Keeping Multi-Platform Hybrid Desktop Environments Optimized

Today’s desktop environments are increasingly diverse, encompassing multiple platforms, delivery modes and sophisticated technologies. In the past decade alone, a number of trends have converged to make managing desktop environments more complex than ever.

This blog summarizes the information contained in the Process Optimization Whitepaper located on the Liquidware website.

Windows OS Churn and Increasing Resource Consumption

Over the years, succeeding versions of Windows OS have consumed greater levels of resources, particularly CPU and RAM. This trend is not surprising, as each new version needed to support a wider set of more robust applications and features.

Through the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft introduced new versions of its operating systems on a roughly three-year cycle. However, with the introduction of Windows 10, Microsoft changed its OS release schedule. Every six months, Microsoft releases a major update to Windows 10. Below you can see a timeline of Windows 10 releases for the past few years. With this schedule, the shelf life for a new Windows 10 version has become roughly 18 months. Moreover, each succeeding version has consumed greater amounts of CPU and RAM – as well as fluctuating levels of IOPS.

 Windows 10 is now a frequent spur of change in the workspace environment. Yet the process of desktop image design, maintenance and distribution has not changed to match this development. It remains time-consuming and complex. Administrators’ maintenance cycles typically lag behind the pace of Windows 10 updates. Image OS and application optimizations and acceptance testing may be performed before updates go live. But, with the sheer number of rapid and massive updates, all negative impacts cannot be assessed and eliminated for every cycle. During the gaps between image updates, workspace performance is likely to vary.


Process Optimization Can Minimize the Effects of  Windows OS Churn

Liquidware Stratusphere UX includes a feature called Process Optimization that can smooth over the Windows update impacts to desktop-user experience by automatically leveling out resource utilization, directing more resources to foreground applications over Windows OS background processes that may vary with each new update. Process optimization thus reduces monopolization of limited resources and improves the user experience. If required, the administrator also has the option to set explicit priorities and termination rules to further optimize the user experience.

As Microsoft continues its Windows release schedule, new processes are likely to be introduced, and every image iteration can introduce variations in the environment. Process Optimization is designed to automatically address these changes to keep workspace performance feeling smooth for users until new images are composed and distributed.

Escalating Application Volume, Diversity and Change

Today’s workspace users will not only use more applications, these applications will also be more resource intensive. One trend driving application consumption is the emergence of large vendor “stores” that provide easy distribution for curated applications.

A good example is the Microsoft store. Currently this site offers users upwards of 600,000 applications that run the gamut of professional specialty, productivity, messaging, meeting/collaboration, education, utilities and gaming. Even with administrators’ best efforts to lock down workspaces to keep out unauthorized applications, it’s not possible to prevent users from adding applications they want. They can usually install applications into their own profile since the profile itself is typically fully controllable by the user’s rights.

The net effect here is that users can access more applications, each of which are very likely to be more graphics- and data-intensive, and they can introduce them at random. So, administrators can be challenged with keeping capacity and resources in line with these changes.

Updating fleets of desktop images involves a series of steps, of which none can be missed. However, slip-ups can happen. If a step is missed when sealing the image, it can result in a feature not being disabled. An unwanted application process can now run across the entire fleet consuming CPU, Memory or IO.

During builds, your entire image is vulnerable and even a single application runaway process can make it into the build, make it past acceptance testing and then be found later to unexpectedly consume resources.

A runaway process that monopolizes a CPU can drastically slow down the system and provide a bad user experience. This issue becomes serious when users need instant desktop response to conduct transactions with consumers, as in customer service, finance or healthcare. Often the only way to cope with a runaway process is to terminate it in Task Manager. But this can result in lost work, or the process is required to be running.

Worse still, many applications push automatic updates for new features, security patches and other enhancements. So, an endless source of variations can potentially impact desktop performance.

Process Optimization Protects the Environment from the Effects of Runaway Processes and Bad Actors

When administrators can’t do a complete image update, Process Optimization can automatically protect the desktop environment and keep performance in line with user needs. The feature employs a ruleset that automatically prioritizes foreground processes to access CPU, memory and IOPS over background processes. In addition, if administrators identify an application or process that consumes undue levels of CPU, Memory or IOPS, they can temporarily lower its priority or terminate it between image updates. Both the automatic and administrator-executed controls are performed through the Stratusphere UX Web Console and can be applied to a single machine, group, pool or the entire fleet.

