Liquidware Explains Windows Virtual Desktop Monitoring Options

Chicago-based Liquidware suggests it has a cheaper and better solution for monitoring Microsoft's Windows Virtual Desktop virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) service than even Microsoft's own Azure Monitor product.

Last month, Microsoft announced that Azure Monitor had reached "general availability" commercial-release status for use with its Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) service. Azure Monitor is available for those organizations willing to dive into the fine details associated with using it, such as setting up log data storage and understanding Azure Monitor's component-use structure and pricing model.

The arrival of an Azure-based management portal for the WVD service is somewhat late on the scene, given that WVD, which runs from Microsoft's datacenters, was commercially released in September 2019. Also, Microsoft only recently announced the "general availability" of MSIX App Attach for dynamically accessing WVD apps without building images, which was at preview last year. More recent Microsoft WVD progress can be found in this announcement.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's partner, Liquidware, has long offered its Stratusphere UX user experience monitoring and diagnostics solution. Stratusphere UX provides support for WVD assessment, design, monitoring and diagnostics.

I recently spoke with Jason E. Smith, vice president of products at Liquidware, about the state of WVD monitoring. Liquidware is a pioneer in VDI solutions, and also counts Citrix and VMware as partners. Smith offered some perspective for organizations working with WVD or considering it. Organizations may do native WVD provisioning, or work with Citrix or VMware, but Liquidware has been around since 2009 offering VDI solutions for all sort sorts of Windows workloads, and even Linux workloads.

WVD and the Cloud Mystery
In essence, things that run on Azure are running on someone else's computer. Microsoft's WVD service runs on Azure virtual machines that are hosted by Microsoft in its datacenters. One of the basic issues for organizations wanting to use the WVD service is simply how to monitor it.

"When you enter into this new brave new world of hosting desktops in the cloud on Azure, there's a question about what is here in my environment and what's in-between, with all of the connections," Smith said. "You will want to drill down and do inventory. There are questions about what's in your datacenter and how well it's performing. Accountability is a consideration, such as service-level agreement (SLA) assurances, especially if you're doing this as a partner. And that's where the need for monitoring really is mandated. Any enterprise is going to want to know what that is."

Azure Monitor gives organizations insights into the use of Azure resources, but its use also delivers surprises.

"I can tell you what our customers are telling us," Smith explained. "They're telling us that they tried Azure Monitor, and that the storage format may not be as efficient as Stratusphere UX yet. This may cause monitoring costs to rack up really, really quickly."

Monitoring WVD Clients
Smith noted there are differences between using Azure Monitor to track Azure services and using it to track WVD clients.

"Azure Monitor was first developed to help you monitor resources in Azure cloud, especially servers," he noted. "Desktops are very different, and Microsoft is only starting to monitor them with Azure Monitor."

In contrast to using Liquidware's Stratusphere UX, Azure Monitor users will need to figure out what to monitor for their WVD instances, Smith contended.

"The other thing that's unique with Azure Monitor is that you'll need to know what you're looking for, even in the desktop," he said. "That's a big difference in comparison with Stratusphere UX, which has been doing this sort of thing since 2009. We have a turnkey virtual appliance that's based on Linux, and it can be hosted on Azure. The setup of Stratusphere UX literally takes as little as 15 minutes -- and then you roll out a few agents on to the endpoint that you want to monitor, and they start reporting back right away. Our efficient database stores historical and near-real-time data cost effectively. The storage may not be even one-tenth of the cost of Azure Monitor storage."

Stratusphere UX users get "turnkey desktop-centric reports," Smith explained.

"You simply click on them and then you can drill down deeper, and they will tell you things like the overall user experience," he said. "They will tell you about the connectivity of the desktop. They'll tell you about your Wi-Fi access points, if people are working from home, and how strong their connection is, and how far they are from the endpoint. They'll tell you about the input and output associated with a desktop, or even an individual application, that may be causing a detrimental user experience. Our solution is very efficient in the way that it stores data on Azure, and it's very cost effective."

Other Liquidware Solutions
In addition to its Stratusphere UX user experience management solution, Liquidware has solutions for profile management and application layering.

ProfileUnity is Liquidware's profile management solution. It offers full user environment management across Windows versions, from Windows XP to Windows 10 and Windows Server RDS, Smith explained. ProfileUnity will recognize everything, all the way down to the end user's wallpaper. It works across environments, so "you can literally have the user go from a physical desktop or Citrix or VMware, and light them up in WVD and they'll recognize their user profiles and their data will be matched up, and probably OneDrive."

FlexApp is Liquidware's application layering solution that makes applications portable for end users. FlexApp puts applications on virtual hard disks in Azure for WVD users.

"And it makes the application ring true," Smith said regarding FlexApp. "The applications look and feel like they are installed." FlexApp dispenses with having to maintain a base image for those applications as well, he added.

Azure Migrate Program Partnership
Liquidware also participates as an Azure Migrate Program partner to help jumpstart organizations getting started with WVD.

"Our Azure Migrate Program arrangement with Microsoft enables customers with licenses of Stratusphere UX and our entire Adaptive Workspace Management suite. The purpose of the program is to equip enterprises considering Microsoft WVD with licenses to get them started on their path to adoption of WVD," Smith said.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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