ManageEngine Desktop Central Review

Patch and upgrade many devices simultaneously in a DevSecOps pipeline which is effective but demanding on resources

What is our primary use case?

I am certified for two of the modules of ManageEngine. I am a certified associate for AD Manager Plus (Active Directory Management) and I also have the certification for Desktop Central. Desktop Central is a management module used to manage devices and services from one location.  

To manage a large number of users and devices and push upgrades and patches, we need a solution that allows us to do that in an efficient way. We can do this with Microsoft Active Directory. That would be our primary use case for this solution. There are other things that we do with it.   

If we want to track an incident more closely to do some root-cause analysis, Desktop Central can help us with this.  

If I have a large group or area of a company that extends into EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) and APAC (Asia-Pacific) and maybe LATAM (Latin America) that is on Windows 7 and I want to upgrade multiple devices to Windows 10, I can plan for these upgrades and do them simultaneously. Desktop Central has certain use cases within IT, Ops, and DevSecOps (security as a part of software development and IT operations) roles. Using these you can build a DevSecOps pipeline using Desktop Central.  

In the case of a well-formed pipeline, the Ops is given the liberty to do the releases rather than having to get IT involved at multiple locations. With minimal help, the Ops can do the releases on their phone, they just have to define the release and the release goes out smoothly without any IT intervention. The automation process can be built out this way to give technical control to non-technical users. We built our own platform for doing that from scratch. But the technology matured and there are more options available from vendors to solve these issues. We chose to deploy Desktop Center as our dedicated solution.  

How has it helped my organization?

It has greatly simplified updating and patching within our systems.  

What is most valuable?

From my hands-on experience, the features I have found the most valuable in Desktop Central is the way it is tightly coupled with the rest of the modules and the entire gamut of ManageEngine. So if I want to collect data about who the users are on the system, I can pull that from the Active Directory. The AD Workbench is a dashboard that gives all the data about the users enterprise-wide.  

Desktop Central has got a dedicated mobile device management module. ManageEngine has got the complete gamut of offerings. It has got asset management, service management, and asset classification. It can do any kind of patch management. It is best at the general management of assets and reporting.  

For example, we can use it for virtually anything having to do with security on endpoints. Say we have maybe 4,000-plus devices that we have to monitor and upgrade the OSS (Operations Support Systems) and apply patching. This can all be handled with Desktop Central from a central location. That is what makes it a very good option.  

Desktop Central manages pushing upgrades to endpoints and how to securely manage those endpoints. That is how it is most useful.  

What needs improvement?

The product has several places where there is room for improvement.  

Although it is on the cloud, sometimes the performance is slower than it should be. One of the reasons could be that it is tightly integrated and tight coupled with the rest of the modules and all of them have to be in sync. This syncing takes time and resources. When I go to our Desktop Central console, sometimes it runs slowly. So performance is one place where it could have room for improvement.  

In terms of patching, which is a major benefit of the package, patch management can work even better as well. The vulnerabilities are obvious. Every day we get reports on a lot of new vulnerabilities. It is clear that ManageEngine is doing the patching and the package is easily deployed once they are developed and available. The incident management, the root cause, the planning of the resolution, the service management — all these things are known and available. The team at ManageEngine is good at that. But they do not provide reports to user admins on the development and delivery which is information they already have and admins could use. Once the patch is added to the repository the defense against vulnerabilities improves. But the information about developments and vulnerabilities would be good to have and could be shared more candidly.  

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been working with Desktop Central since February 2020, so that is about six months now.  

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The product is constantly being upgraded by the vendor for any known issues with some features or some bugs. That kind of stability issue will always be temporary.  

There can be minor bugs that linger because they are not affecting operational issues, but even these can be escalated for fixing. We can get it fixed through the support and the product team for that. We talk directly to the product team if we feel something is important. It can happen over the phone, or it can happen by email. The entire product team has got different account managers for each of their customers. We can go directly to the team professionals that we need and get a bug fix and get it applied.  

Although Desktop Central is performing well, it sometimes experiences lag because of the resources available. The CPU and memory available might be temporarily low. Desktop Central needs a lot of resources to perform its services and syncing.  

Overall we have not had any serious, lingering issues with stability.  

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We have not had any issues overall with any type of scalability. Right now we might have more than 12,000, 15,000-plus users spread across the geography. We can add more.  

All the service management gets taken care of by Desktop Central, which monitors everything. So if you need to expand services you configure this in Desktop Central. There are business KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), so it is KPI driven. How many incidents we are expecting, how much we can scale and all these system variables can be driven by business KPIs.  

