Ah-hah! Symantec’s Workspace Profiles product is rebranded RTO Virtual Profiles

I can 100% confirm that Symantec licensed / OEM’ed RTO Software’s Virtual Profiles product that will become the Workspace Profiles component of Symantec’s new Endpoint Virtualization Suite 6.1. Symantec is not “officially” acknowledging this, although I can personally confirm it after using the Symantec-branded management console for about five seconds.

I can 100% confirm that Symantec licensed / OEM’ed RTO Software’s Virtual Profiles product that will become the Workspace Profiles component of Symantec’s new Endpoint Virtualization Suite 6.1.

Symantec is not “officially” acknowledging this, although I can personally confirm it after using the Symantec-branded management console for about five seconds.

RTO Software is Kevin Goodman’s company. I think Kevin has presented at every single BriForum conference, and he’s the co-creator of our Citrix Logon Process giant wall chart.

I like RTO’s product, and I’m sure that OEM’ing it to Symantec will work out well for both companies, so this is good news for both. Symantec gets a great product, and RTO gets a much larger market exposure.

RTO Virtual Profiles versus other profile management products

There are a lot of user profile / user environment / user personality management products on the market today. (Can we even make a complete list? How about triCerat Simplify Profiles, AppSense Environment Manager, RES PowerFuse, plus stuff from Scense, Immidio, Sepago, Citrix…)

While the specific techniques used by the various products differ, they all have the same basic goal, namely, to replace the antiquated Roaming Profile feature built-in to Windows with a more appropriate technology geared towards today’s use cases.

Broadly speaking, you could classify these profile products into two groups:

  • Pure “Windows Profile” management products, and
  • More broad “user environment” products.

The Windows Profile (note the capital “P” in “Profile”) are meant to more directly replace the ineffective roaming profile capability of Windows, while the user environment products start with that and then also try to capture other elements of the user environment, such as user data, applications, and application customizations not found within Windows roaming Profiles. (We’ve written about the differences between these two types of products in the past.)

There’s a trade-off between the two classes of products, with the Profile products being more straightforward to implement but not as powerful. (A good way to think about this is that most Profile management products, while not as powerful, can be “slipped in” to an environment with little-to-no effort, while the user environment management products, while more powerful, require “real” projects and efforts to get them implemented.)

I should be clear that one type of product is not necessarily “better” than the other—it’s really more about what’s important for each specific customer.

That said, RTO’s Virtual Profiles product squarely falls in the first category. It’s a Windows Profile Management product that replaces roaming profiles. You can install it in start using it in just a few minutes.

If you want to learn more about RTO’s Profile Virtualization product and how it can be used in VDI environments, RTO and VMware jointly produced a reference architecture white paper on the topic. (Registration required, but worth it.) Doug Brown also created a video podcast interview / demo with Kevin Goodman about the Virtual Profiles last year.

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The question I've always had about this type solution is how do you solve the last write wins scenario?  the NTUSER.DAT hive may change if the user is running apps from two different Silos/LMG?


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@ Joe


The RTO solution writes back dynamically during a session and only the keys required, its not a log off trigger a hybrid merge deal.


RTO and Windows Preferences are a nice combination. Congrats RTO.... I have been secretly hoping MS would have aquired you.


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The profile management solution built into Quest vWorkspace relies on timestamping to get over the last-write shortcoming. It also supports the sharing of profiles across TS silos and dekstop pools simultaneously. Also, profile elements can be associated with users, groups, and OUs, enabling the administrator to "compose" the contents of a profile based on the users' identity, group memberships, etc.


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Last writer wins... most of these products provide there own datastore and update process for profile data.  This is managed separately from the normal profile folder and NTUSER,DAT.


You then configure the user with a mandatory windows profile meaning that NTUSER.DAT is never updated.


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@Joe - Many of the newer profile management products do things down to each individual value and base the writes on timestamps as others have referred to.  It's not the old method of Export these subkeys and values at logoff.  That being said, there absolutely is still a last writer wins when it comes down to an individual value that's updated across two silos/LMGs, but you'll have a tough time solving that one any other way.  I think the timestamp / immediate write method solves about 99.9% of the last writer wins issues for registry items.


