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FSLogix is now included in your RDS license, and that is great for your users

Back in November 2018, Microsoft announced acquiring FSLogix. The acquisition should be seen within the context of the WVD launch, and as a continuous effort to improve the adoption of Office 365 for users.

What issue does FSLogix solve? They write the following: “FSLogix is a next-generation application provisioning platform that reduces the amount of hardware, time, and labor required to support virtual desktops. We provide solutions for enterprises to easily and cost-effectively execute their strategic IT vision of the enterprise-class virtual workspace.”

In a 2017 webcast, they highlight FSLogix as being a leading provider in 4 domains:

  1. Office 365 containers
  2. Profile containers
  3. JAVA conflict management
  4. Application masking

In this article, we will give a high-level overview of user profile management techniques & solutions, and, we’ll zoom into FSLogix as a solution for Office 365 containers and Profile containers. We’ll also look into deploying FSLogix as part of an Awingu deployment.

User Profile Management: the basics

Microsoft writes: “A user profile contains data elements about an individual, including configuration information like desktop settings, persistent network connections, and application settings. By default, Windows creates a local user profile that is tightly integrated with the operating system.

A remote user profile provides a partition between user data and the operating system. It allows the operating system to be replaced or changed without affecting the user data. In Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH) and Virtual Desktop Infrastructures (VDI), the operating system may be replaced for the following reasons:

  1. An upgrade of the operating system

  2. A replacement of an existing Virtual Machine (VM)

  3. A user being part of a pooled (non-persistent) RDSH or VDI environment

Microsoft products operate with several technologies for remote user profiles, including these technologies:

  • Roaming user profiles (RUP): Used to redirect user profiles to a file share. This way they can use different computers but still receive the same operating system and application settings.

  • User profile disks (UPD): These UPDs store data of users and applications on a single virtual disk. That disk is then dedicated to one user’s profile.

  • Enterprise state roaming (ESR): This technology makes it possible for users to securely synchronize user and application settings data to the cloud.

UPD and RUP are the most widely used technologies for user profiles in Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH) and Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) environments. […] Existing and legacy Microsoft solutions for user profiles came with various challenges. No previous solution handled all the user profile needs that come with an RDSH or VDI environment. For example, UPD cannot handle large OST files and RUP does not persist in modern settings.”

What is FSLogix?

Where classic solutions such as RUP & UDP run short, FSLogix steps in. It is designed to roam profiles in remote computing environments. “FSLogix stores an entire user profile in a single profile container. At sign in, this container is dynamically attached to the computing environment using natively supported Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) and Hyper-V Virtual Hard disk (VHDX). The user’s profile is immediately available and appears in the system exactly like a native user profile.”* So whenever a user logs in, he can use the new profile container.

For example: Without the use of tools such as FSLogix and FSLogix profile containers – it takes ages before your Outlook application is loaded. Technically, the moment when you want to start the application, your back-end system needs to upload and install your Offline OST file, profile, etc., and that tends to be a lot of data. FSLogix solves this, making this process much faster. This vastly improves customer experience and creates a gain in productivity during the user session.

Based on our analysis, we have composed a very simple pros and cons analysis for the adoption of FSLogix and FSLogix profile containers – basically, it only has pros.

PROS

  • FSlogix makes your login and application load times faster, thus a better experience during the user session

  • FSlogix is easily added to existing environments

  • Office 365 data is stored in VHD so no more need to fetch all data online which can take a long time

  • User profile is always available when starting a session in FSlogix

  • User profile can be stored on separate virtual disks to reduce data on servers

CONS

  • Log out of FSlogix takes additional time when RW VHD is being merged

  • Data loss: Changes made in profile (like saving a file in documents) on a session where only the READ disk is attached, are lost

  • Multiple identical office 365 containers to make it work with Outlook cached mode, where if one of these profile containers is not used for some time it needs to sync a lot of data again

Microsoft describes the benefits of FSLogix through these key drivers:

  • Performance: The FSLogix profile containers are high performance and resolve performance issues that have historically blocked cached exchange mode.

  • OneDrive: Without FSLogix profile containers, OneDrive for Business is not supported in non-persistent RDSH or VDI environments. OneDrive for Business and FSLogix best practices describes how they interact. For more information, see use the sync client on virtual desktops (url below, see Sources).

  • Additional folders: FSLogix provides the ability to extend user profiles to include additional folders.

FSLogix is now part of your RDS license

And now the good news: Since March 2019 FSLogix is available for anyone with an RDS CAL or SAL at no extra cost.

