Thursday, May 12, 2022

Monitoring Azure Virtual Desktop with eG Enterprise

Why Azure Virtual Desktop, and why today?

If there is one thing we learned over the past 2 years, it is that hybrid work is here to stay. Many organizations have struggled with the challenges of working entirely remote during the early days of the pandemic. Digital transformation took a giant leap, and there is no way back. Businesses and organizations are no longer operated the way they were before 2020, and people, who are the most crucial part of a successful digital transformation, have different mindsets and priorities. It requires organizations to adapt and think differently on how to provide a flexible working environment and workplace for everyone.

Looking back, the generally availability of Azure Virtual Desktop could not have come at a better time. Early 2020 I have helped many organizations embrace Azure Virtual Desktop to provide a secure workplace for everyone in a fast and flexible way. To date, Azure Virtual Desktop has grown into a mature platform and got even more traction with the release of Windows 365, Microsoft’s Desktop as a Service on top the Azure Virtual Desktop platform.

Where do innovative ecosystem partners come in?

Even though Azure Virtual Desktop is a feature rich platform, Microsoft works with a large number of ecosystem partners that provide additional value on top of native Azure Virtual Desktop. As more organizations start to use Azure Virtual Desktop, one of the topics that becomes more and more important is getting insights in usage, performance, and monitoring. Out of the box, Azure Virtual Desktop comes with AVD Insights. This is a set of workbooks and dashboards that provides information on the usage of Azure Virtual Desktop based on telemetry data that is being collected in an Azure Log Analytics Workspace. It provides insights on things like average use, concurrency, average logon times, session diagnostics and host performance. Although AVD Insights already provides a lot of information, it is a dashboard that focusses on just the Azure Virtual Desktop layer. The end user experience in Azure virtual Desktop is determined by many more components and services. AVD Insights also not does not tell us much on the perceived end user experience and only allows pinpointing a root cause of a problem to a certain extend.

eG Enterprise for end-to-end monitoring of Azure Virtual Desktop

In scenarios where you want to pinpoint slowness of a user session, get detailed insights on sessions and applications that are used, spot issues in the supporting Cloud infrastructure beyond the Azure Virtual Desktop resources, or want to periodically create detailed reports, you need a 3rd party solution. I’ve had the privilege to personally test drive eG Enterprise 7.2 during a private preview which includes capabilities to monitor Azure Virtual Desktop to provide answers to these questions. In this article I’m sharing some of my experiences.

Sharing my experience with eG Enterprise for Azure Virtual Desktop

First of all, the console of eG Enterprise is entirely web-based, which is great. In my case I’m using eG Enterprise Cloud. As the screenshot below shows, you get an end-to-end topology of the health of our Azure Virtual Desktop environment. Beyond the Azure Virtual Desktop services and session hosts, you can also include supporting infrastructure like Azure Active Directory, Active Directory Domain Services, Azure AD connect and any backend servers or services you are using.

AVD components

Starting with the AVD Brokering services, eG Enterprise provides in-depth details about the Azure Virtual Desktop service by covering your workspaces, app groups and host pools. The example below focuses on a specific host pool showing all details about the current usage. eG Enterprise also has auto-discover functionality for host pools, which makes the configuration super easy.

The great thing here, and this goes for entire console, is that you can click on any items and get more information and history. For example, the screenshot below shows the available Session Hosts over the last 3 hours.

AVD Services

Besides the AVD components you are running, eG Enterprise also monitors the AVD Service itself. For example, detailed availability of the AVD Web Access services as shown below.

AVD Session Hosts

If you drill down into the one of the host pools, you can easily navigate to the performance of a single session host. This allows you to get a very detailed overview of the metrics of user sessions of a single session host as shown below.

Drilling down further you can also get detailed information about the operating system.

User Sessions

Were eG Enterprise really excels is the ability to keep on drilling down into more details, for example the ability to get detailed information about the experience of a single user session.

And in this specific use case, I’m investigating more detailed GPU performance inside the Session Host.

And finally, you can even easily navigate into the performance and resource consumption of individual applications! For example, in the below screenshot I’m looking at the metrics of Microsoft Edge.

Using the top bar menu, you can further drill into the Azure Virtual Desktop environment.

AVD High Level overview

The overview page provides you with a high-level overview of your host pools. It includes information like the number of host pools, the health, and session information per host pool. Again, all of these can be drilled down into by simply clicking on them.

