User Virtualization in the Post PC-era?

Today I ran into an article which had an interesting quote;

 Persona Management isn’t mature enough yet, and VMware knows it, Dunkin’s Brennan said. The company probably added it just to “check the box”, but he speculated that VMware would get profile management up to speed by making an acquisition

We can have a discussion about the the first part in another article but especially the acquisition part caught my attention.

So, will VMware acquire another company to speed up its profile management? I think that is an interesting question. A different question but related to the first 1 could be; how important will User Virtualization be in, let’s say, 5 years? Yet another question; will you still need User Virtualization in 5 years?

First, let’s take 1 step back for a minute; Once upon a time, there were Windows PC’s and in Windows NT the profiling scheme was introduced. Then there were roaming profiles, mandatory profiles, default user profiles and Group Policies; all mechanisms to control the user, control and save their settings like printers/wallpaper, their permissions to shares and folders, what they are or aren’t allowed to do like accessing Control Panel. Also, store profiles centrally and users will have the same look and feel from any Windows PC. Separate the user from the Operating System.

Third party vendors like RTO, Appsense, RES and LiquidWare got into this space as well to fill gaps and add new features, moving on where standard Microsoft profiles and GPO’s stopped.

But, all the tools have 1 thing in common; Windows. That’s not a bad thing but it isn’t the only platform anymore to run applications. IOS/Android phones/tablets and Macs are out there in the enterprise, even privately owned ones. The world is changing and I believe it is the Post PC-era already.

Management will change. It has to change. Applications and data will be delivered to different devices in different ways; you access ThinApp apps via VMware View from your private Android Tab 1 moment. Next, you access a SaaS app on your corporate iPhone.

Instead of managing most things on a Windows level/device level, you have to take that management up a couple of levels. To me, that’s the user level. It will become more important who is allowed to access which application/data from what device and place. The underlying Operating System and device will become less important. Horizon App Manager will be that Universal Broker where you set those user based rules.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe Windows will be around for a long time as a platform to execute specific applications. But will that platform be considered to be big enough for VMware to invest in a Windows profile management tool? Again, interesting questions.

Fling; VMware Zimbra for Android

VMware Zimbra for Android (VZA) has been around for a while but it’s not known that well.  It is an email client for Android devices which supports Zimbra backends. At this moment the VZA is a “fling”; a client to test drive, officially not supported.

I have been using the VZA for a while now and I can say it’s a decent client. I find it easy to install and use. It gives me my work email, calendar, tasks and Briefcase. I have my corporate email and files available in 1 app. On top of that, I run the VZA on my Samsung Galaxy SII  and Galaxy Tab 10.1.

The VZA runs on Android 2.1 and above and the current version is 1.28. The app does require an ActiveSync enabled email client on your Android device (on most devices that’s the case). Also, because the VZA is available outside the Android Marketplace, you will need to enable your device to install applications from “unknown sources”.

You can download the client on http://labs.vmware.com/flings/vza More information is available on that site like comments and a video.

If your email environment is Zimbra and you have an Android device, go ahead, download the app and test it.

Cloud based data solutions- Are they forgetting about VDI? Part 2

A little while ago I wrote an article about Cloud Data Solutions like Dropbox, Box.net, Mozy Stash and Project Octopus and that these products can’t be installed in a Floating Pool VDI environment today. The Dropbox client gets installed in a user’s profile so you can’t install it in your master/parents/golden image VM and deploy it to your users. Other products save their config information (server, account name/email address and password) in HKLM in stead of something which is roaming like User\AppData\Roaming. That means all users would have to fill in their credentials every time they logon to a new VM. That’s not the way you want it to be, right?

But, is this the only issue when you look at Cloud Data solutions and roaming desktop users? Let’s brainstorm some more. Let’s assume this client issue can be fixed. Fixing where it saves the credential information shouldn’t be too hard to fix, right?!

So, let’s set the baseline here; we have a VMware View environment (the issues probably apply to other solutions as well), Floating pools, refresh after first use, roaming profile/Persona Management and Folder Redirection, and a Cloud data agent which is working just fine in a floating environment.

What happens when a user logs on for the first time? First thing that needs to be done is to configure the agent. Fill in a username, password and the URL of the Data server/provider. Dropbox, Mozy and other will place their own folder under user\data folder so you are ready to go. Add data to that folder and it will be synced to the “Cloud” (and this Cloud can be on or off premise).

