We have great news for Citrix administrators. On July 1, Microsoft announced that the FSLogix technologies it acquired in early 2019 will be available at no cost to both Microsoft 365 and existing Remote Desktop Services (RDS) customers. These enhancements to the Remote Desktop platform are targeted at improving the Office experience in virtual environments, including optimizations to Outlook, OneDrive, and search. As Microsoft calls out in their announcement, Citrix has also been hard at work optimizing the user experience for Microsoft Teams, bringing the best interactive experience to virtual users.

Providing a great user experience is critical to the success of any virtualization project, and user expectations have never been higher. Enterprise users are accustomed to devices and services that work seamlessly in their day-to-day lives and expect no less from their IT-delivered apps and desktops.

Personalization and app delivery are key pillars of the user environment, and the considerations around these have become more complex in recent years due to changing trends, including:

  • The rise of cloud services such as Office 365 and OneDrive for Business
  • Increased mix of per user Windows modern apps versus traditional installer
  • Migration of some workloads to public clouds, such as Microsoft Azure, while others stay on premises

Citrix offers a number of technologies to solve these challenges, such as Citrix Workspace Environment Management (WEM) and Citrix App Layering, that fit seamlessly alongside Microsoft technologies such as App-V and System Center Config Manager. Our toolkit has grown substantially stronger thanks to the inclusion of the FSLogix suite as a platform component for our joint customers.

The most successful deployments start with a blank sheet of paper when defining how these tools can be combined to best meet the identified requirements for a given customer scenario. There are many ways in which these components can be combined to offer great value. Let’s take a quick look at some examples from the field.

Citrix Workspace Environment Management + FSLogix Profile and Office 365 Containers

Citrix Workspace Environment Management (WEM) is a collection of technologies that encompasses both profile and performance optimizations. On the performance front, WEM can aggressively manage applications that are consuming too much CPU or memory, increasing both session density per server and end-user performance. As enterprises look to the cloud for burst capacity, new desktop deployments, and disaster recovery solutions, managing resource usage is top of mind.  Controlling misbehaving applications allows for easier VM sizing and cost control, without having a negative impact on end users.

Leveraging Citrix Profile Management, WEM can apply GPOs, login scripts, and preferences via a multithreaded agent, which speeds up login duration and session responsiveness by fetching and applying configurations on demand. These optimizations dramatically improve user experience across a wide range of applications, but the newly available FSLogix (Microsoft) Profile Containers take a slightly different approach that can optimize the Office 365 experience directly.

Given the modular nature of WEM, admins now have the choice to utilize FSLogix Profile Containers in their environments, adding new benefits around search, Outlook-cached exchange mode, and OneDrive for Business. Profile containers are mounted as block-based filter drivers by the OS, so even very large profile stores can be mounted and accessed on the fly.

These benefits extend deeper with the Citrix support of hybrid cloud deployments on upcoming Windows Virtual Desktop, where Azure Files can be used for profile container storage in the same Azure region, yielding performance benefits and environment portability.

Key Benefits:

  • Easy adoption of new Office 365 Profile Containers in existing WEM Environments
  • Leverage Azure Files storage for profile data in Hybrid Cloud deployments

Citrix App Layering + FSLogix Application Masking and Java Redirection

Citrix App Layering is a market-leading image management technology that simplifies the management of an organization’s many “golden” images by assembling them from common building blocks. Administrators patch and maintain individual layer components such as the base OS, or specific applications, and can update individual components (for instance, moving to a new version of an application) on their own schedule. The layering subsystem composes them into a seamless experience delivered to the user.

In the example below, we use App Layering to manage golden images for four departments:

When App Layering is used in conjunction with FSLogix Application Masking, admins can apply the approach of “hiding” some components from the image, reducing application silos. Now admins will manage fewer golden images still, masking the visibility of applications to specific user populations and providing efficiency through consolidating the workloads into a smaller number of images and delivery groups.

Java Redirection creates further scope for consolidation by supporting multiple conflicting versions of Java in a single image, assigning each version to a specific application or URL, even inside a layered environment. This can reduce security risks or application compatibility issues.

Applying all these technologies together, the same four departments are now being served from just two golden images, using App Masking to ensure only the relevant departments see their individual apps or versions in an image that is shared between use cases. By reducing the number of silos, we’ve also achieved more server overhead to balance out user sessions.

Key Benefits:

  • Reduced number of golden images, making more efficient use of workload capacity
  • App masking also enforces per device licenses on applications such as MS Visio and Project

A Better Platform

Together with Citrix technologies, the new FSLogix entitlements from Microsoft offer opportunities for administrators to simplify deployments while providing a better Office 365 experience. Showcasing Microsoft’s commitment to app and server virtualization, these changes extend the reach of Office 365 into virtualized environments, providing consistency across any platform. These changes simplify cloud migration and ultimately give admins new flexibility in deployments, maximizing your virtualization ROI.