of impacting other end users.
ControlUp’s real-time management capabilities are needed in collaboration with the vCenter Operations Manager for Horizon (with View) for high quality, instantaneous responses. In order to monitor performance and prevent heavy loads from affecting other users on the same VDI/RDS server, having a tool that illustrates performance behavior and dependencies in real-time is an indispensable necessity. This is where ControlUp complements Horizon 6 perfectly. By enabling users with the ability to react to potentially harmful situations in near real-time, admins are able to either fix issues that arise or terminate specific processes that are causing the problem. ControlUp receives data from both the Hypervisor infrastructure and the ControlUp agent, which runs on each RDS and VDI endpoint. This enables admins to see a performance issue (e.g. high data store IOPS usage) in the data center layer and then drill down all the way to the actual process that is causing the issue.
Returning to the example we used for ControlUp’s real-time visibility feature, if there is a single process that is consuming 100% CPU on an entire RDS server, causing issues for other users, neither the vCenter Operations Manager for Horizon (with View) monitoring solution nor the View Administrator include a ‘terminate process’ function. ControlUp, on the other hand, allows you to right click on the offending process and use the ‘terminate process action’ button to kill the process and solve the issue right then and there. There is no need to jump to another console or even open an RDP connection to the RDS server. This ability allows you to terminate processes right from the console that displays the issue. Additionally, you can compare configurations between RDS servers or VDI endpoints, push files, edit registry keys, and control Windows services. When dealing with an RDS or VDI environment, ideally, you want to control the end user. Running ControlUp with Horizon 6 enables full end user management, including Remote Assistance, sending messages and taking screenshots of the end users’ screens.
To summarize, ControlUp is a full blown management solution for View and Horizon VDI environments. It completes the built-in VMware management experience by providing enhanced real-time visibility from the Data Center to the process layer and includes a rich set of built-in management actions that makes troubleshooting and day-to-day maintenance easier and more efficient.