Long Distance Desktops – Branch Office Operations

Almost since the advent of PC use in business, managing growing populations of diverse desktop devices and their connectivity into networks, has been a fundamental challenge to IT staff.    This task has grown in complexity over the years as workers become increasingly mobile and many more of them operate remotely in field or branch operations. The number of branch offices has been estimated to be roughly 11 million, with almost 80% of employees staffing locations other than a primary business campus.

IT traditionally has spent  a great deal of  time, energy, and resources to design pragmatic ways to service, secure, provision, and manage  physical desktops at a distance, however, with mitigated success.  No single solution emerged as the winning approach needed to standardize the entire population of desktops, including those offsite in branch offices, and to provide visibility into the user experience and usage, no matter where desktops were located.

Desktop Virtualization Provides the Solution to Comprehensive Desktop Management From Headquarters to Branch Offices

 Today, however, virtual desktop infrastructure and remote desktop delivery provide a very compelling alternative that promises to alleviate many of the fundamental challenges facing desktop administrators.

VMware recently introduced their VMware Branch Office Desktop™ architecture to address the multiple, heightened requirements of branch offices.  The combination of VMware Mirage for image management/disaster recovery and VMware View to deliver virtual desktops as a service ensures network constraints, legacy support, and offline requirements can all be accommodated without impacting performance or productivity. Where WANs are robust and reliable, VMware® View™ together with VMware vShield™ and vCenter™ Operations Manager for View (vCOps) enable organizations to do more with less and to adopt an automated, policy-driven approach to managing end users in their branches.

Liquidware Labs Stratusphere UX is a supported component of the VMware Branch Office Desktop architecture and provides critical visibility into performance of a highly distributed VMware View Branch Office desktop infrastructure.  Monitoring with Stratusphere UX ensures that IT staff can provide a good local worker experience in a securely and efficiently with a minimum of cost, ongoing management and support overhead.  Stratusphere UX provides a single-pane-of-glass monitoring of user experience across all desktops in the enterprise, regardless of platform.  Alerts and Dashboards provide insight into non-normal operations for proactive monitoring and troubleshooting to maintain 24/7 uptime for branch operations.

Liquidware Labs Stratusphere UX Provides Visibility Into Remote Operations for Comprehensive, Simple Desktop Management

 Consider for a moment some of the risks of remote desktops in branch offices. Some are unique to the very fact that these workspaces are not located on a primary campus. Patching operating systems; enabling coherent security protocols and policies; provisioning and publishing applications; and the very real challenge of offering break/fix support.  While most desktop administrators would share that, up to 70% of the acquisition cost of a desktop is spent each year on its careful care and feeding, this figure surely rises when we add in the complexity of doing these tasks at a distance.

Unlike legacy physical desktop architectures — where there was no centralized awareness of application, productivity, or application level issues — centralizing via desktop virtualization technologies now affords us the ability to gain true end-to-end visibility into those workspaces.

Special monitoring solutions, such as Liquidware Labs Stratusphere UX, created from the need to “see inside” shared virtual desktop infrastructures, can now provide visibility into all enterprise desktops – physical or virtual – no matter where they are worldwide.  Stratusphere™ UX offers previously unavailable levels of insight into all of the moving parts that go into delivering remote branch office workers VDI workspaces. This is important, because to insure maximum workspace productivity, we need to insure that all of the subsystems, applications, and infrastructure are operating optimally.  Stratusphere UX has the unique ability to capture both the configuration details, as well as the resource consumption metrics and offer the administrator a total view of past and current performance horizons, with logical alerts that can be customized based on thresholds such as bandwidth, latency, user login delays, applications not responding, storage IOPS by application and hundreds of additional metrics.

Diagnostic “Health Checks” with Stratusphere UX Keep Remote Branch Office Desktops Up and Performing Critical Tasks

 If issues are spotted at any level – WAN, systems, storage, application or user – Stratusphere UX can be leveraged to perform diagnostic “Health Checks” to uncover the sources of issues and to facilitate the collaboration needed to resolve them quickly.  A Health Check with Stratusphere UX is an industry best-practice approach with the following objectives:

  • Provide a 360° view of virtual desktops’ resource usage and overall performance.
  • Identify ALL issues, both known and unknown.
  • Identify and provide analysis of bottlenecks and performance issues with recommendations for remediation.
  • Establish real-world performance thresholds as guideposts to gauge normal/abnormal operations in the virtual environment.
  • Document the Health Check process and findings in order to both facilitate communications with internal and external stakeholders and to provide evidence for remediation and resolution.

Stratusphere UX “Adapter” Technology Can Integrate With Existing Enterprise Monitoring Solutions for Single-Pane-Of-Glass Views Including Desktops

 Stratusphere UX offers another bonus for IT managers looking to simplify desktop management.   On one hand, Stratusphere UX can operate as a stand-alone solution, installed as a virtual appliance for maximum ease of set up and use.   Stratusphere UX collects literally hundreds of time-stamped, constraint-based metrics across the desktop infrastructure and reports on physical and virtual machines, users and applications, from the desktop through the network and to the datacenter, for a complete 360° view of user experience.

However, if IT staff prefer to utilize an existing systems-level, in-house enterprise-level monitoring solution, Stratusphere UX provides “Adapter” technology to provide custom desktop views in their solution of choice.   Because standardized, defined metrics are further correlated into a VDI UX Profile, users can leverage a simple but powerful single-metric data feed into the systems-level enterprise monitoring solution easily.  Users can now see the most meaningful user experience data – added to host and systems views — within the parameters they have already set within vCenter Operations.

In fact, the newly announced Stratusphere UX Adapter for VMware vCenter Operations gives IT shops the ability to port all of this information into VMware vCenter Operation Manager (vCOps) for custom views that provide extremely powerful analysis, trending, and capacity planning.  Stratusphere UX Adapter technology is available through a Liquidware Labs JumpStart™ engagement.    Statusphere UX is available for trial download from the Liquidware Labs website.

As virtualization technologies evolve, we will see previously challenging use cases, such as remote and branch office workers becoming progressively easier to bring under management.   Liquidware Labs will continue to be at the forefront of developments in this space that will continue to integrate with existing infrastructure tools, while alleviating and automating many previously formidable challenges of desktop management.  While the goal is, and should be, the productivity of our remote workers, our IT staffs, and our budgets — desktops at a distance need not be as challenging as they have over the past 20 years.

J. Tyler T-Rex™ Rohrer
Liquidware Labs Inc.

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