Exploring VMware User Environment Manager

Exploring VMware User Environment Manager

Installing VMware User Environment Manager on Microsoft Azure

VMware User Environment Manager provides a wide range of capabilities such as personalization of Windows and applications, contextual policies for enhanced user experience, and privilege elevation to aid in your privilege management strategy. If you are already using VMware User Environment Manager on physical or virtual desktops or RD Session Host servers, your knowledge transfers immediately to Horizon Cloud Service on Microsoft Azure. VMware User Environment Manager is flexible enough to run on physical, virtual, and cloud-hosted machines.

You bring your own Microsoft Azure IaaS capacity, on which Horizon Cloud Service and VMware User Environment Manager are deployed. You have the option of using the included VMware User Environment Manager licenses by installing a new instance, or leveraging an existing instance.

The infrastructure requirements are minimal, comprised primarily of SMB file shares. VMware User Environment Manager uses one share for configuration data, and another for profile archive data. You can deploy one or more Windows Server VMs on Microsoft Azure, and configure file sharing. For comprehensive share requirements, see Installing and Configuring VMware User Environment Manager. While there are several server models available in the Microsoft Azure Marketplace, consider using Dv2, Dv3, or Ev3 series VMs to create file servers for the requisite SMB file shares. Additional disks can be added to accommodate increased performance demand (IOPS) as needed.

Figure F1: VMware User Environment Manager Process Flow

Exploring Deployment Options

You can use Microsoft Azure to extend your existing data centers in a hybrid-cloud model, or treat Microsoft Azure as a stand-alone, public-cloud capacity. Horizon Cloud Service and VMware User Environment Manager support both configurations.

For stand-alone, or single-site deployments, Installing and Configuring VMware User Environment Manager contains everything you need to know to deploy. VMware User Environment Manager is installed and managed the same way, whether deployed on premises or in a public cloud.  

With the hybrid-cloud or multi-site model, Microsoft Azure capacity is essentially a remote customer data center. The VMware Horizon 7 Enterprise Edition Multi-Site Reference Architecture provides detailed information to configure VMware User Environment Manager for a consistent user experience as end users roam from site to site.

Optimizing VM Performance

A common question for multi-site VMware User Environment Manager deployments is whether users from multiple sites can access a single SMB file share instance at the primary data center. While this is possible, there are design considerations to ensure the best experience.

DirectFlex is a feature of VMware User Environment Manager that reads and writes personalization data as applications are opened and closed. DirectFlex improves the efficiency of the VMware User Environment Manager agent by only fetching configuration data that is needed, when it is needed, rather than reading it all during login. By design, DirectFlex makes frequent requests to the SMB file servers hosting the VMware User Environment Manager configuration and user shares. The latency of these requests directly affects the end-user experience. Typically, anything less than 20 milliseconds has no noticeable impact. As latency gets worse, the chance and severity of impact to the end-user experience increases.

Even a high-performing ExpressRoute may have latency greater than 20 milliseconds, so it is recommended to deploy VMware User Environment Manager in the same Azure region as your Horizon Cloud Service node. If the design goal is to have a single VMware User Environment Manager deployment for both on-premises and cloud-hosted VMs, Distributed File System (DFS) replication is recommended. This model provides IT with a single point of administration, while keeping configuration and user data geographically near the VMs accessing the data.

Figure F2: VMware User Environment Manager Deployment Options

For more information about configuring DFS for multi-site VMware User Environment Manager deployments, see VMware Horizon 7 Enterprise Edition Multi-Site Reference Architecture.

Using the NoAD Mode

VMware User Environment Manager has traditionally been configured and enabled using ADMX templates with Group Policy, and logon or logoff scripts. Version 9.1 introduced an alternative, XML-based option called NoAD Mode. NoAD Mode simplifies administration by eliminating the need to create and manage GPOs, and can be used for on-premises, hybrid-cloud, and public-cloud deployments of VMware User Environment Manager.

When deploying VMware User Environment Manager in a hybrid-cloud or multi-site model, NoAD Mode has the added benefit of not being dependent on Domain Controllers and GPO replication. While not a requirement, the NoAD Mode option is recommended, especially for hybrid-cloud and public-cloud deployments.

Horizon Cloud Service on Microsoft Azure is the newest offering in the Horizon Cloud Services suite. VMware User Environment Manager seamlessly integrates with Horizon Cloud Service, and provides a consistent user experience across physical, virtual, and cloud-hosted PCs and RD Session Host servers.

For video demonstrations, see Deploying and Using VMware Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure. For more information about VMware User Environment Manager, see VMware User Environment Manager Deployed in 60 Minutes or Less.