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How to choose third-party desktop virtualization management tools

Learn about third-party tools you can use to help your customers with desktop virtualization management.

Solutions provider takeaway: Learn how the third-party management tools you sell to customers to help them manage...

their virtual desktop infrastructure differ from the native desktop virtualization management tools that vendors offer.

In the first part of this two-part article, we took a look at the current virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) products available from the major manufacturers -- VMware, Citrix and Microsoft. We then introduced you to the native VDI management tools that vendors supply for their products. Now we'll look at third-party management tools that are available for these products and learn about the additional capabilities and features they offer.

VDIworks curtails virtual desktop complexities

About the author
Joseph Ortiz is a senior analyst at Storage Switzerland LLC. Prior to joining Storage Switzerland, Joseph ran his own consulting firm, providing professional services for data protection processes. His 28-year background in the industry includes working as lead technical engineer for several VARs and IT systems integrators, as well as engineering roles at two data protection software manufacturers.

One such third-party management tool is from VDIworks, from the software company of the same name. The VDIworks product is a comprehensive package that can run in heterogeneous environments. By using a single management interface for deploying, managing and monitoring the environment, VDIworks simplifies the tasks of dealing with multiple hypervisors, load balancers, connection brokers and virtual machine (VM) management applications. The tool also has remote control, health monitoring and alerting capabilities. In addition, unified management lets administrators migrate from one technology to another, which helps avoid the cost and management problems encountered when running multiple desktops concurrently.

VDIworks has a flexible architecture that can use any back-end hardware, thin client and user-access device. It supports VMware Server, VMware ESX, Citrix Systems XenServer, Microsoft Hyper-V, Microsoft Virtual Server and other virtualization platforms. On the host side, it supports connection brokering into physical hosts (1:1) and Terminal Services. And on the client side, it supports the TCX protocol, PC-over-IP, remote desktop protocol (RDP), CC analog and various virtual network computing (VNC) connections.

VDIworks consists of several components: VDIworks Server, VDIworks Management Console, VDIworks Host Agent and VDIworks Thin Client Agent. The VDIworks Management Console provides a universal view of the entire virtual desktop infrastructure, which lets users see the status of all desktop computing assets in their environment. There is also a virtual desktop management plug-in available for Microsoft System Center.

Another feature, in VDIworks2Go, lets mobile users stream their VMs to their laptops and run them even when they're not connected to the network. Upon reconnection, VDIworks2Go can move local copies of the VM back to the data center.

All of these features can reduce the complexity associated with desktop virtualization by helping IT administrators to efficiently provision and manage virtual desktops.

Sentral's flexible architecture knows few boundaries

Another third-party management tool comes from ClearCube Technology. Its current VDI management product is Sentral 5.6. Unlike most other VDI management tools, Sentral lets admins deploy and manage both physical and virtual desktops -- a very useful capability when some users require the power and resources of a dedicated physical PC, but others only need the resources of a VM. The ability to manage physical and virtual assets is a key differentiator of the Sentral product.

Like VDIworks, Sentral provides a flexible architecture for heterogeneous environments. It lets practically any client device connect to any back-end hardware resource, and it has plenty of robust features. They include VM management, thin client management, connection brokering, load balancing, dynamic resource allocation and Microsoft Active Directory integration for user-based mappings.

Sentral also has solid auditing and reporting capabilities, along with the ability to create custom alerts. These alerts can trigger console notifications, email and messages to third-party applications. And all of the monitoring and management takes place in a single interface.

Sentral supports VMware Server, Microsoft Virtual Server, Hyper-V and XenServer, as well as multiple databases, including Microsoft SQL Server and MySQL. It also supports a variety of thin client connection types, including RDP, PC-over-IP and TDX.

Simplify Suite centralizes management

Another VDI offering comes from triCerat Inc. Its third-party management tool, Simplify Suite 5.0, supports VMware and Citrix, but its main focus appears to be boosting terminal server performance in Windows 2000, 2003 and 2008.

The suite's bundle of programs manages profiles, printing, security, desktops, reporting, application control and printer drivers. It has a central interface that lets admins configure, manage and monitor all of the suite's functions, including virtual desktop deployment, application access controls and policy enforcement. Simplify Suite also has an auto-verification license manager, and its configuration information is stored in a central database that can reside on any machine at any location.

Converting desktops to virtual is vWorkspace's game

The last third-party management tool we will examine is Quest Software Inc.'s vWorkspace. Quest bought Provision Networks and the company's Virtual Access Suite, renamed it and released vWorkspace 6.0 in January. Somewhat like VDIworks, it is an end-to-end tool for VMware VDI, designed to convert physical desktops and applications into on-demand virtual services.

Like other VDI products, vWorkspace provides extensive monitoring and VM management capabilities, along with application delivery. Other features include policy-driven VM pooling and management, policy enforcement, status monitoring, fault management and multi-monitor support. For those looking for strong security and identity features, vWorkspace also has single sign-on, smartcard authentication, user profile management, access control lists and an access portal with Web interface and an SSL gateway.

The package's robust set of features and options facilitate the deployment and management of VDI. Even though it appears primarily geared toward VMware, vWorkspace also supports Virtual Iron, Hyper-V, Microsoft Virtual Server, XenEnterprise and Parallels Virtuozzo.

It is certainly advantageous for value-added resellers, integrators and consultants to offer tools that manage multiple VDI products from different vendors in the same environment. Some of these tools can provide additional functionality for monitoring, auditing and managing various VDI environments from a central console. More functions can help solutions providers enhance the services they offer to clients that are deploying desktop virtualization.

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