Quest Office has a product called Foglight that has been used for quite a long time to order business KPIs. There are two different types of KPIs: the business KPIs, and then the functional or technical KPIs. So those are all integrated with Desktop Central from Foglight.  

We have incident management through Alacrity which is made by a different segment of BMC Software which has also got the product called Remedy. Alacrity is something similar.  

Within Desktop Central there is a production management function that is at the core of the application. When we configure Alacrity to care for incident management or Foglight to manage KPIs, this becomes integrated with the Desktop Central modules.  

We can tightly integrate other applications to the Desktop Central solution and expand out what it oversees and interacts with.  

If the workload increases, we can scale services easily on the cloud or make other plans for enhancing our architecture.  

How are customer service and technical support?

I am quite satisfied with the customer support. They have bigger support teams available and the routing to the proper people and resources is quite good. They have support out of different cities, so they 'follow the sun' from the perspective of support and the availability is quite good all the time.  

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

VMware was our solution at first. It was a PaaS (Platform as a Service) offering with built-in security and a part of vCloud Air. Workspace ONE was on the top of that. It was the first real desktop virtualization. Like Citrix, it gives you VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure). With that, VMs can easily be managed through Workspace ONE and integrated VDIs.  

If I already have VMware and vSphere as my core backbone for the virtualization strategy in the organization, I might also look at automation for deploying updates. If I have a containerized application that is not automated, I can build in the automation using the DevSecOps pipeline or I can look for another solution. If you want to do the DevSecOps pipeline in the VMware workspace, you can do that with vRealize automation.  

VMware, compared to Desktop Central, is far more expensive. Desktop Central has got a license and pricing advantage similar to your windows update and Windows WUSP (Windows Update Services: Client-Server Protocol). That is your Windows update platform. With Desktop Central, you pay something similar to that. It is only a few dollars per license per user.  

Switching to Desktop Central was a matter of having an opportunity to make a switch, keeping aware of the developments in the technology and on the market, and moving to a product that was cheaper and had the capabilities that we needed to carry out the task.   

How was the initial setup?

Our process and roll out for doing the setups are pretty easy. We have managed to gain familiarity with the product and created a pretty smooth process for the installations.  

I have installed a lot of modules by myself, like EDI Manager, and I even installed Desktop Central. We run tests until we are satisfied that these two modules are installed correctly and this usually does not take much time.  

What about the implementation team?

We do not necessarily handle the setup and deployment totally by ourselves. We stay connected to the managing and support team. There are different product teams within the managing team. There is one for EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) Manager, there is one for Desktop Central, there is another one for the service management. There are many different parts at the support team level. Most of the installations do not require assistance but we can consult support when required. They will help us cope with any sticking point and we can move on from there.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Desktop Central can be less expensive than other solutions like VMware for managing DevSecOps. You have to pay per asset with Desktop Central and the final cost depends on how many assets you have across the organization. Per asset, the license cost will be less than using a more expensive license for VMware and vRealize. I think per desktop it might be somewhere around $50 or $100 each using ManageEngine.  

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

This is the only product I have in mind for this type of solution currently, although we have not evaluated Sophos yet. After that, there is only Citrix and VM Workspace ONE. Citrix is the oldest vendor we have had since Citrix MetaFrame Presentations Server days. At that time they were using screen sharing on desktops, RDPs (Remote Desktop Protocol), and still using all those older technologies. So that is too old as a solution. Desktop Central is doing much better things and has advanced well beyond that solution.  

What other advice do I have?

My advice to people looking into this solution is that if you want to improve on the patching processes as a part of a DevSecOps pipeline, Desktop Central can help you do that. It will help you make that workflow easier and it is a better option than other solutions. So this works out to be a better because everything is built-in. You do not have to integrate with any other company's portal or any other incident management or tracking.  

If you plan for a patch, there are different tools to use, different notifications to set for the patch, and they can be administered within Desktop Central itself. So the admin can approve it and once the notification changes, the patch can be released to the endpoints. That works pretty fast. That built-in workflow makes it more productive and easier to use.  

On a scale from one to ten, where one is the worst and ten is the best, I would rate Desktop Central higher than the VMware and Citrix Workspaces. The workflows are much better and easier, and the different roles for IT and Ops are well defined. So I would rate somewhere around seven.  

It is a seven because it still has got some room for improvement, but I think seven is good.  

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Public Cloud
**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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