VMware View 5 Persona Management: Improving user-profile control

VMware View 5 arrived with Persona Management, a feature that allows greater control over user profiles during login and logoff.

One of the old knocks against VMware View was its lack of profile management capabilities. Now that Persona Management 

has finally arrived in VMware View 5, let’s take a look at how you can use the feature to manage a user’s profile.

Benefits of View 5 Persona Management
VMware View 5 Persona Management is a streaming user-profile technology. This means when a user accesses the files that make up their profile, the feature copies those files to the user’s desktop from the network location where they’re stored. During login, it downloads only files and registry keys critical to the user login process. This reduces the login time, which is typically slowed down by other roaming profile technologies that copy all files to the local desktop during the login process.

The logoff time is also improved in VMware View 5 Persona Management, because the feature only copies files that were modified, instead of all the profile files. Any files that have been modified synchronize between the desktop to the network location every 10 minutes, which reduces the number of modified files that need to be copied when the user logs off. Another advantage of this synchronization is that Persona Management backs up modified files to the network far more frequently than if it copied them only during logoff.

VMware View 5 Persona Management uses the exact same profile format as Active Directory (AD) Roaming Profiles. In fact, by default, View Persona Management will use the same profile storage location as AD Roaming Profiles, if it is configured. You do need to be careful when using both AD Roaming Profiles and Persona Management for users who roam between physical and virtual machines. This could cause the AD Roaming profile to overwrite the VMware View Persona Management profile. To prevent this, enable the following Group Policy option: “Override Active Directory user profile path if it is configured.”

Persona Management hiccups
One downside of VMware View 5 Persona Management is that it only works with centralized View virtual desktops, not physical machines, Terminal Servers or Local Mode desktops. This limits the advantages of roaming profiles to only View virtual desktops, whereas AD Roaming Profiles and other third-party profile management solutions work regardless of the desktop type.

One special feature of VMware View 5 Persona Management is the ability to use VMware View Composer, an image management and storage optimization tool, to create persistent disks for users with large profiles. In this configuration, the persistent disk acts as a consistent cache location for the profile from one session to the next. The trade-off in this scenario is that Dedicated desktop pools must be used to utilize the persistent disks.

Implementing View 5 Persona Management
Implementing VMware View 5 Persona Management is fairly simple. The functionality within the virtual desktop is installed as part of the View Agent. In addition to the Agent, VMware requires the installation of the User Profile Hive Cleanup service on Windows XP parents. This Microsoft utility ensures that users are properly and fully logged off, which reduces the chance of corrupted profiles. You can configure View Persona Management through the Group Policy applied to the virtual desktops and using ADM templates provided by VMware.

VMware View Persona Management has several other noteworthy capabilities you should know about:

  • Ability to explicitly include or exclude the Local Settings and AppData\Local directories as part of the user profile.
  • Configurable files and folders that are preloaded during login (instead of on demand). The Start Menu Startup folder is always preloaded.
  • Ability to exclude specific directories from the roaming profile.
  • Ability to define whether or not a progress bar displays while downloading a large file.
  • Ability to define a folder as redirected.

All these features add up to a great alternative to AD Roaming Profiles -- at a similar price point (free, if you purchase VMware View Premier licensing). In fact, VMware View 5 Persona Management could easily convert users of Dedicated pools using persistent disks to Floating pools. Overall, the feature makes profile management simpler and cheaper for VMware shops because admins don’t have to bring in a third-party tool. View 5 Persona Management is basic, but for many environments, it will do the job.

This was first published in November 2011

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