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The Advantage of Running FSLogix Profile Container on Azure NetApp Files
With the current state of global business, the case for moving remote desktops into the cloud has never been more significant. Virtual desktop technologies allow users to work remotely while still enjoying the same fast and easy access to data and applications. Moving this technology into the cloud eliminates the need to have an on-premises infrastructure that can support bursts in demand as large numbers of users access resources at the same time.
Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) in Azure meets this bill. But companies often have concerns when migrating out of their data center and into a new environment for their workload needs. The concerns often arise from the need to provide remote profiles to all WVD users, and in many cases the number of profiles can be quite substantial. Fortunately, Azure contains tools that allow IT organizations to mitigate this risk if they design their WVD solution correctly.
The Challenge of Remote Profile Containers
One of the primary challenges with any Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is maintaining user profiles. Windows profiles are the most important part of Windows to users. They contain user files, including the My Documents folder, desktop files and shortcuts, and application settings like their Outlook profiles and Edge shortcuts. When a user logs in to Windows Virtual Desktop, they will expect to find all these things right where they left them, just as they would on-premises.
Not only do they expect their environment to be familiar and not change on them arbitrarily, but the login process should be as quick as it is on-premises. Having to wait minutes for all their profile data to populate to the remote instance will cause high levels of dissatisfaction with users. Users become upset when they log in to a Windows instance and cannot find their files and their applications do not work as expected.
This expectation has always been a challenge for VDI providers. When working on a single laptop or desktop, these profiles are stored locally. However, VDI requires remote profiles. Remote profiles store file data and metadata separately from the local instance of Windows, allowing users to log on to multiple WVD instances and always find their environment as expected – even though these files are, in reality, stored in a separate location. The remote nature of these profiles creates two areas of risk.
The first is simply one of data security. The profile contains not only metadata, but also actual user files. Windows stores files placed in the Desktop and Document folders in the remote profile in the profile share. If remote profiles on the file server are corrupted or deleted, critical user data can be lost. Secondly, although the data and metadata are stored on remote file shares, users will still expect the profile to load on a virtual machine in the WVD cluster at the same speed as a local machine, regardless of where the files persist. This is true even if it’s 9 a.m. and hundreds of users are retrieving their profile data and metadata from the same location.
Finally, solutions must not only be seamless for users, but must also be manageable for IT, so they can mitigate the risk of data loss and maintain a high enough performance to sustain user satisfaction in the solution.
A Native Solution to a Common Challenge
To meet the requirements of WVD with the highest performance and the lowest risk in Azure, you must combine WVD with two additional native services:
- FSLogix profile containers
- Azure NetApp Files
Just like WVD, both of these services are native Azure Services. They can be implemented directly from the Azure portal (or PowerShell or CLI scripts) without having to go through the marketplace (and worry about third-party licensing agreements and fees).
Why FSLogix Profile Containers
FSLogix containers are Microsoft's preferred method of providing the remote profile containers for WVD. They store each user's profiles (regardless of whether your organization hosts a single user or thousands of users) and the metadata that is needed to quickly and dynamically allow Azure to attach the remote profile to the virtual desktop. Hence, the user experience is the same as it would be if the user were logging on to a local machine, even if the system is experiencing the 9 a.m. profile loading storm. It achieves this by placing the user's profile in a VHDX file and mounting it when the user logs in rather than copying data and metadata from a remote store into the current session.
The FSLogix containers deal effectively with the latency issue. However, they can also themselves be a source of risk. If the FSLogix containers are lost or corrupted, users will lose the mappings to their profile and, if the VHDs are lost or damaged, their actual data. This loss will not just be for individual users but for all WVD users in the cluster. The possible disruption to users would be extreme if they were no longer able to find their files and have their applications run as they expect.
How Azure NetApp Files is the final piece to the WVD solution
Azure NetApp Files is a straightforward Enterprise SMB file storage solution with the same or better performance as seen in dedicated on-premises file storage environments, and can be leveraged by WVD. The shares are mounted to the existing Azure virtual network (VNET) and made accessible to WVD. So, users will experience rapid access to both their FSlogix profile container and their network shared folders when they expect them. More importantly, however, Azure NetApp Files takes advantage of the patents, experience and years of enterprise-class redundancy and snapshot capabilities built in, which allow IT to efficiently manage the FSLogix containers and ensure that neither metadata nor user data is lost.
Finally, because these are native Azure services, IT can implement the entire solution from within their Azure agreement without worrying about getting third-party support or paying for additional licenses for any of the components. IT can use familiar tools to build these solutions (including scripting the entire solution).
In the end, by leveraging these native Azure components, IT can build a WVD solution that will provide a performant experience and offer the peace of mind that their users’ data will always be where they expect it to be – making everybody happy!