Comments over VMware’s decision to not ship Virtual Profiles (the technology VMware gained through their acquisition of RTO software) with VMware View 4.5 continues to rock around the Internet. There are people who bought RTO Virtual Profiles before the acquisition by VMware, who are now upset about the dropping of support (this can be seen in Bridget Botelho’s article on SearchVirtualDesktop.com – Virtual Profiles customers endure VMware acquisition of RTO Software – where RTO customers have now switched to a User Virtualization solution from AppSense) . There are also people who thought that the inclusion of Virtual Profiles in View would solve their user virtualization problems and who now will have to wait longer to try it out, some of which actually purchased VMware View on the premise that RTO Virtual Profile technology would then be included in VMware View 4.5.
All of this misses the point. Whether the RTO Virtual Profile technology makes if into VMware View or not, simple “profile” replacement/management products are not sufficient to successfully virtualize the user. To understand why this is the case we need to stand back and look at the overall objective of desktop virtualization and hence how it achieves its benefits and also the purpose of Profile Management technology. The overall objective of desktop virtualization is to create a more manageable PC platform. The problem with PCs has been that as soon as it is used it becomes unique, and hence has to be supported as such – a more complex and expensive proposition.
The way in which organizations are achieving cost and service delivery goals through desktop virtualization is through componentization, standardization and automation: Treating the client image as a number of separable components that can be standardized and delivered automatically, on demand. Only by doing this can greater efficiency be achieved in the images users are running, which reduces user management costs by eliminating configuration drift which impacts service delivery. Those components consist of OS, corporate apps and the user – not just a user profile, but, ALL aspects of the user.
Profile Management focuses primarily on optimizing the delivery user personalization settings. An important part of the user environment, but by no means is this everything that constitutes you as a user in an organization. In addition, such profile management technology was developed to solve the issues of Roaming Profiles in Server Based Computing environments where profiles were subject to bloat, corruption and lead to increased logon times. Server Based Computing environments that had a consistent operating system and application delivery mechanism, so the user profile was always compatible with the environment i.e. Server 2003 requires Version 1 Windows Profiles where as Server 2008 requires a Version 2 Windows Profile. However in VDI, where different operating systems are used, the same roaming profile cannot be shared and so the profile management technology to speed up logon times is rendered useless. Likewise, with Application Virtualization, not all user settings are saved to the profile, and so profile management is again irrelevant if the profile is not capturing the settings in the first place.
Another way to think of this is that VDI achieves economies of scale across the estate by letting us manage a single instance of each of the desktop components no matter how many users use it. Techniques in use to achieve this include OS streaming and linked clones to deliver the operating system; application virtualization and application publishing to deliver applications; plus user virtualization to deliver all the user-specific aspects of the machine. User virtualization is a critical component in this model because it allows us to deliver a user experience that is familiar and acceptable to the user while giving IT the ability to standardize the underlying components and deliver them as they wish. The user environment consists of all user-specific aspects of the machine and may include user personalization to deliver a familiar look and feel, personal applications where these are allowed, user data, and the ability for the organization to set up the environment as necessary and in accordance with corporate policy. In many ways, the user environment becomes the key to successfully managing in the componentized model because it represents what the user and the business regards as important. It is also very difficult to standardize the user environment, and this is therefore where the real value-add in future desktop estate management lies; a user-centric approach to client computing, not a device or resource-centric view. This makes it critical to select a user virtualization solution with high levels of manageability and scalability.
With this context it is easy to see that a simple profile replacement product would not meet the needs of any but the most simplistic of implementations. The question should not be ‘when will VMware have a profile replacement capability?’ but ‘when will VMware customers use View with their user virtualization platform?’. That platform should allow all aspects of the user to be virtualized and delivered back into the desktop the next time the user logs on. That desktop could be VMware View delivered, Citrix XenDesktop delivered, locally installed, published through Citrix XenApp, virtualized with App-V, ThinApp – or any combination of the above. This way, users get the familiar and productive experience that they would expect, and IT can more effectively manage the platform regardless of desktop delivery mechanism and configure the desktop based on the user or device context.
Any desktop and application personalization solution that is tied to just one platform, profile management for example, is inevitably inefficient. This is evident in Cox Communications whereby they found even when trialing RTO Virtual Profiles prior to the acquisition with VMware View, found profile management alone to be insufficient and instead invested in AppSense User Virtualization to enable the adoption of their virtual desktop roll out. – click this link for PDF
In short, businesses need to give user virtualization their full attention when selecting a solution and not expect that a simple profile replacement product included with a single platform could meet their needs.