In September 2009, VMware announced it signed an OEM agreement with RTOsoft to integrate RTO Virtual Profiles with VMware View. A couple of months later, VMware announced it acquired certain assets from RTOsoft and Virtual Profiles was 1 of them.
To me, this made sense;
-With server/desktop virtualization, you get rid of the dependency between the physical hardware and Operating System,
-Virtual Profiles allow you to remove the dependency between user settings/data and the OS,
-With ThinApp, you will break the dependency between applications and OS.
This way you break apart each component. Now you will be able to manage them separately. All components are isolated/encapsulated and won’t disrupt each other anymore. Now you will be able to move from a 1. device centric (apps, data, profile and OS are bound to the device) approach to a 2. user centric approach; See below..
According to me, this is the right way. The device isn’t important, the user is! The user needs to be able to access his/her data, profile and apps (persona), no matter where and from which device.
So, what is Virtual Profiles and what are the benefits?
With Virtual Profiles, a user’s profile is stored in a central place, the data center. Yes, the same as with roaming profiles everyone is familiar with. You can even use the same profile path for Virtual Profiles as you are using for your roaming profiles. This makes the implementation of Virtual Profiles very easy.
One of the problems with roaming profiles is that logons and logoffs can take quite some time. This will increase when a profile gets bigger and bigger. This is understandable because with roaming profiles there are 2 triggers; logon and logoff. On those moments either the complete profile gets copied to the (virtual) desktop or completely written back to the central place.
One of the goals RTO had was to speed up logon and logoff times significantly. So what Virtual profiles actually does is tricking Windows. When you logon, Virtual Profiles starts working and lets Windows believe the profile has been loaded, but it hasn’t. Well, that’s not entirely true. Some important parts get copied over but most of the profile won’t. Those parts are just pointers to the central place and will get copied over when you need them. An example is a big .iso file on your desktop. With roaming profile, this .iso file will get copied over when you logon. This can slow down the logon process. With Virtual Profiles you will see the .iso file on your desktop but it actually is in the central place. When you access the .iso file it will get copied over. Through, at that moment you will have to wait for the copy to happen but when you don’t touch it (and when does it happen you access ALL your file inside your profile every day?) it just stays in the data center.
This mechanism works both ways. When you save a file to your desktop, it will get copied to the central place immediately and not during logoff.
So, Virtual Profiles will speed up logon and logoff times. I’m not sure if VMware announced a time frame when to include Virtual Profiles in VMware View, so I can’t say anything about that….yet.
One question I get regarding the take over of RTO/Virtual Profiles is whether customers still would need 3rd party tools like RES/Appsense/Scense. This is an interesting question. Bottom line I would say yes. All 3 have good products which will work on top of Virtual Profiles and gives you even more flexibility on user management. They are complementary. I do think though, that the need for those products will move up to larger customers a little. Meaning; that the need for those products might change from, for example, 50 users customers to 100 users customers because Virtual Profiles and a couple of GPO’s could do everything for those customer who would otherwise have bought the 3rd party tools.
Personally, I’m a big fan of those 3rd party tools. Mainly because they are pretty simple to use, easy management interface and gives me more flexibility when it comes to user management; adding short cuts, changing settings etc on a user based base. Also, you could do a lot with GPO’s but that’s not my kind of tool. In my opinion; the more flexible and dynamic you want to be around user management, on top of Virtual Profiles, the bigger the need for tools from those vendors.