Thursday, July 16, 2009

VDI Profile Management

By:Rick Rohne

The old trick of using TS Profiles no longer applies to VDI. This is effectivly due to the fact that the user logs onto the Console and not a Terminal Server Session (Event though the connection is made through an RDP or ICA connection). A user's profile consists of registry settings (stored in HKEY_CURRENT_USER) along with the files and folders (favorites, My Documents, cookies, Application Data etc).
Let's explore some of the ways to Accomplish Profile Management in a VDI session.

Appsense User Environment Manager

For virtualized desktop environments, user environment management represents a fundamental change in the way the corporate desktop is constructed, delivered and managed.
The user personality is decoupled from the operating system and applications, managed independently and applied into a desktop as needed without scripting, group policies or use of cumbersome user profiles - regardless of how the desktop is being delivered.
User environment management takes a standardized desktop and applies all aspects of the user to that desktop when the user accesses it. Such aspects of the user not only include personal preferences, such as desktop look and feel, but also company-defined settings such as drive mappings, default printer and application access. This Policy and Personalization data is used in combination to turn a standard desktop into a personal, compliant, managed and accepted user environment.
User environment management also allows the migration of user data from a Physical PC to a Central Store. The user can then be moved to a standardized virtual desktop where the users data is dynamically applied, recreating the PC environment. Personalization changes are persisted between virtual desktop sessions ensuring the user always has a familiar, personal experience.
User Environment Manager is robust and can be used to manage the user environment on All VDI and Terminal Server solutions.

More information can be found at: There's and AppSense for that!

Citrix Profile Manager

User Profile Manager is a Windows service that monitors the logon and logoff process. That means any user that logs onto a Windows environment with this service will have their profile managed by User Profile Manager. The service receives its configuration defining which users and what to manage in these users' profiles through a Group Policy Object (GPO) or an INI file.

Upon User logon, if the user is a member of the defined group, the users settings will be syncronized with the central store. The user's settings (DAT files, files and folders) are all centrally stored on a central CIFS share or in their defined HOME directory. The user now has all their settings and profile data (as defined in the configuration) following them reliably and consistently throughout their sessions.

Upon logoff, any changes within the profile will be copied back to the central share, files and folders that have not changed are not coppied thus allowing a quick logoff.
You can still apply Folder redirection policies such as the Documents, and AppData Folders to eliminate these files from syncronizing within the profile.

VMWare View User Data Disk

An Administrator has the option to create a seperate user data disk for each virtual desktop when leveraging VMware View Composer and linked clones to provision desktops.

A user data disk is a separate storage location attached to the desktop image upon creation. The user data disk redirects the user’s profile and data to a second virtual disk when the user logs onto the virtual desktop, ensuring that each user’s personal settings and data are restored during boot time. This can be useful, after a master image has been updated, to restore the user profile data and maintain continuity.

The User data, however, is not stored centrally, therefore if the virtual machine is powered off, the end user will not have access to the data. The Administrator should take care to preserve the user data and profiles stored on this disk in case they are needed after the desktop is removed.

Server 2008 Policies with Windows Vista or Windows 7

In the past (Windows XP, and Server 2003 or below), the GPO's for user profiles was defined on the User account or you had to implement TS User Profiles for a Windows Terminal Server. Since a VDI session is not considered a Terminal Server session, the TS Profile Path GPO no longer works and you must resort to third party profile management such as the ones listed above.

Windows Vista made numerous changes with how user profiles work. The new policy settings for user profiles exist under Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\System\User Profiles. This policy setting only applies to computers running Windows Server 2008 or Windows Vista. This policy works similar to the way TS Profiles worked in the past, in that the profile is stored on a central share and copied to and from the central share to the machine that the user is logging onto. While TS Profiles and User Roaming Profiles has been problematic in the past, Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 have implemented enhancements to both the way the roaming profile is treated and the way that Folder redirection works.

To understand the new Windows Vista and Server 2008 changes, click here!

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