Shawn


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@Kevin -


Congrats on your licensing deal.  Symantec picked a good one.


Shawn


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@Joe @Shawn - Just to add on to what Shawn wrote I would extrapolate that %99.9 a few more decimal points it would come down to running apps that update the same value in the registry and making a different change on each.With most of these products writing data immediately we have not seen an issue.


Eric


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Has anyone compared ProfileUnity & the RTO product?  Love to hear your thoughts.


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Hello.


I think the OEM of RTO Virtual Profiles by Symantec is a great move, similar to Citrix acquiring Sepago.  This brings profile management technology into the virtual desktop solution set where it is needed.  But as Brian states, the difference between profile management and user environment management is huge.  User environment management is a much more advanced solution, which is why Brian comments that with RTO 'you can install it and start using it in just a few minutes' as all it is doing is placing a filter drivers in front of your existing roaming profile, it is not a roaming profile replacement / user environment management solution, it is a great way to speed up your tired roaming profile logons.


@ Joe -


Regarding the last write wins scenario, here is how we (AppSense) address it... When a user launches an application, regardless of how it is delivered to a user (local install, App-V, SoftGrid  etc...), we inject a Profile Virtualization Component (PVC) into the running process which allows any personalized settings, i.e. writes to the registry or file system, to be virtualized and therefore effectively redirected to a 'local virtualization cache' located on the user's endpoint or within the user session itself (in the case of TS/XenApp).  This is an automated process, no need for manually specifying which registry keys or settings to capture.  


When the application is closed (not just at user logoff), the contents of the 'local virtualization cache' (only those [delta] changes made by the user during this running instance of the application) are then synchronized to a back-end db server to that a centralized copy of the user's personalization settings is now available and able to be streamed back into open concurrent sessions or across multiple delivery mechanisms.


This eliminates the last write wins at the session level by not writing back to NTUSER.DAT at logoff.  The next time the user launches the same application, be it from the same or a different concurrent session, the contents of the 'local virtual cache' are checked to see if the settings are up-to-date.  If they are, the user will get their latest personalization settings from the local cache.  If the settings are out-of-date, then the new delta user personalization settings for that specific application will be streamed down to the endpoint device on-demand.


I hope that was of interest and answers your question Joe.


Thanks and Regards.


Gareth Kitson


AppSense.


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Does anyone have any idea how solutions like RTO and AppSense 'virtualize' a profile on (offline) laptops?


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Hessel, Thank you for your interest on how AppSense enables virtualized profiles to be available in a disconnected or 'offline' state.


AppSense Environment Manager's Offline Mode ensures mobile users have access to the latest version of their personalization settings when not inside or connected to the corporate network.


The proces behind this is relatively simple and utilizes the 'local virtualization cache' i referred to in my previous post within this thread.  When a user is logged on to a managed computer, their personalization data is stored locally in the virtual cache on the endpoint device.  By default, when the user logs off or shuts down the device, the cache is deleted, and recreated when they next log on.


To enable offline availability of the settings stored within the local virtualization cache, the AppSense Environment Manager console provides an option for the administrator to specify, on a per-machine basis, that the user is working in offline mode and requires their cache to be permanently available on the device, thereby not deleting it at logoff or shut down.


The settings are now available to the user for the duration of their disconnected state, any further changes the user makes to their desktop or applications during this time are automatically captured, redirected from the local registry and file system, to the local virtualization cache.  Upon reconnection to the network, these new settings (the delta's) are automatically synchronized back to the SQL database and are now available to be streamed into any other concurrent session.


As you may be aware, personalization settings are only one half of the user personality, the other half being 'Policy'.  Policy remains active on the end point at all times, regardless of whether the managed computer has offline mode enabled or disabled.  Policy remains as it is part of the AppSense Environment Manager configuration, which resides on the end point device at all times to set up, maintain and self heal the environment.


I hope this answers your question Hessel, however if you would like any further information please do ask.


Thanks and Regards.


Gareth Kitson


AppSense.


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