Office 365 in Non-Persistent environment – Product Comparison Matrix

Why do you need a solution?

Well as the move to Office 365 is on everyone’s radar this has introduced a number of challenges when being introduced into a non-persistent environment which can summarised as follows:

  • Outlook Cache – the traditional recommendation was to always have Online mode set when connecting to exchange to ensure no OST was required to be saved in a profile. With Office365 now on everyone’s radar/to do list this recommendation has now been reversed due to the latency and reliability not a guarantee/not located in same data centre. End user experience is always a key priority and this has driven the requirement for cache mode to be used to ensure optimum reliability/access. This means an OST (could be up to 50GB mailbox size) must be created in the user profile and saved to the profile solution of choice (if any used) causing login delays or re-created everyone login adding some delay to outlook re-population of mailbox.
  • Outlook Search/Indexing – Search index is stored per-computer, this does not follow the user, effectively disabling the real-time search option in Outlook. As searching in outlook is necessity due to the volume of e-mails we all receive/send daily it can have a productivity impact to the users and is a key requirement to provide first class experience.
  • OneDrive for Business – with Onedrive for business included in Office365 subscription it allows up to 1TB of data storage per users to be available. This data is sync’d using the OneDrive for business client to the Server/Session in it entirety.

What’s products solve my problem?

O365_Prod_overview

All of the solutions use VHD/VHDX which use Block Level transfer introducing significant improvements to access to large files such as OST/PST Files or complete profiles. Below is a quick review on the products

Citrix App Layering – Office365 Layer

A new type of User layer for Office 365 allows you to preserve users’ data and configuration settings when elastically assigning Office 365 layers. This feature was released in 4.8(in labs from 4.5) of App Layering and have been covered in my blog Citrix Application Layering – Office 365 User layer

AppLayeringOverview

This name is somewhat misleading as at the moment it only support Outlook. Like the other products in the comparison it is attaching a VHD file during login to redirect the outlook folder into user profile. If you’re an existing app layering customer and need to address only outlook then it will meet your needs with the possability of more enhancements  being added  in the coming months in newer app layering versions.

It only addresses 1 of the 3 challenges highlighted , but adoption of OneDrive for Business may be optional in many organisation in which case the Indexing/Searching could also be a limitation imposed on the solution owners to end users.

  • Management : Managed through App Layering Management.
  • Storage Location: Stored on App Layering Remote SMB Share
  • Limitations: No Concurrency, Limited to Citrix UPM as profile solution, no cloud storage option, SMB 1.0
  • Platform’s supported:  VDI  & XenApp

Citrix WEM/UPM

As indicated during SYN231 session during Citrix Synergy 2018, WEM/UPM will be adding support for Office 365 User Experience including a roaming email cache & search index database. Below is a extract from presentation showing the roaming email cache + search index data (per user basis)

O365_WEMUPM_overview.PNG

See below on Citrix Synergy TV Session SYN231 (from 22:01 onwards) a demonstration of the feature

This news didn’t make into the keynote speech , but was hidden within a session titled “Manage your user experience from Workspace Environment Management Service“.  It is a step in the right direction for citrix and is certainly going to ruffle the feathers of other product vendors who have being doing this for a while.

See my article covering the Citrix UPM setup and configuration

Citrix User Profile Manager Roaming OST & Search Index

It  addresses 2 of the 3 challenges highlighted , but adoption of OneDrive for Business may be optional in many organisation.

  • Management : Managed through UPM
  • Storage Location:  Can be stored in any file location local(on-premise)
  • Limitations: No Concurrency but rumour of multi-session support , Limited to Citrix UPM as profile solution, no cloud storage option. Not yet available and expected to be released with 90 days of 08/05/2018
  • Platform’s supported:  VDI & RDSH

NOTE: The above is based on details released so far during Citrix Synergy 2018 & other reports of features, until the product is offically the released the above details could change.

VMWare App Volumes

With the combination of Writable App Volume & VMware UEM VMware Outlook cache roaming & Search Index between non-persistence sessions is now possible.

App Volumes allow a per user writable volume to be created and made available , this is created in the following location “C:\SnapVolumesTemp\writable”. This roams with the user onto each session as the volume accessible after user login.

