You may have noticed that Citrix released its XenApp and XenDesktop feature called Profile Management in late January and we mentioned it again as a part of the XenApp 5 Feature Pack announcement that went out on February 23rd. As you read through the documentation, you may be asking yourself, “What’s in it for me?  How will it benefit my organization?”

First, profiles is a subject area that administrators don’t love.  Don’t even like.  And, based on my field experience in Citrix Consulting, I’d say that at least 75% of all administrators don’t fully understand profiles, although they’re a necessary part of a successful IT infrastructure.  If you’re looking for some basic information on profiles that’s easy to understand, check out CTX120285.

Secondarily, as you consider profile management, ask yourself whether the standard Microsoft solution, i.e. local, mandatory, and roaming profiles, as well as Terminal Service mandatory and roaming profiles, will address your organization adequately. There’s no sense in fixing something if it isn’t broken, right? When addressing a profile decision, the solutions architect should consider not only the technical factors, but also the business aspects. Can and will the administrators maintain anything other than a standard Microsoft solution?  If you can’t answer with a firm yes, then you can bet that the profile solution will become a mess within several months of the implementation.

So, where does XenApp and XenDesktop’s Profile Management feature fit?  Basically, where the standard Microsoft solutions don’t address your requirements AND where you can get consensus from your teams to stick with a non-Microsoft solution over the long run. If you can satisfy those two key requirements, then Profile management will be a great solution for IT and for your users.  For example, if users access XenApp hosted apps hosted from multiple servers or farms, last-write-wins issues can cause users to become dissatisfied (okay, downright angry).  Some standard options to address this are Terminal Services mandatory profiles and multiple roaming/mandatory profiles. If these solutions have proven unreliable or inconsistent and are just causing problems for you and your users, then Profile management is what you need.  If mandatory profiles work for you, then life is good.  If you’ve ever looked into how to implement multiple roaming/mandatory profiles, your head may spin – plus it may not definitively address your needs. Now consider the maintenance aspect. Here’s where Profile management really shines.

Some use cases for Citrix Profile Management are:

  • User accesses multiple XenApp server silos or farms and opens multiple sessions that cause last write wins issues
  • User accesses multiple desktops, including XenDesktop where their user settings won’t otherwise be carried over to additional desktops, especially where the OS is different
  • Roaming profile corruption issues are rampant

Before implementing Profile management, review the following environment considerations:

  • Going back to the Microsoft profile solutions, have you considered folder redirection? If you can redirect folders such as AppData and Documents and suffice with mandatory profiles, simple is good.
  • Because Citrix Profile Management will take control of the user profiles based on OU, will another administrator attempt to configure Microsoft-based profiles and wonder why they didn’t work?  One administrator has to know what the other administrator is doing.
  • Although installation and management of Citrix Profile Management isn’t difficult, how will maintenance be addressed?  For example, will installation of Citrix Profile Management be incorporated into the base XenApp server build? If not, the Profile Management service won’t be available and started on new servers.

Is Profile management a great solution? Yes. Is it a silver bullet for every situation? Quite honestly, no. There are some considerations and maintenance aspects of Citrix Profile Management but where it fits these niche requirements and environment, it totally rocks! 

Want to learn more? Check out information regarding implementing Citrix Profile Management (CTX118943) or Best Practices for Profile Management (CTX119036). Also, take a look at Stay tuned for weekly blogs on XenApp 5 Feature Pack. As always, let us know your thoughts, questions and feedback below.

This post is part of a multi-part series on XenApp 5 Feature Pack: