5 free tools for VMware View VDI admins to try

VMware provides its own features and capabilities, but creative developers keep filling the gaps with cool and useful utilities of their own

Server-hosted desktop virtualization environments can be tricky. Unlike server virtualization, which is well entrenched in the data center these days, VDI can still be a relatively new concept to desktop administrators, who for the most part have been used to working with local PCs.

Much like server virtualization platform vendors, however, VDI vendors cannot be everything to everyone. There are usually gaps (some small, some large) that need to be addressed, and these usually get filled by third-party software companies and developers in the community. But after spending money on the VDI solution itself, convincing management to spend even more money to tackle these various gaps can prove difficult. I've asked around and decided to start compiling a list of free tools that might help with some of the challenges you're facing with your VDI planning or implementation.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Remotely access VMware virtual desktops with WSX and an HTML5 Web browser. | VMware offers a new free fling that provides capacity planning and community benchmarking. | Keep up on virtualization by signing up for InfoWorld's Virtualization newsletter. ]

Here are five of my recent free VDI tool discoveries:

Quest VDI Assessment

Even before you begin your journey into the world of desktop virtualization and VDI, IT departments should begin with a period of self-assessment to help analyze the potential benefits that can be achieved. Quest VDI Assessment takes a platform-agnostic approach in its analysis, and it allows you to more easily identify which desktops and users within the organization are best suited to each flavor of desktop virtualization, including VDI (hosted virtual desktops), local or offline VDI, Terminal Server (Remote Desktop Session Host), or application virtualization.

Quest VDI Assessment analyzes user behavior and desktop performance over time to build up a complete picture of application usage and resource consumption across the organization. Basically, it's installed in your pre-VDI desktop environment, then it watches what the users do, determines which applications are being used, monitors the intensity (or lack thereof) of each user workload, watches for peripheral usage, and more. After collecting that data for 30 days or longer, it builds a nice report that identifies the best virtualization candidates for different virtualization technologies and uses the results to help build out an ROI model that is unique to the organization. If you haven't done so yet, it can also help assess the viability of a Windows 7 migration.

This is no small freebie offering. Quest VDI Assessment is based on technology licensed from Liquidware Labs, a company with leading technology that was previously available with only a paid consultant. Quest is rebranding this technology and making it available as a self-assessment offering, for free.

However (you knew it was coming), there are a few things to keep in mind. Quest provides no formal tech support; any help will have to come from the Quest community site. But honestly, isn't that usually to be expected from a free product? And although the tool is listed as freeware, the license key downloaded is only good for five days, so install it quickly after download. After that, you must contact someone at Quest to continue to use the software once it has expired. According to the company, an account representative will provide a new key that will preserve the data collected during the initial time period, but it will remain free and operate without restrictions on functionality, and it will support unlimited users.

VDI Flash Calculator

If you don't have the time or patience to wait 30 days or more for your free assessment, you might at least give Andre Leibovici's online VDI Flash Calculator a shot. Remember, properly sizing your VDI environment is one of the most important aspects of creating a VDI infrastructure design. Without knowing and understanding the workloads and the types of users in your environment, you could be setting yourself up for failure.

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