Second time a users logs on, there is no need to fill in the credentials anymore. That was fixed. Yay! The folder under user\data folder is there as well. It’s being roamed by Roaming Profiles/Persona Management and so is your data. Maybe you will have to wait a bit till everything is in sync.

Data is part of your profile (in this example). Is that what we want? Not really. First of all, you will get a huge profile with all that data. When you are using Roaming Profiles you might experience slow logon and logoff times. This is much better with Persona Management though. Secondly, and more important, aren’t you saving data twice now? One time in the Cloud and 1 time in your profile. Your company probably paid an amount of money to get that “Cloud based data storage environment”, like Dropbox/Box.net/Mozy Stash. In this case they also have to invest more money in disks for their file servers because Roaming Profiles are exploding in size and they are saved on central file servers. Folder redirection to speed up logon time when you use Roaming Profiles won’t change a thing. You still need to have central storage to redirect to.

So, this way, data will become expensive. How to solve these issues? Well, the easiest way is not to use an (offline) client. You won’t have the client issues inside a floating desktop and you won’t have to save data twice. Everything you do regarding your data is via your browser. Create a document and upload it directly to the Cloud. Realistically, this can be done but it’s difficult, especially when you edit documents a lot; downloading, edit, uploading again.

Maybe the offline clients can redirect data in a smart way; the folder does show content but it all is located in the Cloud. When you double click a file, then it will be downloaded to your machine, to a temp cache folder. Same happens to other way around. When you drag and drop a file from your VM into the data folder, it will sync to the Cloud and deleted from your VM.

I’m not a developer so I’m not sure if this is possible. What I do know is that Cloud based data solutions and VDI still need some work and thinking. I’m positive though. It will be great.

Cloud based data solutions- Are they forgetting about VDI?

If you follow VMware’s End User Computing strategy/vision, you probably have read that a computer consists of building blocks; Hardware, Operating System, Applications, Data/Settings. Traditionally these layers are tied together and it is very smart to untie them by using virtualization.

Nothing new so far. it is smart to decouple layers. You will be able to manage each piece separately. Users will be more flexible; Any time, any device, anywhere users will be able to get access to apps, settings and data.

So, let’s focus on data for a sec.

We know and understand you shouldn’t lock data in a PC. It’s a bad thing to do. You need to be behind that PC to be able to access that data. So, it’s common to redirect data to a file share inside the company. Now you can access it from any PC inside your company (Folder redirection and Roaming Profiles are mostly used together so that’s my assumption; Folder Redirection and Roaming Profiles/Persona Management are in place).

The limitation with Folder Redirection is that you can’t access it from any device, access it easily from outside your company nor share it easily. The solution for that; Dropbox, Box.net, Mozy Stash and Project Octopus, to name a few. It has to be mentioned; Mozy Stash and Project Octopus are beta/alpha products, not generally available. If you would like to know more about the differences and benefits between Stash/Octopus and Dropbox, click here.

What’s the beauty of the mentioned products? Your data is located in the “Cloud”, and “Cloud” can be on or off premise. Data is residing on a platform which is accessible. All you need to have are Clients on your devices, configured to access your account and your data. Go to the Dropbox or Mozy website and you will be able to get Clients for Mac, Windows, iPad, iPhone and Android (and maybe even other platforms). Great!! You can access your data from all of your devices. Exactly what we all want!

But…what about VDI environments…and let me stick to what I know best..VMware View environments? What about it?, you might ask. Just install, for example Dropbox for Windows and a user is good to go. I noticed a tiny little issue and I wanted to see if it is just me seeing this as an issue. I’m curious about your thoughts.

I do believe the most efficient and user centric way of computing is to use Linked Clone Floating pools with a delete/refresh after first use. All users will get a clean VM, the VM won’t grow much and will revert to its original size. Via ThinApp users will get their apps and Persona Management/Roaming Profiles will give the user’s look and feel. With traditional Folder Redirection, every time you logon to a new VM, you will be able to access your data from a share. I truly like this mechanism and encourage everyone to aim for this method.

So, no Folder Redirection but let’s use Dropbox in stead. I should install Dropbox in my golden image/my parent VM. Then deploy a pool from that parent and everyone should have Dropbox. Configure it and data should be available to that user. Your configuration should be saved in a part of your profile that roams, like AppData\Roaming. Persona Management/Roaming Profiles will save this setting and it will be there on every VM, so you only configure it 1 time. To go easy on the size of your profile, the Dropbox folder will be redirected to a share (default installation is user\My Documents\Dropbox).