This tweet from Microsoft RDS group manager Scott Manchester sums it up:

“Who will be entitled to #FSLogix?  Anyone with an RDS-CAL, RDS-SAL, VDA, or WVD entitlement. Use the full suite for on-prem or in the cloud. #WVD”

Basically, if you own or subscribe to anything on the following list, you’ll also be entitled to FSLogix:

  • Microsoft 365 E3/E5
  • Microsoft 365 A3/A5/Student Use Benefits
  • Microsoft 365 F1
  • Microsoft 365 Business
  • Windows 10 Enterprise E3/E5
  • Windows 10 Education A3/A5
  • Windows 10 VDA per user
  • Remote Desktop Services (RDS) Client Access License (CAL) (SA not required)
  • Remote Desktop Services (RDS) Subscriber Access License (SAL)

For businesses that operate Office 365 or desktops in a server-based computing environment, this will translate to a significant improvement in end user experience, with opening times for Outlook reduced from minutes to seconds.

Given that this is still fairly new, admins need to request access to the FSLogix license specifically. Go to these pages (1 & 2) for the download information (see sources below).

On July 1st 2019, Microsoft officially releases FSLogix as a Microsoft Product. Find out more about it here!

FSLogix and Awingu

What is Awingu?

The unified workspace offers secure remote access to RDP-based applications or virtual desktops, to file server, and to web applications. That access to those internal network resources is offered in the form of a browser-based workspace, where all services are available (translated to HTML5) from within the browser for your remote workforce. From there, Awingu offers thus a rich turnkey solution with a focus on UX and security.

The Zero Trust solution comes with multiple built-in security capabilities:

  • Multi Factor Authentication (besides using user credentials , IT administrators can enable two factor authentication as an extra layer for security with user login)

  • Encrypted connection with SSL certificate

  • Granular usage controls (easily define which user or user groups can access which applications on which particular servers, can use which capabilities or open files … and claim full control)

    Context awareness (define context based on geo location or ip addresses for users or user groups in which they are allowed to access applications or open files with specific data, …)

  • Usage auditing and anomaly detection (have an overview in the user logs on the login times)

  • Session Recording (possible to enable for specific applications or the whole user session, when users for example need to work with sensitive data)

  • Rich SSO (Single Sign-On) capabilities – that do not rely on password vaulting – with external Identity providers such as Azure AD, Okta and ForgeRock;rces is offered in the form of a browser-based workspace, where all services are available (translated to HTML5) from within the browser for your remote workforce. From there, Awingu offers thus a rich turnkey solution with a focus on UX and security.

Leverage all FSLogix benefits within Awingu

FSLogix plays out completely in the back-end system. Meaning Awingu customers also enjoy the benefits. So if you are hosting Office 365 on non-persistent VDI’s or use RemoteApp, we recommend looking into adding the Microsoft FSLogix component as it can significantly improve the end-user experience.

Awingu 4.2 also supports RDP session merging

In version 4.2, Awingu introduces RDP session merging, meaning the ability to merge application session in the same RDP stream. This will work independently of using UPD or RUP as a profile management solution.

There won’t be any impact on the first application session open time. But as of the 2nd application, the Awingu platform will try to open this from within the same RDP stream. As a result, the user profile data does not need to be loaded as it’s already open from the first application. It will also result in lower CPU and memory usage.

In the back-end, this approach requires running multiple application in the same VM (otherwise, Awingu will not be able to merge the apps in the same RDP session). RDP session merge can be activated per application by the company admin (it is disabled by default). When activated, it also means that Awingu-based features such as ‘session sharing’, ‘session recording’ and ‘open in new tab’ will impact all applications running a session (and not just the one visible to the end-user).

The following picture gives a high-level view of the flows:

Want to find out more and see Awingu in action? Reach out to us!

  • https://blogs.microsoft.com/blog/2018/11/19/microsoft-acquires-fslogix-to-enhance-the-office-365-virtualization-experience/
  • https://fslogix.com/
  • https://youtu.be/rB77oiM4gCg
  • https://fslogix.com/products/profile-containers
  • https://fslogix.com/products/technical-faqs/284-onedrive-for-business-and-fslogix-best-practices
  • https://docs.microsoft.com/deployoffice/rds-onedrive-business-vdi
  • https://twitter.com/RDS4U/status/1108719908647563270
  • https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/fslogix/overview
  • video: https://blog.fslogix.com/deployment-guide-video-for-fslogix-profile-containers-and-office-365-containers
  • FsLogix deployment guide: https://docs.fslogix.com/display/20170529/Deployment+Guides
  • another guide that shows how office 365 containers work: https://wilkyit.com/2017/05/10/fslogix-office-365-container-install-configure-and-testing/
  • install office365 for RDS: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/deployoffice/deploy-office-365-proplus-by-using-remote-desktop-services
  • enabling windows search service: https://blog.fslogix.com/fslogix-containers-search-index-considerations-and-troubleshooting
  • https://www.christiaanbrinkhoff.com/2019/03/21/the-future-of-roaming-profiles-add-fast-logon-performance-and-office-365-support-to-your-virtual-desktop-vdi-daas-environment-with-microsoft-fslogix-profile-container-including-existing-uem-sol/
  • https://stealthpuppy.com/fslogix-containers-capacity/#undefined
  • https://blog.fslogix.com/securing-fslogix-profile-and-office-365-containers
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