Compute Data / Storage Uncategorized Windows Windows Virtual Desktop

How to approach user profiles with ANF

When discussing ANF with User Profiles for VDI, there are several factors to consider.  This article will outline and discuss these factors to help answer questions customers may have regarding User Profile guidelines.

Overview

Profile management is more a fine art than a science, so size guidelines should be used as a starting point for testing, not as an absolute.  Customers should be encouraged to start with a baseline suggestion (both Citrix and Microsoft provide general guidelines) then test profile loads during standard shift start times (login bursts) to understand the expected behavior.   The resulting behavior, along with the costs of adjustment, should be weighed against the desired user experience.    Most customers will strike a balance between costs to improve login times and the desired user experience when settling on a final solution.

Most Common Industry Solutions

Citrix Profile Management (formerly UPM)

Can provide extremely fast profile loads but struggles with Microsoft 365/Office applications, specifically Outlook OST files.

FSLogix (A Microsoft product)

Takes a container approach to profiles and excels with Microsoft 365/Office applications, but does have a larger storage requirement.

Profile Components

Which components are part of the user profile and settings for those specific components should be considered when choosing the profile management solution and sizing the profile volumes.

  • Microsoft 365 and/or Outlook
  • Folder Redirection
  • Standard Personalization

When considering the different profile components, the customer should also consider the policies in place that restrict those components.  As an example, Outlook policies that restrict inbox sizes for general population are sometimes lifted for executive management.  This should be an important fact to consider as those executive management profiles will grow at a faster rate than the general population and may catch the VDI team off guard.

User Types

Approaching user profiles from the user type is not as common today as it used to be, but some customers still plan in terms of user types.   Breaking the customer population into groups is generally done to determine typical profile sizes.  Where this breaks down is the idea that a user that is strictly using Office is a Task worker, so their profile may generally be the smallest.  This does not take into consideration Task workers that work with large Excel spreadsheets with formulas and links or large PowerPoint files that are created for executive management.

  • Task Worker (single task, office user)
  • Power User (IT, Development, Contractors)
  • Executive

User Experience and Expectations

The ultimate goal for user profiles should be to achieve the expected user experience that has been relayed to the user community.  Spikes in latency should be expected during high login times (logon bursts) which is when users are most likely to express their opinions on the current state of the VDI environment.   The most successful VDI engineers will establish a report with the user community and understand the expected user experience verse looking for a specific latency threshold baseline.  

Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity

  • ANF Cross Region Replication
  • FSLogix Cloud Cache
  • Reilio

Almost every VDI deployment contains a DR or Business Continuity plan.  DR plans for user profiles need to focus on the communicated expected user experience during a DR scenario to be successful.  If the expected user experience is limited or no difference to the user experience during a DR scenario, then a real time sync process may be the best solution.   Resilio (www.resilio.com) is an example of a solution that can provide real time sync of profiles, but this solution can be expensive.   FSLogix Cloud Cache is another solution that will provide a near like user experience in a DR scenario.   In a lot of cases, customers will balance the cost of DR with the expected user experience and communicate to the customer population that in a DR event, users can expect a working VDI environment that may not be an exact representation of normal experience.   In this case, ANF CRR may fit the needs, providing a working VDI environment.

Profile Sizing and ANF Service Level

The most common question by customers is “how do I size my ANF volume?”.    Although there are a number of profile sizing guidelines available, the information above should be considered before making a decision on the proper volume size.   Both Citrix and FSLogix provide guidelines for excluding certain folders from user profiles to save on space, but this can be a delicate dance, so customers should proceed with caution.

As an example, in our testing scenario outlined in the document below “TR-4901: Citrix Profile Management with Azure NetApp Files Best Practices Guide”, a 4.7GB profile size was selected.  This number is based on 400 Files, Folder Redirection and some consideration for large files (Outlook OST).  Using 1000 users as a base, testing was done with a 7TiB capacity pool and a single volume.  Testing also showed that Standard Service level for the volume was more than suitable to accommodate logon bursts.

FSLogix sets the maximum size of the profile container to 30GB, although this can be resized as of a recent release.  In most cases, 30GB is more than enough for user profiles.

Conclusion

In the end, the customer needs to understand the expected user experience and all the components of their particular user profiles to understand what size and performance levels are necessary to meet their requirements.  Starting with a profile baseline (there are many articles on the web outlining profile sizing and best practices), the customer should test their configuration with a focus on logon bursts.  Their peak latency will more than likely occur during peak login times and result in general population opinions on VDI performance, whether good or bad.

References

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