The session hosts tab provides you with a clean summary of the environment. Showing the overall resources consumed, a status per host and information related to active and disconnected sessions.

Again, the console makes it very intuitive to drill down into the performance per individual user showing details like logon duration, round trip latency and bandwidth consumption.

Detailed user session telemetry

Clicking on a specific user provides even more details about the user session. You are presented with session information containing the users IP address, client version, a break down on the logon sequence, and even information on the FSLogix disk usage in the lower right corner.

Again, what I personally really like about eG Enterprise is how almost anything allows you to drill down further and see historical information or discover trends. There are too many scenarios to show here, but for example clicking on the FSLogix disk space, the diagram below shows the growth of the FSlogix Profile Container over time.

On that same page, you can also view more details on the consumption per process for this specific user.

The User Experience tab provides a higher-level overview. In this case for example, I have three active sessions from the same client located West Europe. You can clearly tell one of these three sessions is connected via an Azure Virtual Desktop Control Plane in another region, in this case East US.

Besides all this information per user or per host pool, sometimes you also want to view details on applications across all your environments. This is exactly what the Applications tab contains. The overview below contains the number of instances per application as well as great details on the resource consumption!

Azure Environment

As addressed earlier, eG Enterprise goes beyond the monitoring of Azure Virtual Desktop and is truly end-to-end. The screenshot below shows how eG Enterprise also includes telemetry and health about your Azure environment! For example, you can see the number of virtual machines, their size, location, and SKU. But interestingly also the trend of the virtual machines. This allows you to easily spot changes in number of virtual machines over time as well as gain information on how many of those were powered on and what the top5 trend is in terms of performance. All this information can of course also be found throughout various places in the Azure Portal or using Azure CLI, but the way eG Enterprise brings this information together in a single pane of glass including trends and environment dynamics, which makes it super easy to digest!

Again, the diagram is also highly interactive. As shown below, you can easily get insights in the performance metrics for all virtual machines to spot issues or configure alerting based on thresholds.

Going one level deeper you are presented with even more details about current performance as well as trends about a single virtual machine.

Azure Quotas are typically also something you have to deal with in larger environments. Insights on these quotas are made easily accessible in the console as well. For example, here is the current quota of the NVADSA10v5 Family vCPUs I have running as part of the A10 GPU public preview.

Azure Active Directory

You can also perform in depth monitoring of Azure Active Directory administrative activities. This allows you to keep track of activities and send alerts on suspicious activities related to objects like users, groups, or app registrations.

This also includes Azure Active Directory Sign-in activities as shown below.

The power behind eG Enterprise is that it really allows you to monitor the entire Azure Virtual Desktop stack to achieve end-to-end monitoring. Besides the Azure Virtual Desktop, Azure Infrastructure and Azure Active Directory components you can also add any other service you want to monitor including any SaaS, IaaS, virtualization platform or backends you might be running. For many of those eG Enterprise provides an agentless approach, but where needed, agents for various platforms are also included.

Reporting

Interactive dashboards are great, but a monitoring solution is not complete without reporting functionality. Being able to automatically generate and distribute reports on the usage, uptime and performance of your environment is critical. eG Enterprise comes with a wide variety of different types of reports out of the box. Executive, operational, analytics or domain specific, they are all included. Let’s cover some Azure Virtual Desktop specific examples.

The report below provides details on the usage of Azure Virtual Desktop. It answers questions like who logged on? For how long? What was their average resource consumption?

Furthermore, the reports below show you the top 10 applications being used. These reports can be run on various levels, per broker, per host pool, and per session host.

A very useful report is one related to logon performance. The report below shows you the average logon time during a specific time range, a logon process breakdown as well as detailed analytics of each logon step.

More specifically, you can also generate a report that focusses on slow logons over a period of time. This allows you get insights in where and when slow logons occurred and more importantly, drill down to perform a root cause analysis.

You can also gain detailed insights on the usage per application to find out how often, how long, by which user, and on which session host a specific application was used.

More high level executive KPI reports are also possible. For example, the report below which shows the health of all components in the stack.

All of the reports are customizable including the ability to create full custom reports, and you can also create your favorite reports, exports them to pdf, or automatically generate & email them periodically.