Outlook Cache

Using VMware UEM adjust the ADMX “Default Location for Outlook OST” to redirect the OST location to  the App Volume that will roam with user to “C:\SnapVolumesTemp\writable\Outlook” allows the Outlook Cache to be written to User volume.

https://blogs.vmware.com/euc/2016/08/app-volumes-user-environment-manager-managing-ost-files.html

Here is a youtube video covering outcome. – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzy4X5xbURY

Search Index

Outlook Search Indexing with App Volume – https://kb.vmware.com/s/article/2149799 , a video is available here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWDf6wQ8cM4

NOTE: “Writable volumes are not supported with RDSH assignments”

It  addresses 2 of the 3 challenges highlighted , but adoption of OneDrive for Business may be optional in many organisation in which case the Indexing/Searching could also be a limitation imposed on the solution owners to end users.

  • Management : Managed through App Volumes Management & VMware UEM
  • Storage Location: Must be stored in VMware datastores
  • Limitations: No OneDrive for Business, No concurrent access, Only available in VDI not RDSH
  • Platform’s supported:  VDI Only

NOTE: A sneak preview of App Volumes is available here A Sneak-peek at App Volumes 2.14

Brief overview as follows:-

  • Less configuration required for Outlook OST/Indexing
  • Writable Volumes on Shared Datastores
  • Writeable volume backup’s

FSLogix O365 Container

Office365 container is a profile agnostic solution that can be deployed on any existing Server Based Computing (SBC) solution, it has the benefit that you don’t need to transition your existing profile into its own profile container solution (FSLogix Profile Container) to take advantage of the features.

If you buy the FSLogix profile container solution you will get all the features of the Office365 container with the exception of roaming search (Outlook Search/Indexing)

https://docs.fslogix.com/display/20170529/Roaming+the+Windows+Search+Database

It addresses all 3 of the challenges highlighted, with additional benefits of Skype for Business GAL/OneNote and Teams.

It also includes concurrency allowing multiple logins which could be common on Xenapp/RDSH environments. See more on my blog on concurrency FSLogix -Concurrent access to O365 Containers VHDAccessMode Explained!

See my blog for further info on the product ,FSLogix Office 365 Container – Install, Configure and Testing

FSLogix

It has to be noted that Indexing/Search for outlook is available single user environment(XenDesktop, VDI etc) + Multi-user environment (RDSH, XenApp)

  • Management : Managed through Group Policies/Registry Settings
  • Storage Location: Can be stored in any file location local(on-premise) or remote(cloud) with examples in AWS & Azure demo’s been published.
  • Limitations: No Central Management (although due to be released this year)
  • Platform’s supported:  VDI & RDSH

See my article on Cloud Cache FSLogix – Cloud Cache “CCD” Overview for interesting developments on containers locations. Although not related to this analysis it is worth referring.

Ivanti (Cache Roaming for Virtual Sessions)

Updated 06/01/2018 – Updated after 10.1 FR4 released

The ivanti solution does exactly what the title says, it is mainly driven by an environment manager (AEMP) configuration during login running a number of predefined actions to create and attached a VHD file and redirection of the outlook folder in user profile, OneNote and Skype for Business GAL. OneDrive for Business is notably missing but was available in FR4 (without hotfix) therefore one can only assume further work is required to get this functioning properly.

appsense_progress

Great improvements to the previous AEMP powershell scripts is welcome and Ivanti promise that ODFB, Outlook Index/Search and concurrency is being worked on therefor additional FR are looking promising.

It only addresses 1 of the 3 challenges highlighted , but adoption of OneDrive for Business may be optional in many organisation in which case the Indexing/Searching could also be a limitation imposed on the solution owners to end users.

  • Management : Managed through Environment Manager (AEMP) configuration
  • Storage Location : Can be stored in any file location local(on-premise) or remote(cloud)
  • Limitations: No OneDrive for Business, No concurrent access, Limited to Ivanti Product
  • Platform’s supported:  VDI & RDSH

NOTE: it is rumoured that version 10.2 will be released with support for OneDrive using a filter driver.

Liquidware – ProfileUnity with Office365 Caching

ProfileUnity with Profile Disk allows you to have users’ entire profiles on a provisioned VHD or VMDK. VMDK support is definitely a exclusive feature only offered  in Profile Disk as the other products compared are VHD/VHDX based.

ProfileDisk essentially off-loads the entire user profile to disk for optimum performance and flexibility to a fileshare (local or cloud) and injecting during the login process allowing profile to load in seconds.

It is now possible to be selective in profile unity/profile disks to not capture the entire profile and only target the specific O365.

The below article was created showing OST/Outlook.

Further testing around OneDrive etc needs to be completed in the same manner as above to remove the profile agnostic “X” but i’ll test update when i can validate the configuration.

