How LabStats Supports Virtualization Technologies

June 18, 2021 |  Data
3 min

LabStats supports most VM technologies. Special installation configuration steps may be required to ensure data accuracy.

LabStats will function with many virtualization solutions.

Depending on each environment, specific setup steps or configurations may be required. Some configurations apply to the client, while others apply to your environment. 

The following is a brief overview of the different methods to monitor VDI environments with LabStats. 

But first, you will need to understand how LabStats uses MAC Addresses.

MAC Addresses

LabStats uses MAC Addresses as unique identifiers for stations. This allows LabStats to determine whether the data should go under an existing station or if a new one should be created. This works well in physical environments, but should be carefully managed in virtual environments. 

Many virtual machines (VMs) have variable MAC Addresses, meaning the addresses can change every time the VM is spun up. In large virtual environments, this can create thousands of excess stations in LabStats. Excess MAC Addresses could lead to licensing problems and can also fragment usage data by spreading out login time (ie: an hour here or there among thousands of different station entries), rendering it almost useless.

Depending on your environment, we may recommend one of the following workarounds.

Thin- or Zero-Clients and Installation Parameters

The most common virtual environment involves endpoint devices called thin- or zero-clients. 

In this environment, a VM runs on a server and can be accessed via a simple box that just handles input/output. Many universities have entire labs with these endpoint devices. 

We fully support these environments within two common vendor technologies: VMWare and Citrix, alongside an installation parameter used while installing the client.

Thin- and zero-clients have variable MAC Addresses, but also have their own physical MAC Address, which doesn’t change. By using the INSTALLVMWARE or INSTALLCITRIX parameter during installation (or by following prompts on the installation wizard for single installs), we instruct the LabStats client to use the MAC Address for the endpoint device when checking in, rather than the one on the VM. This ensures that, no matter how many different VMs are accessed at that location, they are all tracked under one single MAC Address. 

The result is a consistent record of usage that looks and functions exactly the same as a standard desktop within LabStats. The drawback is that, if the VM is accessed using a method other than the endpoint device (ie: via a web browser), then that installation parameter configuration will prevent the station from checking-in at all.

If endpoint devices like these will not be used to access the VM, you do have a few other methods of controlling the MAC Addresses that will be checking in.

Static MAC Addresses

You can set the VMs to use one single MAC Address rather than changing whenever they are spun up (sometimes called a static MAC Address). 

If you configure this in your environment, each VM will be tracked just like a desktop in LabStats. 

We recommend organizing your VMs in groups, and creating tags, or something that indicates when there isn’t a physical location for a station. Other than that, there will be very little difference in reporting.

As far as the LabStats installation goes, do not utilize any of the installation parameters. Simply install the client on the VM as if it were a normal desktop.

MAC Address Pool

If static MAC Addresses will not work, you can set up a specific pool of MAC Addresses for the VMs to pull from when they spin up. 

For example, you could designate a set of 100 MAC Addresses. This would ensure that you only need to be licensed for 100 potential stations at any given time so that your VM usage is covered. This solution is not ideal for data integrity as there will still be some fragmentation of data that occurs across all 100 stations, but it keeps things from ballooning too far out of control. Some of that fragmentation could be mitigated by understanding that usage under the group of stations would be accurate, while the individual station level may be a bit more unreliable due to the Addresses within that pool of 100 being randomly selected.

To use this solution, simply install the client on the VM as if it were being installed on a standard desktop.

LabStats usually has little difficulty checking-in and tracking usage on most VM technologies. It’s important to install and manage your VMs to ensure data accuracy. Reach out to LabStats support for assistance getting started or managing your virtual environment.

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