User Experience Virtualization In-Depth
Now that we’ve scratched the surface of User Experience Virtualization (UE-V) it’s time to dig a little deeper and explore how to start utilizing it.
There are three principal components you’ll need to implement in order to take advantage of UE-V:
- Folder Redirection + File Shares
- UE-V Agents
- UE-V Templates
For the first item, it’s important to note that UE-V is a settings-focused technology. It’s not designed to move user data between locations (although you can customize templates to scan for and move particular data locations) and as such, you’ll need to implement technologies such as Active Directory Folder Redirection (via group policy) or move data to a platform such as SharePoint Online or Office 365. Implementing folder redirection is an easy technology in Windows 7, but if you’re still running a mixed environment with some legacy XP boxes, you’ll need to plan carefully how to implement to reduce headaches down the road.
Once you’ve ensured your data is in a central location, you’ll need to setup a file share to enable UE-V to centrally located its template files and user settings. The benefit of using a central file share for UE-V is that is neatly solves the most thorny of problems in the current roaming profile environment: how to roll back settings to an earlier version. By utilizing a central file share, you can roll back settings to an earlier state easily for staff, even for specific applications. You’ll use the
Now that the data repositories are taken care of, it’s time to deploy the UE-V agents themselves. Nicely, UE-V is a fairly minimal application that can be deployed in any number of scenarios. The most enterprise friendly, of course, it to use System Center Configuration Manager 2012, to ensure that every device on the network receives it. Alternatively, you can use Windows Intune to help deploy the agent to machines. Because of the way UE-V operates the agents will need access to the template files, so although remote staff can make use of UE-V, they’ll need to start fresh to ensure their profile data is stored in the proper location. (Having a large roaming profile, while on the road won’t be mitigated by installing UE-V!) The other key item to the agent is that the UE-V template location is controlled by group policy (or the registry) and so using SCCM, AD or Intune to distribute those policies is key.
Once you’ve configured the template locations, the agents are ready to roll. The only thing left to do is to configure the templates themselves! To do so you’ll need to fire up the UE-V generator, a simple application that takes snapshots of applications looking for modified files and registry settings. Because the architecture of UE-V is an “opt-in” profile technology, you’ll need to sequence any applications that you wish to pull into the mix. Applications you don’t choose to sequence will continue to work in their existing mode (either as part of a local profile, or a roaming profile). The generator itself is a very easy to use program: while sequencing the application you’ll have the option to select additional files, or additional registry keys, that you want to sequence. Once the generator finishes, you’ll have an easy to manipulate XML file in case you wish to make future changes. As an added benefit for those of us disinclined to edit XML, the generator allows you to edit existing templates easily with the same wizard used to create templates, as well as validate whether a particular template is formatted correctly.
Through proper user of templates, the real advantage of UE-V begins to shine: administrators can deploy custom application settings to different groups, ensure that the operating system is never again slowed down by a poorly coded application, and new features like App-V 5.0 still retain their settings in a central location that can be adjusted by administrators. Because templates are simple XML files, they can also be shared between organizations, ensuring that if you’re looking for a template for a 3rd party application, another UE-V admin may have already solved your problem for you! The current UE-V template gallery contains a wide variety of applications, even when the technology is still in beta.
If you’re interested in exploring UE-V, or helping to drive down the cost of supporting your staff, New Signature has the expertise to get a pilot off the ground and showing immediate benefits. Reach out to us today!