Citrix Profile Manager is pretty happy with itself being a reliable and solid user profile management solution. One of the pure beauties of the technology is that it requires very little admin interaction. Install, configure and then “leave it alone”!
By keeping deep application knowledge out of the solution, the profile management system can be an “install and forget” component. This is good stuff and has been one of our design goals since the beginning. The profile is roamed, it doesn’t suffer last logoff wins, it makes logons fast, and fundamentally works to solve things like profile inconsistency.
This is great, but it leads directly into the next question.
Is per-application knowledge “good”?
Others in the profile management space like AppSense, Tricerat, Immidio and RES have been very successful in the market by taking the counter approach – per application knowledge is awesome!
And I’ll actually stand up here and agree, it is awesome! It does though come with a cost and that cost is a loss of simplicity which is afforded by the blanket approach of syncing the profile to / from, using a payload only view.
V1 and V2 profiles
Consider the possibility of syncing application settings to/from Windows XP/2003 (V1 profile) and Windows 7/2008 (V2 profile). This is worse than just dealing with the different directory structures of V1 and V2.
When applications run on different OSes, they store stuff in different locations!
Applications behave differently on different operating systems and this means that just copying the file/registry values to/from is not sufficient. When it gets to the other user profile space, it needs to be in a different location and possibly in a different format.
To take this on, it starts to become necessary to have per-application knowledge built into the profile management solution. How deep should one go?
What applications matter?
This is a loaded question as the point of this post is to presume the answer and then challenge you to say others.
Answer: Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer
But wait! You have 100s of applications.
When asking what settings need to roam BETWEEN V1 and V2, I am not asking what settings need to be separately preserved for V1 and V2 environments, I’m asking what settings need to wonder between the V1 and V2 environments.
More accurately, what settings need to roam between between Server 2003 and Server 2008!
What applications do I use on Server 2003 that I ALSO use on Server 2008 AND where I actually “care” that the application settings sync between the computers?
Proposed answer: MS Office and Internet Explorer.
Don’t agree? Think of SAP. It’s going to be on ONE platform and not move. Cross platform here isn’t an issue. You could have a migration issue on a move to a new platform, but there is no cross platform issue. You only need cross platform for applications that will exist on BOTH V1 and V2 platforms and where users will get different execution systems on a regular basis.
It gets more involved
As I ponder building this kind of thing for Citrix Profile Manager, I worry that it’s a worse problem than just these applications.
It is also the VERSIONS of each application. On Server 2003, MS Office is likely “old” and on Server 2008 R2, it is likely “new”. The settings COULD be stored differently between the versions of the apps. At least some settings likely ARE stored differently. Is that enough to matter? Will it crater the application on the other platform if moved incorrectly?
It is exactly this kind of thing that makes the high app knowledge vendors happy.
They handle BOTH old/new OS and old/new app versions and store in the same place regardless of where it came from. This is handy, handy enough that whole companies exist to solve the problem and that’s good.
What I’m trying to figure out is whether Citrix Profile Manager should have some of these aspects and here I seek your feedback. As of this morning, the blog system has comments re-enabled, but you will have to use your mycitrix credentials to post.
A fair response is
- “Don’t screw this up; focus on what you do and keep doing it well”.
Finishing this post, I’m leaning in that direction.
Citrix Systems Product Architect for Profile Manager