New Kid on the MDOP Block: Microsoft User Experience Virtualization

This is the first in a series of three blogs by the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) team, which will cover new advancements to the suite of products available in MDOP 2012. A.J. Smith, product marketing manager for Microsoft User Experience Virtualization (UE-V) kicks-off the series.

As you may have seen on the Windows for your Business blog today, Karri Alexion-Tiernan announced the general availability of MDOP 2012. As part of this she highlighted a new addition to our desktop virtualization family, Microsoft User Experience Virtualization (UE-V). We’ve been talking a bit about UE-V for the past few months but as a reminder it is delivered as part of MDOP 2012 and helps you roam your app and operating system experience between devices. In talking with IT Pros, one of the biggest things I hear is that your users want to use multiple devices and have the same look and feel across them, no matter where they use them. Well, UE-V can help solve that problem.

Before I dive into how UE-V can help you I wanted to spend a minute talking about how you might have done this in the past with Roaming User Profiles (RUP). When I started my IT career right out of university, I worked at a company that was using RUP on Windows NT 4. RUP was a great way to enable free seating so when users moved from desktop to desktop they had access to the same settings/experience they were used to – the icons on their desktop, wallpaper picture of their dog, toolbar configuration – it all followed them. But technology has changed since then. Organizations are now deploying a combination of physically installed and virtually deployed apps to users and we’re seeing people switching between laptops running Windows 7, tablets running Windows 8, session based desktops on Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows Server 2012 and a VDI desktop. With these scenarios in mind, RUP may not be the ideal solution and UE-V might be a better choice.

 

Consistent, Personal Experience

So why might you choose UE-V? UE-V provides a consistent and personal experience that matches your users unique work style. For example, UE-V doesn’t care if an app is physically installed or virtually deployed through App-V. It uses the file name and the version number information of the app to determine if settings should be applied. Additionally, you don’t have to logout to sync the app experience. UE-V will sync when the app is opened and closed so you can use multiple machines at the same time and not worry about having to log off and on to sync your settings changes. UE-V can also roam operating system settings between versions. If your users are using a Windows 7 laptop, a Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows Server 2012 session based desktop, and have a tablet running Windows 8, UE-V can roam the settings easily between them. The triggers UE-V uses to sync the OS experience are login, logoff, lock, unlock, and connecting and disconnecting from an RDS session.

 

Choice in What Roams

Another reason why UE-V might be the right solution for you is that that you can choose which apps can roam their experience. Out of the box UE-V has app templates for Office 2010, Internet Explorer 8, 9 and 10, and Windows accessories like Calculator and WordPad. There are also out of box templates for Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2012. But let’s say there is only a core set of apps you want to roam settings for and the rest (like settings for the games your users installed) you don’t want to store in your datacenter. UE-V gives you the choice through the use of settings location templates to tell UE-V what applications should roam their settings.

For your other desktop apps that you want to roam the experience for, you can create a settings location template using the UE-V Generator. The Generator is a wizard based tool that walks you through selecting the app you want to create the template for, opening and closing the app, and reviewing what locations in the registry and file system that the app reads/writes settings to. Once you have the template, you deploy it to the machines that need to roam the experience for that application and you can use System Center 2012 Configuration Manager or any software distribution tool to deploy and register the template. Another option for deploying your custom templates is using a settings location template catalog. The catalog is a file share that you can point the UE-V agent to and every 24 hours it will check that location to see if any templates have been added, removed or modified. If so, the agent brings down the new templates and registers/unregisters them.

UE-V in Your Environment

I have taken you through parts of the UE-V infrastructure already but let’s dive into this a bit more and how to set UE-V in your environment. One of the coolest things about UE-V is that there is not a lot to setup – to get it up and running you need to do two things:

  1. Create a settings store: You will want to create a SMB folder share where users have permissions to write their own settings packages (the files that UE-V stores settings).
  2. Deploy the lightweight UE-V agent: Use System Center 2012 Configuration Manager or any electronic software distribution tool to install the agent to the machines you want roam the experience to/from. As part of the install you can easily point the agent to the setting store via command line switch or use a home drive configured in Active Directory.

And that’s basically it! At this point you can roam the experience for Windows 7, Windows 8, Office 2010, IE and the other apps that we support right out of the box. If you want to manage UE-V a bit more and roam the experience for other apps you can optionally also do these things:

  • Use group policy to configure the agent: If you don’t want to configure the settings store location on the agent install, you can use group policy instead. You can also configure what out of box templates you want to enable/disable on machines or control which users you want to be able to roam settings with UE-V.
  • Create settings location templates: Break out the UE-V Generator for any apps you want to roam their experiences that don’t have templates in the box. You can also check the UE-V TechNet gallery for templates that others have created so you don’t have to recreate the wheel.
  • Create a settings location template catalog: As I mentioned earlier, you can create a file share to store the templates you created with the Generator. If you do this you can use group policy to point the agent to this location.

For more details on how to set up UE-V check out this video and read the UE-V deployment white paper.

As you can see there are basically three components to UE-V – the agent, files shares, and additional settings location templates you create. To manage the components there are no new tools for you to learn. You can deploy the agent using System Center 2012 Configuration Manager or any software distribution tool and leverage PowerShell or group policy to configure the agent. There is also nothing you need to do have UE-V work seamlessly with other Microsoft Desktop Virtualization products, as UE-V has a logic built into the agent to roam the experience between physical and virtual environments when you use App-V, Remote App, a VDI or session based desktop in your organization.

Ready to learn more about UE-V? First, make sure to check out the check out the UE-V Zone on TechNet, which has other videos and content to help you get started. Also, if you want to use UE-V in a lab, you can download it from TechNet Plus and MSDN Plus if you’re a paid subscriber, and if you already own MDOP, then head over to the Volume Licensing Service Center to download the 2012 version.

As always please leave any questions in the comment section below and check back next week when Skand Mittal will share with you what is new with App-V 5.0.