Increasing Use of Virtual and Cloud-based Workspace

A key difference among physical, virtual and cloud-based workspaces is that the latter depends on a shared infrastructure. Moving desktop workloads to a virtualized system can lead to performance problems. This is because most desktop applications were designed to run on stand-alone dedicated hardware and are not optimized for virtual environments. Putting these same apps on virtual hosts, especially with a multi-user operating system, is not a one-to-one resource correlation. In fact, the underlying servers need MORE compute resources to run the same desktop workloads because virtualization inherently creates an additional burden on CPU, RAM, and disk, which can exceed capacity. The impact on user experience can manifest as slower application load or response times, pixilation or stutter on video or audio, and serious latency for keyboard strokes or other peripherals can occur.

Process Optimization Ensures User Experience on Virtual and Cloud Workspaces

When user experience is compromised, the administrator can leverage the Process Optimization feature to ensure that desktop applications running on a virtual environment can be made to “play well” with each other, until the situation can be remediated by updating the desktop image or provisioning more capacity.

Dealing with the Challenges of The User Behavior Wildcard

User expectations and behavior on desktop hardware has dramatically soared in the past decade. Today they can use tablets, thin clients or full PC desktops to perform work. These devices have significantly more processor and memory than ever, not to mention solid-state drives (SSD) that provide lightning-fast IO. Users’ expectations for desktop performance is based on this one-to-one experience on hardware, which allows them to have multiple apps and windows open simultaneously to perform work or multi-task.

However, when making the transition to virtual or cloud workspaces, which depend on a shared infrastructure, users don’t modify their behavior. Their expectation is that any virtual or cloud-based desktop will allow them to continue to work in the same unfettered way. If the user experience on the shared infrastructure does not match their single-device proficiency, they tend to complain loudly.

Process Optimization Provides Continuity for User Experience across All Workspace Types

Liquidware Stratusphere UX Process Optimization can provide continuity for the user experience across virtual and physical desktops by automatically elevating critical processes. Thus, when users move from one platform to another, they will still experience the high level of responsiveness and power to support their work as usual.

Process Optimization Benefits and Cost Savings

CAPEX Savings

OPEX Savings

Increased Productivity

Extend life of older hardware – possible to skip a refresh cycle.

Reclaim unused memory from idle apps

Easy to install, configure and use by admins

Reallocate underutilized CPU, Memory, Disk

Balance user application processes with system process requirements

Set and forget with no complexity – automatically synch CPU, memory, IOPS with user needs

Use on central console to control all Windows desktops in environment

Optimize CPU resources intelligently with user behavior

Granular and powerful deployment options – can be installed with laser focus by user, group, department or machine type

Zero additional hardware, agent, database, broker, load balancer or administrative interfaces need.

Protect from unknown factors, including images or patches that cannot be fully evaluated.

Improves responsiveness of foreground apps

Increase user / application density – CPU optimization will yield greater consolidation and scaling for shared infrastructure such as VDI, RDSH, TS and XenApp

Minimize or terminate runaway processes/malware/ransomware

Improves user experience consistent on all platforms — keeps workers productive

Instant ROI in terms of manageability – reduced help desk calls, extending life of older PCs and increased utilization of server hosts

Lessen negative effects of CPU-intensive applications

Reduces support calls and triage time for each issue. 

How Stratusphere UX Process Optimization Works

The Process Optimization feature is a built-in “set it and forget it” option that allows administrators to select from a series of profiles ranging from aggressive to conservative resource modulation.

Process Optimization is essentially a Connector-ID (CID) key that comes with the Stratusphere UX Solution. This CID key is deployed during the normal course of installation and distribution of the CID agents when setting up Stratusphere UX. This feature can be accessed under the CID Collector Setup Tab in the Administration Tab of the solution.

Unlike other process management and optimization solutions, the Stratusphere UX Process Optimization requires zero additional resources. Because the feature is built into Stratusphere UX Administrative functions as a CID key, Process Optimization is achieved without additional overhead. Similarly, the feature is extremely easy to install and configure and can be focused by machine / machine attributes, groups, or pools via our smart groups function.

Within Process Optimization, you can select from a number of different profiles, which range from aggressive to conservative optimization strategies. Liquidware provides a range of recommended profile settings in order to set the most productive and cost-effective use of desktop and server hardware matched to performance SLAs. These profiles allow administrators to set resource-usage priorities based on single-user or multi-user systems.

Stratusphere UX is the leading workspace monitoring and diagnostics solution. With the introduction of the Process Optimization feature in this solution, administrators can go farther and take action to modulate resource consumption automatically across a diverse and ever-changing set of operating system and application processes. This key feature not only preserves the user experience quality from platform to platform, but it also allows organizations to extend the density or workloads on existing servers and extend the life span of both server and client hardware for significant cost savings.