Well, I really thought this would make sense but no! The case with Dropbox is that is gets installed in the user’s profile. It’s a per user installation (and to me, also very much per device, so per user-per device). Install it in your golden image and your users won’t even see Dropbox being installed.

I expect other products to have similar issues (I know some do). Either the installation is in someone’s profile or the configuration is device dependent (either saves under AppData\Local or under HKLM, result; not roaming). You don’t want to configure your Data repository every time you logon to a new VM, I assume.

I can access my data from an iPad and iPhone but I can’t access it from my main work environment, a VM. Maybe I’m missing something here and is something totally different coming, solving this issue completely or making it irrelevant. If it isn’t, then I truly hope “they” won’t forget VDI solutions.

One of VMware’s big secrets; ThinApp

In the last couple of months, I have been doing presentations about ThinApp quite a lot. I have noticed that ThinApp still is a big unknown product for many customers/people. It seems ThinApp is a VMware secret and my opinion is ThinApp deserves to be more than a secret.

Let’s reveal ThinApp. Why? Because it is a cool products. It is very good and it is a big part of the End User Computing Journey! So, first a quick overview;

Separate layers;

Traditionally, users are working on a PC at work. It is “their” PC and they work on it everyday. On that PC, an Operating System is installed; let’s say Windows. On top of Windows, applications are installed. Users use those applications to do their job. Also on this PC, user data and settings are saved; their custom look and feel like where the shortcuts are positioned, different wallpaper etc.

You see that a traditional PC consist of 4 blocks; Hardware+Operating System+Applications+data/settings, which are tied together. Managing 1 block could have an effect on another block; Changing the hardware could effect the OS. Updating the OS could effect applications and vice versa. Updating the OS could change personal settings of a user. Bottom line, you need to manage a PC completely, all at the same time. Wouldn’t it be better to be able to manage those blocks separately, independently?

VMware’s vision is to separate those building blocks. Create independent layers with the use of virtualization;

  1. Use a hypervisor/vSphere to separate the OS from the hardware,
  2. Use application virtualization/ThinApp to separate apps from the OS,
  3. Use user virtualization/Persona Management to separate data/settings from the OS.

Now you are able to manage those layers separately.

ThinApp; virtualizing applications;

With VMware ThinApp, you can create virtual Windows applications to run on end points. Picture it as creating a “bubble”. Inside that bubble there is a very small Virtual Operating System and registry. Also in that bubble is your application. It’s running and basically thinking it is installed on an standard Operating System, but it isn’t. It isn’t modifying your OS because of an install because there is no install. Your application makes calls like it does on an OS but the VOS is handling all that. Changes a user makes to the application are written to a ‘Sandbox”, which is by default located in a user’s profile.

Advantages of application virtualization and ThinApp are;

  1. Capture once and deploy multiple times,
  2. Application is running inside a bubble, decoupled from the OS,
  3. This bubble is a single .EXE or .MSI file,
  4. Easy integration with current application management tools/deployment tools,
  5. Virtualized applications run from different devices; desktops, USB devices, Flash, Terminal Servers/XenApp.

Features of ThinApp;

  1. Virtualize Internet Explorer 6 to run on Windows 7; With ThinApp you can virtualize IE6 and run it on Windows 7 desktops. With this feature you are able to move to Windows 7 even if there are legacy applications which require IE6,
  2. ThinDirect; Now, you have created an Internet Explorer 6 virtual package but how does a user know which browser to use for specific websites; the virtual browser or the native, new browser? With ThinDirect you can define which browser needs to open which websites. Example; when a user is browsing the web with IE9 but needs to go to www.vmware.com, and vmware.com needs to be opened with IE6, ThinDirect will detect the user wants to go to vmware.com, opens IE6 and closes IE9. When the user wants to go to another page, which isn’t meant to be opened by IE6, IE9 will open and IE6 will close,
  3. Appsync; Update your packages centrally by using Appsync. Of course virtualized packages need to be updated as well,
  4. AppLink; Basically, 2 bubbles/packages won’t “see” each other because they are virtualized. Sometimes it is necessary for packages to communicate with each other; an example is Internet Explorer and Java Runtime. When you package them separately, they need to be able to communicate to use each other. AppLink makes that possible,
  5. Application Assignment in View Manager; ThinApp packages can be assigned to pools of VM’s via the View Manager. This is a very straightforward procedure to stream and/or copy ThinApp packages to virtual desktops.

