This time around, I’ve decided to write a blog post about managing a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) within the Snow License Manager. I’ll try to explain and show ways to determine how to draw up an overview of all VDI’s and their relation with the actual physical hardware clients and users. Besides this, we’ll also have a closer look into ways you will be able to create license requirements for the Windows Desktop Operating Systems being used from within the VDI and of course what the impact of a VDI has on you overall application landscape.
So…after reading this blog post you should be able to:
- understand what a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure is and how this data is represented in Snow License Manager.
- analyze your own VDI environment and the virtual applications being used.
- analyze the business consumption with regards to which device and / or user is accessing a VDI.
- add Microsoft Windows Operating System & VDA licenses in Snow License Manager to cover the use of VDI’s.
- create and save easy-to-use reports specifically for your VDI estate, including compliance information.
VIRTUAL DESKTOP INFRASTRUCTURE
First lets get the facts and figures out of the way, so to speak…. What exactly is a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure?
Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is virtualization technology that hosts a desktop operating system on a centralized server in a data center. VDI is a variation on the client-server computing model, sometimes referred to as server-based computing. VDI is a good and solid alternative to the server-based computing model used by Citrix and Microsoft Terminal Services. There are two main approaches to VDI: persistent and nonpersistent.
- Persistent VDI provides each user with his or her own desktop image, which can be customized and saved for future use, much like a traditional physical desktop.
- Nonpersistent VDI provides a pool of uniform desktops that users can access when needed. Nonpersistent desktops revert to their original state each time the user logs out.
In the screenshot above (picture 1) we can see a common example of different kinds of devices using virtual desktops, which are being streamed / pushed to the devices from the server back-end. In this particular case the virtual desktop has a Windows Operating System installed. The last thing I would like to add, which is very important and is a vital difference between a virtualized applications, is that a virtual desktop infrastructure contains:
- a virtualized operating system
- installations of virtualized applications
- and its own data
Hence, the reason it is called a “virtual desktop”. Instead of streaming a virtual application to the device, a whole desktop with pre-installed apps and data will be streamed to the device.
VDI & SNOW LICENSE MANAGER
With the use of the Snow Inventory Client installed in the virtual VDI environment, all of the necessary data will be visible and manageable in Snow License Manager. Together with the integration between the Snow Software platform and the hypervisor technology used to host the virtual VDI pool(s), you will be able to establish a clear overview of the physical datacenter and all of the VDI’s available to be consumed by the business. This also includes, information about what is actually installed in each VDI, and the usage of each application made available in the VDI. You will be able to see which specific kind of device and which user has been using a VDI and the installed applications.
List all VDI’s
Lets first focus on generating a total overview of all VDI’s being inventoried in the IT-estate. With the use of the Snow Inventory Client installed in every single VDI (template), we’ll end-up with similar information of each individual VDI, just as we would when inventorying a physical computer. Once this data is available in Snow License Manager, we can have a look at the total number of VDI’s available in the system. If we navigate to the “Computer” category, from the drop-down menu we need to select the List all computer option, as shown in picture 2 below.
This will present the “List of” all computers that are currently being inventoried in your total IT-estate – either with the use of the Snow Inventory Clients and / or an integration with a third party inventory tool -. The list might also include possible hyper-visor servers. By using the available filters and the appropriate columns we are able to create an overview of all VDI’s. In the example (picture 3) we can see that the column selector needs to be opened first to add the VDI column.
After adding that particular column we can set the filter to Yes, which will create the list we are looking for, as shown in picture 4.
Form this list, I’ll select a VDI to have closer look at the detailed overview. Especially, when using the Snow Inventory Client you may expect to see the following in-depth details (picture 5).
The User Interface is basically the same as when also looking at the detailed overview page of an individual laptop, server or computer, to name just a few other types of assets that might end-up in your personal Snow License Manager portal. The type of assets will always be display to the left of the computer name:
If we zoom in on a couple of interesting tabs available in the detailed overview, we'll see that in the screenshot above (picture 5) we get a nice list of all applications used from within this particular VDI. What is important to point out, is that this will either be an application that is actually installed in the VDI bubble or it will be an application that is streamed separately to the device that is running the VDI at that particular moment. In Snow License Manager, both will also be a part of the total application list. Later on in this blog I’ll highlight some interesting reports, in which you’ll be able to distinguish between these applications.
Looking ahead at the data we might need for compliance calculations, we can see a tab that displays the number of unique user that have been using this particular VDI (picture 6). If the appropriate license metric for one of the virtualized applications in this VDI session would be based on the number of unique user, the calculation would be based on these two users - after adjusting the license metric of the application first -.
