It seems as if the end of standard desktop computing has all but come to an end, or will shortly. Many companies have thrown out the inflexible desktop PC model for their employees for a much better suited virtual desktop model. What does this do? For starters, it gives the end user much more freedom than they've ever had with their desktop PC. These days, there are numerous options for end points that are suitable to load your virtual desktop on. You can even be at the ball game, working on your virtual desktop via VMware View, which is all accessed from a client loaded on your iPad. The possibilities are endless.
Many times as an end user you don't question the "how" of your desktop; you just log in and want it to boot up without any issues, and you want it done fast. There are many things that go on behind the scenes in a VDI environment and one of the most important things is profile or persona management. Why is it important? That's a good question and one that is not usually given a second thought, that is until something goes wrong and your desktop is hung on "applying personal settings" for 20 minutes. That is when the "how" of VDI gets questioned.
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What is Profile Management?
In a nutshell, profile management is what goes on behind the scenes when you log onto your virtual desktop. You type in your username and password, hit enter, and profile management kicks in. In traditional desktop computing, the user's profile is generally stored on the local drive or C: drive of the PC. If this was the case in VDI, it would be defeating the purpose altogether (see my post on Persistent vs. Non-persistent VDI). Locally stored profiles physically tie the end user to the desktop PC itself.
Traditional desktop computing is cumbersome and a very inflexible means of end user computing. When VDI and a suitable profile management tool are married together, it creates a flexible, on-demand style of desktop computing that puts the user in control of when and where they work from their desktop. A user profile, also known as user persona, is simply the user's personal settings, pictures, Word documents, Internet favorites and more, which load each time that user logs into their virtual desktop. Most importantly, user persona typically includes the user's Windows profile. These are all settings which are absolutely unique to the end user and can become a real pain point for the user when they load really slow or not at all.
When you talk about virtual desktop computing, you can't go without mentioning the industry leader, VMware. With the release of VMware View 5 comes VMware's own proprietary profile management tool called View Persona Management (View PM). At first glance, you might think that this is just another profile management tool that works with View 5, but it's much more than that.
How Does View Persona Management Work?
The most compelling benefit of View Persona Management is that it virtually (no pun intended) eliminates the need to deal with Windows Roaming profiles. Any administrator who has had to troubleshoot and deal with roaming profile issues understands how attractive this feature is. It might be crazy to think that you would actually bypass Windows Roaming Profiles, but it does just that.
Before I go any further into explaining how it bypasses roaming profiles, it's important to note that it doesn't create a situation where you have to wipe out your entire roaming profile repository; you can still use it to be your profile repository. With View Persona Management, you build a profile repository which all user profiles will point to when either logging in or logging out. What sets it apart from roaming profiles is that you update any changes made to your profile every 10 minutes by default (this can be set to whatever you want) to the repository you built upon installation of View Persona Management.
With roaming profiles, you actually upload all changes made to your profile upon log out, which at times can be a very long log out. Then on log in, your entire profile must be pulled down from the repository; that's where things start to get slow for the end user when logging in. This is thankfully not the case in View Persona Management; it's a much more intelligent and logical solution. In View Persona Management, when you log on to your virtual desktop, your profile only pulls down the bare bones of what you need to get logged in, such as your registry files, so that it's a much more streamlined and quick process. Now, as you need to open a Word document or Excel spreadsheet, View Persona Management reaches out to the repository and downloads it. Your view of the files on your desktop will be no different; you just end up downloading the items as you open them.
Some other benefits to mention with View Persona Management include:
- Not having to implement and configure 3rd party profile managers.
- Not having to deal with building a VDI environment with all persistent desktops which creates an expensive storage burden.
- Avoiding the all too common "boot storm" in which hundreds of users log on at the same time of day, creating a major bottleneck in profile loading.
VMware View Persona Management gives you the flexibility to create a VDI environment where you can allow your end users to log into their virtual desktops from just about any end point, without the dread of dealing with roaming profile issues and dragging log on times. This is a built in, proprietary VMware tool that can alleviate the administrative pain of managing a large VDI environment and at the same time, ease the pain of profile issues for the end users. When the end user is happy, the administrator is too!