Deployment of ThinApp packages;

There are a couple of ways to deploy your virtualized ThinApp packages;

  1. Stream the .EXE packages from a central file share. When a user double clicks a shortcut, the package will automatically start to stream to the desktop. Most important bits will be streamed first so the application can start and be used. Thinreg.exe is a very small tool to make a package “known” to the Operating System; after running thinreg.exe you will see your package in the Start menu and Add/remove programs. Also, file association is being created so for example .pdf files will be opened with a virtualized package of Adobe Reader. Thinreg can be part of a login script or you can use thinreg with tools like Appsense/RES/LWL ProfileUnity.
  2. Streaming is great when all desktops have connection to that central file share. But what if you don’t? Well, you can install the .MSI virtual packages on those desktops/laptops.
  3. As mentioned before under features, you can deploy ThinApp packages via the View manager Console. You can set the deployment to Stream or Full Copy (which is de copy and install of the .MSI package).
  4. You can also deploy your virtual packages via USB drives. Copy the .MSI packages to the drive and users are able to start the virtual apps.
  5. Terminal Server/XenApp; More and more I see ThinApp packages being used in a TS/XenApp environment. In stead of installing applications natively (and create application silos) on TS and XA servers, people add several ThinApp Packages for users to use.

ThinApp and VDI;

Desktop virtualization is booming. Customers are moving from physical to virtual desktops. I believe ThinApping your apps is the first step. Second is the move to virtual desktops. Virtualizing your apps makes a transition to virtual desktops so much easier (and a move to Windows 7). The result is you can deploy clean Windows 7 virtual desktops in a View environment and give users access to their ThinApp’d applications. Virtualize users with Persona Management and you have separated all layers.

Virtualize what you currently have. Virtualize applications, desktops and users. After that embracing the cloud will be the next step, introducing SaaS apps, accessible from a central universal user portal.

Information about ThinApp;

www.vmware.com/products/thinapp

http://blogs.vmware.com/euc/thinapp/

http://blogs.vmware.com/thinapp/

http://www.vmware.com/products/thinapp/related-resources.html

 

Dear Facebook, I’m breaking up with you.

Dear Facebook,

A while ago we got introduced by people around us. They told me I had to meet you and get to know you; “facebook is great, exiting and full of fun and via her you will meet her friends as well”.

We started dating and spending time together. I have to say, honestly, the click people told me we would have, wasn’t there. I didn’t have that “wow” feeling. Unfortunately others were more excited about you than I was. I seriously think I have given us a good try but it isn’t going to work.

I have the feeling it’s too much about small talk; what you are wearing, who you were talking to, where you have been, traffic, song you have been listening to on Spotify, stories about running schedules, babies etc etc. Thing is, I hear those stories from you AND all your friends who became my friends as well. Don’t get me wrong, I can imagine you friends are excited about certain activities and things in life. I can imagine they want to talk about it but that small talk isn’t for me. You, on the other hand, want me to share those kinds of things as well but I can’t and don’t want to do that. I can’t imagine people are interested in all that.

Another thing I wasn’t amused about is that you wanted me to share a lot about myself; where I live, what I do, which school, job, interests, passions etc. All good, that’s part of getting to know each other but then suddenly, you point me to new people to get in touch with. You suddenly come up with products I might like to buy. You mean it well but I can do that perfectly myself, when I want to. On a side note, you should consider doing something with this information. You don’t only know this from me but I noticed you know this kind of information from a lot of people. This can be valuable marketing information : )

Maybe I’m looking for something that stimulates my brain a little bit more. Yes I like my work and everything around it. Maybe I’m just a big nerd and can’t express my personal me well. Your personal side is great, but maybe too much for me. You have 900 million friends!! It must be me that this isn’t working for us.

Now that we are breaking up, it doesn’t mean that I don’t want to speak or see our mutual friends anymore. I don’t want to unfriend them. It’s just I won’t see them via you anymore.

Before the rumor spreads I want you to know I have met someone else. She is great and I think we click great. We can share personal information but a lot of information is about my work and IT related. Her name is Google+.

Lastly, I have heard you find it hard to delete ex friend’s information. Please remove my details from all your devices and address book. I will do the same.