Logon Simulations & synthetic users

eG Enterprise also provides synthetic monitoring solutions that allow you to proactively test, detect, and diagnose problems. A variety of synthetic monitoring functionalities, and logon simulations are provided. You can use synthetic monitoring to baseline the performance and user experience to identify changes in the future.

The screenshot below shows the result of a logon simulation test for Azure Virtual Desktop. I really like the way eG Enterprise presents the information of the logon sequence showing each logon step, and the duration of each individual step.

Note that the last step ‘Application/Desktop launch complete’ shows an image icon, upon clicking that icon, a screenshot is presented showing the actual output, the perceived end user experience!

A great way to confirm a successful test, but of course the real value is also being able to see the result in case of an unsuccessful test. For example, if no Session Hosts are available in the configured host pool, the ‘Session Establishment’ step obviously fails.

And the collected screenshot clearly indicates the reason!

Once you have a baseline test, you are also collecting historical information. For example, the screenshot below shows the test duration over a period of time.

And finally, you can also create reports on logon simulations. The report below is per external agent and shows successful and failed logon simulations over a period of time.

A report by Application/Desktop is also possible. The report below shows the availability of each individual step. Notice the unavailability inside the Application/Desktop launch diagram. That was during the test described earlier where all session hosts were set in drain mode.

Summary

I’m impressed what eG Enterprise has to offer in end-to-end monitoring for Azure Virtual Desktop. The auto discovery capabilities, including out of the box thresholds, allow for easy and fast configuration. Getting detailed insights in logon duration, application launch times and the perceived end user experience is great. The ability to gather load simulation tests details using a synthetic user is super helpful and the way they are displayed in the console is great. eG Enterprise goes beyond monitoring Azure Virtual Desktop only, with the ability to also closely monitor all surrounding infrastructure like Azure, Azure Active Directory, Active Directory Domain Services and any application backend. This makes eG Enterprise truly end-to-end. The reporting capabilities provide highly detailed as well executive level health overviews of your entire environment and can be created periodically in an automated way.

Stay tuned for more news from eG Innovations on eG Enterprise 7.2 and monitoring Azure Virtual Desktop! I want to thank eG Innovations for providing the opportunity to test drive this functionality during preview!

For more information on eG Enterprise for Azure Virtual Desktop visit eginnovations.com/azure-virtual-desktop-monitoring-avd

#AVD #AzureVirtualDesktop #eginnovations

Originally posted here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/monitoring-azure-virtual-desktop-eg-enterprise-freek-berson/

Thursday, March 24, 2022

My repo containing decks & recorded sessions!

My repository contains a continuously growing list of the slide decks I used while presenting 🎥 (and co-presenting with community friends) at various in-person around the world 🌎, online conferences, user groups and webinars. Topics discussed in these sessions are Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD), Remote Desktop Services (RDS), Bicep and ARM Templates and much more!

https://github.com/fberson/Slidedecks



Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Empowering AVD Image deployments with Azure Pipelines, Bicep and Liquit!

In any Cloud implementation, automation is key in becoming successful. Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) is no different. AVD is a service in Azure and for a big part its managed by Microsoft for you. But it doesn’t stop there. Microsoft manages the control plane components and you as the partner or customer organization need to deal with the components that you are responsible for. Basically, anything that shows up in your or your customers Azure Subscription as well as the various AVD clients you use.

This means you as the partner or customer organization can focus on what’s really important, the perceived end user experience and optimizing that experience for your specific use case or scenario. This involves things like auto-scaling, profile management, image optimization and yes, also maintaining applications and putting in place proper application life cycle management.

Its probably no surprise that by far the number one application published and used in AVD is Microsoft 365 apps for enterprise. Microsoft already does a good job at providing that in various marketplace images for AVD including the FSLogix agent that improves the user experience. Most AVD environments however also include 3rd party applications specific to the customers organization.

When dealing with AVD Personal scenarios it makes sense to treat your AVD personal hosts as you would treat your physical devices. Since there is a 1-to-1 relationship between the user and the VM, you can have the same application distribution and update approach for both physical and virtual environments. When dealing with AVD Pooled Scenarios, many organizations prefer a ‘traditional’ approach based on a golden image strategy. This ensures that the user experience is same the regardless of the session host their session lands on. It also allows testing applications and OS updates in a separate staging environment prior to production. Furthermore, it allows reverting back to a previous image version in case issues arise. And, based on Infrastructure as Code, you can deploy and expand your host pool in a fully automated way.