We can also see a tab that will give information about each unique machines that has accessed (run) this VDI (picture 7). You may expect to see different kinds of machines in this tab, which will be based on the company assets used to run VDI’s and weather you’ll be able to also approach a VDI from your privately owned assets, like mobile phones, tablets or a laptop. The Snow technology will be able to create easy-to-use list of data and reports so you know exactly which user has used which machine to run which VDI or VDI’s.
Another very interesting tab to have a closer look at is the “Information” tab. In this tab we’ll see lots of different details ranging from the bit-rate of the Windows Operating system to specific details about the Snow Inventory client. What you’ll also find in this tab, is the link to the physical server that is hosting the VDI, including the information about which hypervisor technology is used. This is highlighter in the screenshot below (picture 8).
If I would click on the specific host server (ESX18057), I’ll end up on the detailed overview page of that machine, including the information about the cluster it belongs to, as shown in picture 9.
When it comes to using the reporting section specifically for a VDI environment, it is possible to use three available reports straight from the start. Out-of-the box, Snow License Manager contains a separate group that houses 3 unique reports for VDI usage and management. Below you'll find a screenshots (picture 10) of the section I’m referring to. The group is called “VDI (3)” and contains the following 3 reports:
- All devices that have accessed a VDI
- All user that have accessed a VDI
- Applications per VDI computer
In the "all devices" report, you can view exactly which specific company owned machine or any other possible privately owned machines has been using a VDI from the total available VDI pool(s). If you have implemented an organisation structure in the Snow platform, you’ll also be able to see the distinguish between business units. This information is important for those software vendors out there, that need to know the total number of physical devices that have been using application from within a VDI!
The "user related" report shows information about each unique user that have accessed one or more VDI’s, including first and last used information. Also in this case, an available organisation structure will distinguish between business units. With regards to specific user related license metrics this is very important information.
The third and last report, will show all applications that have been used from within each VDI. This means all applications installed or either used per VDI computer. All installed applications will be the default available applications in the VDI (template), just like the installed Operating System. Once a user is running a VDI locally on his or her device, other applications could also be used during that session, based on company protocols and user privileges. These other applications are streamed seperately to the VDI one by one and will also show up in this report. If you wish to switch between views, there is a criteria you can easily add to this report as shown in picture 11.
If you set this criteria to “No” it will only display the default installed applications of the VDI’s accessed per computer, and if you set the criteria to “Yes” it will display all virtual applications that have been streamed separately to all VDI sessions. Of course, you could add additional criteria and filters to analyze a specific vendor or application etc.
Besides these out-of-the-box available reports in the specific VDI group, I would like also like to point your attention to the following two reports available from the same "Reports" category, but located in different groups. The first report is available from within the Standard reports group and is called “Applications per device” (by default).
In the screenshot below (picture 12) I have create a specific detailed overview by applying the following columns:
- Device/Computer – which is the physical machine used to run the VDI
- Remote Server name – which is the actual VDI
- Application manufacturer
- No license required – by applying the Yes/No filter you can easily switch and manage all applications that have a financial commitment, thus need a license!
- Last user on device
- Last used
- and 3 columns with usage information….
The other report can be found in the group called “Datacenter”. The default name of the report is called “Physical and virtual servers per datacenter” as shown in the screenshot below (picture 13). By applying the necessary criteria (like; Virtual set to Yes and Operating system set to Not Like + words like Server, Linux etc.) you could end-up with this decent reports. The report will display the relation between the physical hosting layer and all the VDI’s running on top, including relevant information like the inventory column. It is important to know if a VDI is not being inventoried by the Snow Inventory Client.
VDI COMPLIANCE IN SNOW LICENSE MANAGER
By using VDI technology in your own IT-estate and being able to report on relevant data with the help of the Snow platform, you will be able to investigate the usage of VDI sessions from different angles. Up until now I’ve tried to explain how the collected data is presented in Snow License Manager and which specific reports will also assist you to get a better understanding of the consumption. A part from all this relevant information, you would also like to establish useful compliance information to determine particular license risks or possible optimization possibilities.
In order to create the correct compliance information, you’ll need to first determine the appropriate license metric that must be applied to each individual applications that is being used from within a VDI session. Vendors likes Microsoft and Adobe might approach the calculation of the required licenses, as to be based on the number of unique physical devices or the number of actual users that have access to a VDI. A vendor like VMware, might approach the calculation as the total number of unique VDI’s that have been accessed during a particular period in time.
Another very important matter might also be the virtual Operating System that is used inside your VDI bubble (environment). Most likely, this will be a Microsoft desktop operating system like Windows 10 or Windows 8. In order to actually run & access a VDI with a Microsoft desktop operating system on your local physical machine, you need to have the right license to do so. I would like this blog to be about the management of VDI environments in Snow License Management, and not spend too much about all the possible and mandatory license rules and available products in the market today. I will however, like to mention that Microsoft basically offers two vital option in order to be compliant on “the right to run & access a VDI that has a Microsoft desktop operating system installed”:
Windows Desktop OS with active Software Assurance (option 1) and Windows Virtual Desktop Access (option 2) are the licensing options required when accessing a Microsoft desktop operating system in a Virtual Machine (like a VDI). Windows SA and Windows VDA are device based licenses, and under select Volume Licensing agreements available in a Per User license option. Essentially the Windows VDA license is for devices or users that do not qualify or do not have Windows SA; such as thin clients, 3rd party owned devices and any device without Windows SA.
