Remote Desktop Services (RDS) and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) are rapidly becoming standardized means of delivering desktop infrastructure for any large and increasingly remote workforce. And yet when providing a windows virtual desktop, the user experience and functionality with VDI remains one of the key barriers to wider adoption and end-user productivity. Perhaps the greatest user frustration with VDI is the incremental latency incurred on session start up to download and access user profile information and applications, which can be frustratingly long when VDI is deployed in a high-availability configuration across multiple data centers.
This post explores using Resilio Connect to provide real-time synchronization of VDI user profiles across any number of data centers or public cloud instances, ensuring users have instantaneous access to their data between sessions and dramatically accelerating time-to-desktop and time-to-application during the logon process.
Managing VDI Profiles (i.e. Microsoft FSLogix Profile Containers for Windows VDI)
Common technologies for managing VDI user profiles across data centers are FSLogix from Microsoft, VMWare Dynamic Environment Manager (DEM), formerly User Environment Manager (UEM) and Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop (CVAD). FSLogix profile containers use VHD(X) files, containers of user data commonly 5-30GB in size per user account. Whereas Citrix and DEM profiles are similar, comprising user shortcuts, office docs, outlook and other user data in a zipped format. These local profiles, user profile disks and containers are typically delivered to the virtualized windows 10 instance dynamically from the network share on each session startup or logon event.
Configure Profile Management for High-Availability VDI
Managing VDI in a single zone is fairly straightforward. But highly available active-active and global configurations for VDI across multiple data centers introduce new challenges in profile management. As user sessions can be allocated to any data center or region, these deployments require real-time file server synchronization of user profiles between data centers. Within each data center, there is a need to accelerate the time it takes to write data into and read from user profiles on startup.
Replicating Profiles, FSLogix Apps and GPOs
Most technologies used to replicate FSLogix profile containers, office 365 containers and group policy objects across data centers introduce unacceptable latency between user sessions. For instance, Microsoft DFS-R, Active Directory replication and File Replication Service are common ways to keep profiles, Group Policy templates (GPTs) and GPOs in sync, but this solution introduces unreliability and unexpected latency (as much as 30 minutes) in the replication process. Furthermore, Microsoft DFSR offers limited visibility into the current state of the replication process making management of the VDI deployment increasingly difficult. Likewise, homegrown solutions such as Robocopy also introduce significant latency to scan the file system for changes and then additional minutes to replicate those changes. Cloud gateways, global file systems and other file shares that rely on centralized object storage are sometimes used to orchestrate the replication of user profiles, templates and GPOs, but these solutions also introduce the typical (and unacceptable) delays that are common when downloading and uploading large files from Azure or Amazon Web Services (AWS) resulting in poor user experience.
In the end, none of these solutions meets the needs of users who are often forced to logon to VDI repeatedly when their thin client goes to sleep, across a reboot or when the wvd is otherwise interrupted, each time wading through unacceptable latencies and poor user experience imposed by the limitations of local profile replication.
Object Storage for User Profiles
Customers often want to store user profiles in object storage for cost and scalability reasons, but native support is missing in DEM without a storage gateway to manage the transition from file to object storage.
FSLogix Cloud Cache is a native capability to store VHDX files in Azure (configure using CCD Locations instead of VHDlocations) and cache them locally. However, FSLogix relies on a serial transaction to write to each bucket per region, performance is not great. Only when all regions have been written is the write operation deemed complete, incurring otherwise avoidable latency to pre-load the cloud cache and to flush it back to every instance of cloud storage in use. Citrix Cloud introduces similar limitations across multiple data centers.
Resilio Connect accelerates the replication of VDI user profiles across multiple data centers resulting in speeds up to 10x faster than typical replication technologies (and delivering an equivalent benefit in time-to-desktop for the user). Resilio Connect also helps ease the costs of large scale VDI deployments with accelerated speeds into and out of object storage, such as Azure or AWS for user profiles and VHD files. Resilio’s differential sync engine is efficient in determining which blocks of the user profile have changed, leading to minimal data transfers and fast replication of user changes between sites. Furthermore, the distributed nature of Resilio’s proprietary protocols utilize the power and capacity at each location to speed the delivery of profiles to all other data centers, achieving system-wide improvements in time-to-desktop when starting a new session. The solution is fully-automated and centrally controlled which lowers the management overhead for complex VDI deployments.
Resilio Connect for Real-Time Replication of Profiles and VHD Files
Whatever your profile solution, Citrix or FSLogix, the challenge of roaming profiles and replicating local profiles and templates across multiple data centers and file servers with the lowest possible latency and the highest degree of reliability is not new, but is among the most demanding deployment challenges for VDI at scale. Resilio is the perfect solution for dramatically improving the user experience in VDI deployments while easing the management burden and lowering the costs of large scale, highly available VDI.