You may already know about this feature as it was previously called User Profile Manager. Profile management is the new name for User Profile Manager. This technology is a feature of both XenApp (Enterprise and Platinum Editions) and XenDesktop (Advanced, Enterprise and Platinum Editions). For a more detailed overview of what Profile management is and how it works to improve application virtualization, please read this article. For this article I will focus on the improvements in this updated feature that will first be available in XenApp 5 Feature Pack 2.

The improvements added into this release have focused around improved logging, Citrix product line integrations and Windows 7 support (really just testing and validation as the profile mechanism did not significantly change in this release from Vista and Windows Server 2008). And of course we have fixed many of the known issues and support concerns.

We’ve introduced EdgeSight counters to add visibility into the logon process and activities. Here is a summary of the counters that are provided:

  • Logon Duration – this is the total logon time.
  • Local Profile Setup Duration – aka the time to set up the user’s local profile. Basically this compromises of the following steps:
    • Does the user have a local profile – if not create one
    • Is a profile migration required? If so migrate the profile
    • The time to copy down files from the user store to the local profile location
    • Synchronize with user store. This is only needed at logon for a new profile. While a Microsoft roaming profile copies a new roaming profile back to the network at logoff, Profile management performs this activity during that first logon.
    • At this point Profile management gets notified that this profile is ready to be managed
  • Time to Start Monitoring – this is the gap from the last step of notifying Profile management that a profile is ready to be monitored and until monitoring actually starts (meaning the user is allowed to start their session). This consists of processing the NTFS change journal entries (basically a start point for monitoring file changes). The purpose of this counter is to help narrow the area causing longer than expected logon times. This should be fairly short time period and if not, you know something is happening out of the ordinary here. How short should it be – defining your baseline will provide you that measurement.
  • Logoff Duration – this is the total logoff time
  • Stop monitoring profile – NTFS change journal processing. This time should be very short
  • Logon Bytes – total bytes in the user’s profile copied down at logon
  • Logoff Bytes – total bytes from the user’s profile copied to user store at logoff
  • Processed Logon Files – total number of files in the user’s profile copied down at logon. How many files and their respective size grouping.
  • Processed Logoff Files – total number of files from the user’s profile copied to user store at logoff. How many files and their respective size grouping.

We also focused and extended on XenDesktop and Provisioning Server testing and validation. A key aspect of this was the new log file redirection capability. Now administrators can configure the log file to any local drive instead of the default %WINDIR%/system32/LogFiles/ location. This addressed the critical issue of capturing a log file from a local drive that is reset at logoff. The log file being just another changed file from the session is thus lost when system is reset at logoff.

I also would like to add clarification around the extended synchronization capability. Extended Synchronization was introduced in the User Profile Manager v2.0 release. It become apparent we were not clear enough in the context of its purpose and often it was being leveraged beyond its scope and ability. It was designed to enable personalization settings that are not properly stored in the user’s profile location to be captured as part of the user profile. So-called “bad applications”, for example, store settings in non-standard locations. However, the capability was not documented clearly in the Version 2.0 administrator’s guide, which resulted in attempts to use the feature in ways for which it was not designed. We have clarified the supported scenarios in this release.

Extended synchronization is not intended to manage multi-user access to these files or folders (for example, we are not compensating for an application that is not multi-user aware). Nor is it intended to become a file and folder synchronization mechanism (for example, one that allows you to synchronize the entire contents of c:\docs across machines). It is intended purely to extend personalization settings that exist outside the default user profile location and thus provide a consistent experience across all resources accessed by the user.

This latest version (2.1) will be available for download on September 29th 2009 via MyCitrix. So now that you know a little more about Profile management, I recommend you check back on the 29th to MyCitrix and grab a copy (logon required) to evaluate and consider for your environment. Please note that it is important to review the current profile technologies available and ensure a good match with your business needs. There are a broad range of solutions and ensuring a good match is critical in order to properly balance the administrative needs with user personalization needs. You should review this best practices guide covering profile options such as mandatory, roaming and of course Profile management.

Finally, if you would like to learn more about Citrix XenApp 5 Feature Pack 2 here are some useful links:

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