Desktop Director is the new web-based, helpdesk-focused operations console for XenDesktop 5. As the architect for this console, I’d like to introduce you to the use cases behind this exciting new XenDesktop feature.

A key theme of XenDesktop 5 is management simplicity. Desktop Studio, the new management console, makes provisioning and delivering desktops a breeze. But what about the on-going, day-to-day management of your virtual desktops?

We asked customers – and by customers I mean the actual administrators managing the system – the following question: “How do we make your job simpler?”

The responses were surprisingly consistent across the broad range customers that we surveyed. Here’s what we heard, and what Desktop Director enables you to do in XenDesktop 5:

“Give me one place to see what’s happening across the system”

You want to proactively manage and resolve issues before users hit problems, but you don’t want to browse multiple consoles, or even browse within a single console, to find out if there’s something that needs your attention. You also want to see a simple summary of the health and usage of the system.

The Dashboard is the home page of Desktop Director. Here are some examples of what you can do:

  • See the number of desktops that are reporting high CPU usage, with a summary of where they’re hosted, who they’re assigned to and what disk they’re using. It’s not just high CPU we report on, we have a number of categories that you asked to see. Internally we refer to this section as the “troublesome desktops.”
  • See the number of desktops being used in one of your desktop groups. We even show you the usage over the last 24 hours (you’ll also see the same data helping you set desktop boot schedules in Desktop Studio).
  • See that one of your hypervisor servers is reporting high network usage. We do this by integrating with the existing alerting system in your hypervisor, so you see the same alerts as your hypervisor administrator.
    The great thing about the dashboard metrics is that they all link to a more detailed view of the affected desktops. Which brings us to the second request we had from customers:

“Let me drill-down to just the information I need to perform my task”

When managing your VDI desktops, you want to have complete control over the data you’re seeing – showing only the desktops and data that you need.

A powerful new feature of Desktop Director is what we internally call the “slice-and-dice” view. As mentioned above, the dashboard takes you directly to this view ready to start investigating or remediating issues. Here are examples of what else you can do:

  • View the desktops on an overloaded hypervisor that have been disconnected for over 24 hours. Send the uses of these desktops a message and log them off. The flexible filtering allows for almost any query you’d need to make.
  • Customize the columns shown for the search you constructed and save this search so that you can get instantly get back to it from anywhere in the console.
    Of course, even with proactive monitoring and management of your system you’ll still need to be reactive to end user problems, which brings us to the third request we heard:

“Help me troubleshoot user problems by showing me all the information relevant to that one user on a single screen”

When a user is experiencing a problem with her virtual desktop, you want quick access to the information and operations needed to efficiently resolve the issue.

One of the major innovations in Desktop Director is the user search and details page. Keeping the focus on simplicity we present a unique user-centric view of the system – unifying several data sources to provide you with the data you need for effective user support. Here’s just a flavour of what you can do:

  • On receiving a report of a user problem, quickly find the user with the intuitive search capability (think Office Communicator-style user searching), see the user’s Active Directory details, the desktops that user has access to and focus on the desktop currently in use.
  • With a single glance, check real-time performance metrics, hypervisor health and status of HDX features. So for example, you can be alerted that HDX Flash is disabled by policy, and view the policies that have been applied to the desktop.
  • Take control by shadowing the user’s session (via Microsoft Remote Assistance) or using one of the session or power operations on the user’s desktop.

On a more technical note, I’ll finish by highlighting two non-UI aspects of Desktop Director that were also driven by customer feedback.

Firstly, we knew that the capabilities outlined above needed to be available out-of-the-box, without the need for further complex setup or significant additional infrastructure requirements. As such, we’ve taken the opportunity to build many of the capabilities into the new generation controller architecture of XenDesktop 5 and also to leverage existing Windows capabilities where possible.

Secondly, we’ve strived to ensure that all capabilities of Desktop Director are also available via public SDKs. In the case of the controller, you’ll find all of the same rich data and flexibility in the new PowerShell SDK that will be released with XenDesktop 5, enabling scripts and custom applications to build upon the capabilities already delivered in Desktop Director.

Thanks for reading,
Richard