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Get to know virtual desktop image optimization tools

Desktop image optimization tools can help IT run a more efficient VDI deployment by overriding certain native OS functions and utilities.

Virtual desktop image optimization can help maximize user performance and storage efficiency, and there are several tools that can help IT optimize images quickly and for free.

Image optimization involves editing and removing various scheduled OS tasks, Windows services and default applications -- which are redundant in enterprise deployments -- from virtual desktop images. Attendees at last month's online event hosted by Xenappblog.com learned about more best practices for virtual desktop image optimization.

"Microsoft tries to create an OS for a lot of roles and use cases, so you can assume there are many things not configured optimally for your use case," said Dennis Span, senior systems engineer at Generali, an insurance firm based in Italy, in a session.

Benefits and risks of image optimization

Desktop images will still function without any optimization, but making a virtual desktop image more efficient can provide organizations with value in several ways.

On the server side, image optimization can save organizations significant money by reducing the amount of memory each image requires.

"With an optimized image, you are able to host more users per VM. And at the end of the day when you have many hosts and many VMs per host, you can save a lot of money," Span said.

An optimized virtual desktop image also reduces other resource requirements to effectively run desktops, such as memory and IOPS, which lowers the cost of an organization's back-end infrastructure by reducing the amount of necessary hardware components.

"The optimization is about improving the performance of your system, but also improving the user experience," Span said.

If you run an extensive optimization template and you break something, it's very difficult to troubleshoot what caused the issue.
Dennis Spansenior systems engineer of general shared services, Generali

IT professionals can override common tasks in the desktop image, such as antivirus scans, automatic patching and more, to better manage them across the entire deployment. IT can run these resource-intensive tasks outside of business hours to minimize resource consumption, as well.

Organizations can save money by simplifying their infrastructures, but they can also add value by cutting down on latency and lowering logon times. Overriding tasks such as antivirus scans and automatic updates, which could slow down logon attempts and take up resources, can improve overall VDI performance, as well. Optimizing a virtual desktop image comes with a few risks, however, and any error an IT professional makes while setting the configurations can corrupt the entire optimization script.

"If you run an extensive optimization template and you break something, it's very difficult to troubleshoot what caused the issue," Span said.

Optimization tools and templates

IT professionals looking to optimize virtual desktop images have a few options in terms of tools. Citrix Optimizer and VMware OS Optimization Tool, for example, provide XML templates for IT pros to configure the exact optimizations they want for users' desktops. IT pros input commands to the tool's template for the apps, services and maintenance they want to disable or for the settings they want to alter and run an executable script to interact with the OS.

Citrix designed its optimization tool to fit best with XenDesktop and XenApp deployments, and VMware's is designed for Horizon View.

"You have to be careful when using tools on a different platform than it was created for, and you really need to understand each individual setting and make sure it is applicable to your environment," Span said.

Both VMware OS Optimization and Citrix Optimizer offer utilities such as an analyze only option, which IT can use to plan its optimization deployment and a rollback utility to undo a previous optimization. These two tools also allow IT pros to craft custom templates to ensure that they only alter the desired configurations.

There are some crucial differences between these tools, however. With Citrix Optimizer, the script interacts with PowerShell to alter the core settings of the OS. The Citrix templates have options for disabling features and services such as Windows Defender functions, Windows Hello authentication and more.

The VMware templates are more extensive, Span said. VMware's OS Optimization Tool provides IT with more options to customize its deployment, but it also presents some additional risk for potential errors. Troubleshooting template issues can be a painstaking process, so IT pros must consider how in-depth they need their optimization to be when choosing the tool.

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