The Final Thing To Virtualise –The User!

Posted: September 22, 2010 in Virtualisation, Windows


We’ve virtualised our servers, storage and networks.  We’ve virtualised our operating systems and we’ve virtualised our applications.

The final frontier is… the user.  How can we virtualise the user? 

A ‘user’ in the context of desktop management is embodied in the OS User Profile and User Documents.  The User Profile contains the users personalisation’s or what I like to call the “Digital Persona”.  The Digital Persona not only the user settings (credentials, OS customisations, persistent connections etc.) but also the user documents (pictures, videos, music and documents).

Why would we want to virtualise the user?

  • With a virtualised User Profile we increase the flexibility and reliability of the managed desktop.
  • We can stop using Roaming Profiles – which is where the increased reliability comes from.  Roaming Profiles have been a source of many support issues for a decade now, and it has been obvious to us that there must be a better way!
  • Information protection – We can ensure that the most vital information/data within the the users’ Digital Persona is stored in a location that the organisation manages and backs up.
  • We speed up the log on/off process for the users’ by removing the Roaming Profile.
  • Quicker recovery from a failed PC – the user can logon to a new or temporary PC and be up and running quicker as the dependency on their PC is greatly reduced.
  • Faster and more reliable migration to new computers for users, as there is less data resident on their current PC.

Other requirements of a successful User Virtualisation are:

  • Can laptop/netbook users work as they require when they are offline?  (Are all their personal data files and OS customisations they want/need available when disconnected from the network?)
  • Large data files, such as email archives, are handled appropriately so as to not impact user experience

Most of the companies involved in this area of the market have recognised the need to improve the flexibility and reliability of the user experience, and have been working on solutions for a while.

Citrix have User Profile virtualisation within XenDesktop, and VMware have it in View too.

Microsoft have prepared an IPD (Infrastructure Planning and Design) guide that provides guidance on how to implement what they call User State Virtualisation in your environment.

The Infrastructure Planning and Design guide for Windows User State Virtualization (USV) helps IT get started planning a Windows USV solution.

Windows user state virtualization helps IT find the right balance between centralized management of business-critical data and a rich user desktop experience. Follow the stepwise approach in this IPD guide to gather relevant user and IT requirements. Then compare and contrast Windows USV technologies (Folder Redirection, Offline Files, and Roaming User Profiles) in light of scenarios that are relevant to your business. Also, leverage the subjective real-world guidance based on analysis of Windows USV deployments in mid to large organizations, and interviews with domain experts.

Reduce time and planning costs by following the processes in this IPD guide to design a successful Windows USV strategy.

You can download the Windows User State Virtualisation Guide from Microsoft at the following URL:

I’ll be following this topic up in future posts, as it is a vital part of “the new way of doing things” that is changing the desktop management landscape.


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