In an ideal world, both user profiles and all applications are fully separated from the Session Host OS. For the first piece is the puzzle, FSLogix Profile Containers already makes sure a user’s profile is fully separated and stored centrally on Azure Files or Azure NetApp files. For the second piece of the puzzle, MSIX app attach is a great solution. It allows you to place an extracted MSIX application inside a VHDX container and attach it to the Session Host. This is fully transparent to the OS as well as to the user. Basically, the OS is tricked into thinking an MSIX application was installed and you can register the application to a set of users. As ideal as this sounds, it does mean that the application needs to be in the MSIX format. Hopefully application vendors will start to embrace MSIX and delivers their applications natively as MSIX too. Until that time however, applications need to be transformed from MSI or Exe towards MSIX. Although there are both free and paid tools out there that help you in this process, most organizations will not achieve 100% success rate in the transformation process.

There are many ways to deal with installing applications as part of your AVD Image Deployment. In this blog post, I focus on using a fully automated approach using Liquit as the application source and an Azure DevOps Pipeline leveraging Bicep and Az Cli for the automation part.

The goals is to create a new image from scratch based on an Azure Market place image, have Liquit install all applications, capture the image towards an Image Gallery and deploy new Session Host servers towards an AVD Host pool.

  • It all starts with a Deployment in Liquit containing the applications we want to install as part of this AVD Image. In this case its a combination of applications coming from the huge Liquit Setup Store as well as custom added and modified applications.
  • As part of an Azure DevOps pipeline, Bicep is used to deploy a new Template VM in Azure based on the OS version and SKU provided as the parameter.
  • Next, the Liquit Agent is installed and a pre-configured agent.xml is downloaded from a secure Azure Files location to configure the Liquit Agent.
  • The Liquit Agent now installs all the applications as configured in the Deployment
  • Next, the Template VM is sysprepped, stopped and deallocated
  • The pipeline continues by capturing the template VM and placing as a new Image Version inside an Azure Compute Gallery (previously Shared Image Gallery) and the sysprepped Template VM is removed from Azure.
  • Next, the pipeline generates a new host pool registration token to prepare for the Session Host servers to be added.
  • And finally, the pipeline deploys x number of Session Host Servers, joins them to the domain, installs the AVD Agent and adds them to the configured Host pool.

The entire process only took 26 minutes to complete! In case of an application update or new application, it can simply be added to the Liquit Deployment and within 26 minutes it is available in the AVD Host pool. Introducing an approval step between a deployment towards a test environment and a production environment can of course easily be added.

Interested in the details and code behind this deployment? Join me on a webinar together with the Liquit team on December 7th 3PM CET, for demo-heavy session that walks through this scenario!

https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/3599764104761845515

#AVD #Liquit #AzureVirtualDesktop

Monday, August 23, 2021

Multimedia redirection for Azure Virtual Desktop preview

Last week the public preview of Multimedia redirection (MMR) for Azure Virtual Desktop was announced! MMR provides the user with a very smooth video playback experience while watching videos in a browser running on Azure Virtual Desktop.

Essentially what happens is that the video from the browser to offloaded to the local machine for faster processing and rendering. As a result of that, the user is presented with a smooth video experience, even when playing a full screen 4k video. Not only that, since the playback is offloaded to the local a significant drop in resources on the AVD host will also occur which leads to a higher user density. Typically you’ll see less CPU used on the AVD host and the local GPU being leveraged.

To get this to work you need a couple of requirements (some of those are related to preview version of MMR). Also note that both Edge and Chrome are supported.

After installing the the multimedia redirection extension on your AVD hosts, it can be enabled inside the browse as shown below.

Once enabled you will see the AVD icon in the upper right corner of your browser indicating the extension is enabled. For this current preview, only YouTube is supported but you can already test other webservices by selecting “Enable for all sites” which, as it states is currently in an experimental face.

To take MMR to the test I did a comparison of running a 4K YouTube video in full screen in an AVD Session with and without MMR enabled on a session host without GPU.

Azure Virtual Desktop Multimedia Redirection (preview) — YouTube

The video playback in the remote session was very smooth with MMR enabled and there was a significant drop in CPU usage noticeable. Also, the local GPU was clearly being leveraged for the rendering of the offloaded YouTube video.

Although still in public preview with some current limitations to be aware of and this being a very early test, the results were already amazing. I’m looking forward to seeing how this continues to evolve.