To determine and know for sure which license solution would be most suited for your personal situation, I kindly advise you to contact your trusted software advisor, the software vendor or your reseller (LSP) to assist and advice you on this specific topic, both with regards to the Microsoft VDI Operating System license options as well as to the individual applications used in your personal VDI environment!
At the moment, the Snow platform is only able to manage “device based licenses” with regards to the Windows Desktop OS Software Assurance and Windows Virtual Desktop Access licenses.
In the screenshot below (picture 14) I’ve selected the Microsoft Windows 10 Enterprise desktop operating system, and clicked on the compliance tab to hightlight the following.
Having the correct Snow Inventory Client installed on physical machines and in virtual computers like a VDI (Snow Inventory Client 3.7 or higher and for VDI the client must be configured with IsVDI=Yes), the Snow platform will be able to make a very important distinguish. As you can see in picture 14, the total number of unique installations of Windows 10 Enterprise is 842. The total number of Windows 10 Enterprise installed in VDI’s is 23, and is not taken into account.
It is important to understand that although the 23 installation of Windows 10 Enterprise are installed in the VDI environment. The installations must still be licensed with active software assurance (option 1) or VDA licenses (option 2).
Also when looking at the application list of a single VDI, you’ll see the following remark in the “Remark column” (picture 15). The remark means that the operating system is installed on a virtual computer and of course will need to be licenses accordingly.
In the case that you have machines in your environment that are not being inventoried by the Snow Inventory Client, but do use your VDI’s, the following will take place in Snow License Manager. A couple of examples of machines that are not being inventoried could be a thin-client or a zero-client, but I could also be any third party device. In this case, when the Snow platform detects these types of machines it will automatically add the need for a Microsoft VDA license. Also when the Snow platform sees any inventoried machines that is covered with a Windows Desktop OS without active Software Assurance, it will automatically add the need for a Microsoft VDA license.
Using the report “All devices that have accessed a VDI” I will not only know exactly which physical machines has used a VDI, but I’ll also know which of these devices are not being inventoried, as you can see in picture 16. In this particular example, the report contain 10 unique machines that have run & accessed a VDI and that 1 of those 10 machines is not being inventoried.
With the use of picture 17 I can visualize what I meant to say, that the Snow platform will automatically add the need for a Microsoft VDA license. It is not actually an applications that is installed on any device, but it is added to the list of applications to highlight the necessity of the license right! In this way it will also show up in your Microsoft compliance summary.
Before, I actually start adding the necessary quantity of licenses, I would also want to analyse the installation of the actual Microsoft desktop operating system(s) we are using on our physical machines. In this example, I’ve gather information – which I would like to keep very keen and simple – that looks like this (picture 18).
I’ve been able to determine the total amount of unique Windows desktop operating systems that is installed in the VDI environment, but also on physical machines. As already mentioned and determined using the correct report, I know that 10 of these “so-called” installations are from VDI’s. These 10 installations still need to covered with licenses.
The next logical step would be to add the correct license entitlements owed by the company, which in the end should alter & update the Compliance Summary report with the correct facts and figures. From there, you should be able make the best next business decision.
The example in the screenshot (picture 19) below, shows that my company owns a total of 50 Microsoft VDA license based on devices. Hence, that you don’t forget to add the license subscription period.
The other licenses the company owns are Windows Desktop OS licenses with active Software Assurance. In this example shown in picture 20, these are Microsoft Windows 10 Enterprise Plan E3 licenses with active Software Assurance, that you need to activate in the second tab as demonstrated in picture 21. You can either add the actual period of the Software Assurance purchase or use the period of the agreement the license purchase itself is linked to!
Before I end this blog, there is still one vital remark and matter I wish to address. For the applications used from within each VDI session, you need to set the correct license setting in Snow License Manager. Of course, you’ll only need to do this for those applications that actually need a license. The correct metric that might apply, will depend on your personal business choice during the procurement of the licenses. Therefore, you’ll need to look-up the correct metric in your own purchase records, if not already stored in Snow License Manager. I would recon that the most common used metrics will be either per device or per user. In the screenshot (picture 22) below you can see how to alter the license metric for an application.
You first need to select the application that you want to edit. By clicking on “Edit application” you can select the second tab (picture 22) and then apply the correct metric; user or device!
Don’t hesitate to comment on this blog post or reach out to me or any of your local Snow contacts for more assistance and guidance.