ProfileUnity – Defining User Experience

ProfileUnity has been around for a number of years in the Liquidware portfolio. It delivers user environment management, including user profiles, secure policies, and access to user authored data. Sounds simple right?  After all, there are other one-off tools in the market that handle these individual things.  What sets ProfileUnity apart?  Why use it when you may already have “free” single use case tools or a solution provided by another vendor?  Read on my friends…

Profiles

First off, the Liquidware portfolio (ProfileUnity, FlexApp, and Stratusphere UX) is completely agnostic by not favoring a particular desktop delivery platform.  Really, what we are managing is Windows. That’s it.  We have no requirements for a particular broker, hypervisor, cloud, anything. In fact, with all three products, you can manage Windows across physical, virtual and cloud.  Are your desktops completely physical today and you are looking at moving some or all of them to virtual or full cloud. Or are you even going back to physical desktops?  Liquidware has you covered the entire way.

In the vein of being agnostic, ProfileUnity also supports native, object-based cloud storage across all three major cloud vendors:  Azure, AWS and Google. Supported started back in April 2018 with the release of 6.7.5 and AWS support.  6.7.6, also released in April 2018 saw support for Azure and Google Cloud added.  At the time of this writing, we have supported all three clouds for over five months.  Why is this important?  Traditionally, to save user profile information you would require access to a file share.  This is fine for on-prem but what if you want to move to some Windows boxes to the cloud?  Why should you have to put up a file server simply for saving profiles and incur the extra cost of running a file server or multiple file servers?  It didn’t make sense, so we added the ability to save to object-based storage which is significantly less expensive and much more resilient than IaaS.  This gives you a lot of flexibility in how and where you store profiles.  As an administrator, you are not restricted.

Second, let’s talk Office 365.  ProfileUnity has a technology called Profile Disk and Profile Containers that have been around since 2014.  It is a VHD or VMDK that is attached to Windows at user login and captures the entirety of the user profile.  This essentially makes the profile a local profile versus roaming.  What does that have to do with Office 365 though?  A few things:  1) it means we can capture a user’s OST so for all intents and purposes it is local and not over the network, 2) we can capture the search index for that user, 3) OneDrive can be redirected to it as well.  That’s the easy stuff.

Third is Profile Portability.  Microsoft has made it a habit of changing profile versions over the years.  This is important because if the version is changed, then user profiles are started over.  If you have two desktops, one is Windows 7 and the other is Windows 10, then the user will have at least two different profiles (Windows 10 has at least four profile versions already!).  All of these profiles are not compatible with each other.  For administrators, this dynamic can feel like a lose/lose situation.  As an admin, you lose if you decide to migrate profile information from an older version to a newer version.  This is typically labor intensive.  You also lose if you decide that it’s easier to simply start over new.  The lose is because your users will be extraordinarily upset because they’ve lost their customized settings. User productivity can also suffer if the move causes downtime.  Then you must deal with the fallout from that decision and if an executive gets involved…well, it’s not always pretty.

ProfileUnity is able to make a profile completely version agnostic to the profile version – in seconds at user logon.  If Microsoft flips the version bit, users will continue happily working along.  They will have their settings, configurations, etc.  Happy users, happy admin.  Ok, the profile is now migrated to Windows 10 but what if the user still needs access to Windows 7 for an important app that hasn’t been updated yet.  Most profile solutions the user would have two separate and distinct profiles now.  With ProfileUnity, the user can go back and forth between operating systems WITH THE SAME PROFILE!  This is not a one-way migration. This is true portability.

Policy Management

ProfileUnity will also help with policy management.  You can use ProfileUnity to assign printers, map drives, redirect folders, set environment variables, start menu, file associations and much more.  It can be used in place of Group Policy or along side Group Policy.  This will definitely help speed up log in times by moving many of the functions in Group Policy over to ProfileUnity.

Tired of making your users local administrators?  Take that away and use the privilege elevation function of ProfileUnity or deny privilege as well.  You can elevate on path, hash, or digital signature.

ProfileUnity assigns policies at an Admin level, even for Standard users. This powerful capability sets ProfileUnity apart allowing it to secure and lockdown desktops (disable USB save, hide control panels, etc), append to the user profile and registry outside of the user-level settings, and more.

Other Stuff

The ProfileUnity central management console is also leveraged to deploy Liquidware FlexApp layered applications as well.  This allows for one console to manage the entire user environment.  This also means that, on the user’s endpoint, there is only one agent, one filter driver and services to do all of this.  Due to this, it is very easy for Liquidware to coordinate all three pieces.  For example, a user’s profile can be delivered before a FlexApp is fully attached.  This is not an issue because the service knows it happened and can take measures to make sure that the profile pieces for that FlexApp are applied accordingly. Also,

Remember the context-aware filters (conditions) I discussed in the FlexApp blog?  Those same filters are used throughout ProfileUnity and can apply registry key edits and elevation for FlexApp applications if required. There are also triggers that can be configured to apply or take away settings.  For example, ProfileUnity can be used to implement location-based printing.  This is done through triggers, say with the reconnect trigger.

Conclusion

This is a very small subset of what ProfileUnity has to offer.  There are many more features that you can check out very easily by downloading and doing a POC.  I would encourage everybody to take a good look at what we have to offer to enhance the user experience on Windows and how easy it is for you as the administrator to setup and deploy.

My next article will be on Stratusphere UX and how that can quantify the user experience and give you insight into everything that would affect that experience.

The 9 Most Requested Layering Features Over The Years And FlexApp Has Them

Introduction

This blog is really about what I thought I knew about layering products and how much I simply didn’t know.  I’ve been working with layering for about as long as anyone and I made the mistake of thinking that all layering products were essentially the same.  Sure they each did things a little differently but in the end the concepts were the same and their abilities were, for all intents and purposes, the same.  Boy was I wrong.

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Hello EUC World, It’s Me, Jeff Pitsch

For those that don’t know me, I’ve been in the EUC space for 20+ years.  I cut my teeth on WinFrame in what feels like a lifetime ago (in technology time it actually was).  In that time, I was a founding member of the CTP program and a Microsoft MVP for a number of years in Terminal Services/RDSH.  I’ve worked with small companies and Multi-national corporations on their Citrix environments but six and a half years ago I took a job at a company called Unidesk.  They had this technology called layering and it offered a way of delivering applications that was unique.  Over those years layering companies have come and gone (including Unidesk) but layering has grown in popularity and has, in my opinion, really started to take off in enterprise application deployments.  Why has it taken so long?  Simple answer is every technology takes time to grow and when it reaches a certain point it either stays and grows or dies on the vine.  Basically, smaller companies work out the “new technology” kinks and enterprises pick it up from there.

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