It addresses all 3 of the challenges highlighted, with additional benefits of Skype for Business GAL/OneNote being addresses as complete profile is being migrated.

profileOverview

It has to be noted although Outlook Search/Indexing is available , it is only for single user environment(XenDesktop, VDI etc). Using Search/Indexing in a RDSH environment would require indexing to be done per RDSH server which although technical possible in RDSH is is lottery if the next server you connect to contains your Search/Indexing database.

  • Management : Managed through Profile Unity Central Management console.
  • Storage Location : Can be stored in any file location local(on-premise) or remote(cloud) with native support for Azure Blob, Amazon S3 and Google Object Storage.
  • Limitations: Requires entire profile to be migrated to solution, no concurrent access for profiledisk
  • Platform’s supported:  VDI & RDSH

Conclusion

Reviewing each of the products i have completed the comparison matrix below with the 3 challenges (Outlook/Search/OneDrive) plus two additional features:-

  • Concurrent access – does the product allow for concurrent access to VHD/VHDX
  • Profile Agnostic – does the product work with any profile solution (Citrix UPM, Roaming, Mandatory etc)

The following is the outcome of the comparison:-

O365_conclusion_overview

Overall in my personal view here is my Leader board:-

  1. FSLogix Office 365 Containers – It meets all the requirements to address the challenges + Concurrent access to container by multiple sessions + Profile agnostic + Single/multi-user roaming search index.
  2. Liquidware ProfileUnity – It meets 2 of the 3 requirements to address the challenges( Indexing/Search only available for single user environment with RDSH possible but would be inconsistent therefore the tick in table is amber). Without profiledisk being used OneDrive is not yet available with being profile agnostic which is the final requirment which it does meet.
  3. Citrix WEM/UPM – It meets 2 of the 3 requirements to address the challenges , as it has not been released one can only assume go on the information released during Synergy. You are also tied to UPM Profiles so it is not profile agnostic.
  4. VMware App Volumes – it  addresses two of the challenges with both OST & Search Index being redirected to writable volumes. App Volumes is limited to VMware datastores.
  5. Ivanti Workspace Manager & Citrix App Layering – App Layering – it only addresses one of the challenges, it is tied to Citrix User Profile Manager and is in its early life and not mature enough to recommend any higher. Ivanti Workspace Manager – it only addresses one of the challenges, indexing is not available at all and OneDrive support although possibly due in the next number of month it cannot be recommend any higher until it is release/preview given.

15 comments

  1. Hi David, a fair assessment of the state of play about 6 months ago with our Ivanti Best Practice configuration. This is a solid solution that customers and partners have used with great success, also solving not just Cached Exchange Mode a lot of other cache issues with Adobe, Chrome, Java amongst others.

    Most importantly (for customers!!) all without the need to purchase any additional products/licenses.

    As mentioned in the article, with the release of FR4 we have Out of box Policy actions that vastly simplifies this implementation providing templates for OneDrive, OneNote and Skype GAL. The feature has fully audited actions to local event log (or a central Dashboard). Windows Search on VDI is also possible, with Multi-Session Search to follow in later 2018. Another advantage of FR4, is that customers can alternatively roam ‘custom’ settings directly from the UI providing a very flexible solution (No scripts!)

    Regarding Multi/Concurrent access after working with our customers through this 1st release we decided to concentrate on control for Session(or network)Disconnect/Lock scenario’s with Multi-Access to follow.

    UWM 10.1 FR4 will GA in February and we’d be happy for you to try this out.

    Like

  2. Hi Paul,
    I am reflecting current available solutions, the review is based on the “Roaming an Outlook Cache in a Non-Persistent VDI/RDSH Environment” which yes was published over 6 month ago but points are still valid.

    I am also aware of other issues it can help with around adobe,chrome,java etc but i wanted to keep this O365 focused.

    Happy to try out 10.1FR4 when available and update the article in reflect on the product being GA.

    Cheers

    David

    Like

  3. David, Thank you for your coverage. Our ProfileUnity Office 365 solution is profile agnostic. We can run in tandem with Citrix UPM, VMware UEM, native profiles, etc. Secondly, can you please list VMDK support in your matrix? As you point out. it is a nice to have and deal maker/breaker for many enterprises.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi David. Great article. Just wondering if you have an update on the summary table as of June 2018. Lots of new releases have come out (e.g. App Layering 4.11 and IvanTI RES), We are in the middle of some decision making and although your article is spot on my feeling is that it needs a refresh.

    Like

    • Hi,

      It is fairly accurate at the minute. App layering 4.11 added XenApp support (which i need to update above), Ivanti have not released any updated version to change the above article (although in july there will be an update)

      Many thanks

      David Wilkinson

      Like

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