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Can I use LabStats to track BYOD connections to University VM’s?

The purpose of this article is to give information on how LabStats can be integrated into a BYOD environment. Many universities allow students to connect their personal devices, such as laptops, to virtual desktops and other services provided by the university. These Virtual Machines (VM’s) are a great way for students to access university software and tools from a remote location. This is referred to as a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) environment.

The struggle universities often discover, however, is finding usage data on the VM’s. When students access the university’s resources off campus, it becomes difficult to track how much of the resources are actually being used.

LabStats can help track usage on VM’s, however, some precautions are necessary to prevent the ballooning of license counts. If not set up properly, BYOD connections can cause LabStats to create hundreds of one-time-use stations, especially in environments where VMs are non-persistent. This clutters the station manager and often locks out users because the number of total available licenses has been exceeded.

There are two main options for LabStats users who are wanting to track their VM stats:

  1. Tracking Zero/Thin client (University Owned) connections separately from BYOD connections.
  2. Track all VM usage together.

Note: LabStats supports both VMware View and Citrix VDI environments. LabStats also supports tracking physical thin/zero clients and can report on them as if they were a normal desktop as well as display them in LabMaps. For more information, consult this support document.

Option 1: Tracking Zero/Thin client connections separately from BYOD connections.

Because of LabStats’ machine identification rules, BYOD connections should not share the same VM pool as the physical thin/zero clients in your environment. In a shared pool, with VM’s configured with VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) parameter, every BYOD connection would create a new station within LabStats. This is problematic because the number of stations within LabStats would increase uncontrollably and likely cause a lockout due to license count.

In order to track both the use of physical thin/zero clients as well as BYOD’s, two separate pools of VM’s are required.

  1. The first pool would only allow connections from physical thin/zero clients within your on-campus labs. This pool would be set up with the VDI parameter outlined in the support document linked above. Stations will be created for each zero/thin client and will report on their usage as if they were a normal desktop (even if they are not connecting to the same VM every time). This works because they will be checking in under the thin/zero client’s MAC Address rather than the virtual MAC on the VM.
  2. The second pool of VM’s will be used for BYOD connections. These VM’s should be installed with the LabStats client normally (without the VDI parameter). To prevent station counts from ballooning, it is highly recommended that this pool be created with a static range of possible MAC Addresses that you have enough available licenses to cover. For example, if your range allows for 100 different possible virtual MAC Addresses, then you can expect a maximum of 100 stations to be created within LabStats in relation to them. This will allow you to control the number of used licences.

Option 2: Track all VM usage together

Many users want to simply track application usage on their VM’s and are not concerned with tracking endpoint devices or location-specific data. To track VM usage, the LabStats client should be installed normally, just as it would be on a normal computer (no VDI parameters). There are a couple approaches to keep the number of stations created by the VM tracking from getting out of control. Every organization is different, so some approaches are not always possible. 

  1. Static Hostnames: Ideally the number of stations can be managed easily if a VM pool has a fixed number of hostnames. By default, LabStats creates a new station for every new MAC Address that checks in. It’s common that a VM environment assigns randomly generated virtual MAC Addresses every time a VM is spun up, thus creating a large number of stations within the LabStats portal. By changing the LabStats machine identification rules to ‘Host names are unique,’ the number of stations created can be controlled. Using this method, a single station would be created for every VM hostname, allowing for accurate tracking and management. 
    1. Machine Identification rules can be changed through the LabStats portal by selecting: Admin -> Settings -> Client Settings and then modifying the rules displayed at the bottom of the screen.
  2. Static Range of Mac Addresses: If the previous option is not possible then managing the number of stations created by VM’s can be accomplished by setting a static range of possible MAC Addresses. Like previously stated, if a virtual MAC Address range allows for 100 different possible virtual MAC Addresses, then you can expect up to 100 related stations to be created within LabStats. This will allow you to control the number of licences used.

Tracking all VM usage together is not recommended for those who want to track usage of their thin/zero clients. You will only have a set of data attributed to VMs in general, with no way to tell what lab was used, what thin clients are getting heavy traffic, or what patterns are emerging from the use of specific devices. If you want this kind of location-specific data, please refer to Option 1 and the above linked support article.

Updated on October 17, 2019

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