Using Windows Virtual Desktop and FSLogix to accelerate working from home: Part 2
This is part two of a three-part blog series on the ways Windows® Virtual Desktop (WVD) solves for work anywhere scenarios and provides some important considerations for deploying the new service.
This series of WVD posts includes:
- Part one to see what WVD is and what it solves for.
- Part two for more of the story and how FSLogix makes WVD easier.
- Part three for the gotchas and good to knows.
Typical WVD architecture with FSLogix Profile Containers
Microsoft® acquired FSLogix to provide, for any WVD-Licensed customer, the optimum Windows 10 multi-session experience. The following diagram and accompanying descriptions depict the flow of user logon in an environment by using FSLogix with the Profile Container feature, redirecting the profile to an Server Message Block (SMB) share on Azure® NetApp® files. By placing the contents of the user's profile in a remote virtual hard disk (VHD), user profiles can be mounted instantly regardless of their size, and the user doesn’t notice changes to their profile if they move between hosts when they log off and back on.
Client connection: The client connects to a Remote Desktop Gateway service at https://rdweb.wvd.microsoft.com.
WVD control plane: The WVD control plane uses Microsoft Identity Provider in Azure Active Directory (AAD), allowing it to make use of advanced conditional access configurations. The access token granted at this level allows access only through the WVD gateway and does not yet authenticate to the local domain.
WVD session host: The WVD agents running on the session hosts maintain a reverse-connect connection to the control plane. Using reverse-connect means that there are no special port requirements from either the client or session host, and the result is a much more reliable connection. One downside to this approach is some added network latency required for the HTTPS encapsulation.
Authentication: After connecting through the Remote Desktop gateway, the client must authenticate with the local AD domain resulting in a second prompt for credentials. The credentials can be saved in the client to provide convenience.
FSLogix user profile storage: After the Remote Desktop session connects, the FSLogix service on the session host mounts a VHD on a remote SMB share and uses Filter Driver technology to redirect IO operations for the user's profile to the VHD. FSLogix creates the VHD by using the user's local domain credentials, utilizing built-in NTFS permissions.
Azure AD Connect: The diagram shows Azure AD Connect as an Azure virtual machine (VM) in this diagram, but it can live anywhere that has network access to both AD Domain Controllers and Azure cloud APIs. If you’re adding AD Connect for the purposes of WVD, and you’re already using other Office 365 services, be aware that this makes your hybrid cloud objects read-only for many management tasks. More on that later.
FSLogix Profile Containers
FSLogix Profile Containers utilize an SMB endpoint to create and mount VHDs for each user profile. You must select a storage backend in Azure for this purpose. The Microsoft documentation site has an excellent article on the different options available for storing FSLogix Profile Containers. Rackspace has had great success in implementing Azure NetApp files for this purpose, and it has become our preferred deployment.
Even though FSLogix Profile Containers solves a lot of the complexities with a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployment, there are still many customizations and operational considerations to account for.
One of the biggest considerations when deploying FSLogix is how large do the Profile Containers need to be. By default, FSLogix virtual disks are dynamic and have a maximum size of 30 GB. This means that when your user first logs in, their VHD takes up roughly 500 MB, and you can expect to have their profile grow over time. If you set your maximum dynamic size too low, users can fill up the VHD and see errors in applications. In order to recover from a full VHD, you must disconnect the user, remotely mount the VHD, and use disk utilities to extend the dynamic disk and partition.
FSLogix creates the folder and VHD, or mount one if it exists, by using the user’s credentials when they connect. When you create the file share for FSLogix, make sure to modify the default NTFS permissions so that the Everyone group doesn’t have access to all contents by default. The permission model Microsoft provides allows users to create these items, and then have the permissions to read or modify the items they create.
Bypassing FSLogix Containers
When FSLogix is installed, some local groups are created that direct which users are included or excluded from the Office and Profile Containers. We recommend adding the imaging user to the exclude group so that if there is an issue with the FSLogix configuration, you can still log in.
The built-in groups are FSLogix ODFC Exclude List, FSLogix ODFC Include List, FSLogix Profile Exclude List, and FSLogix Profile Include List. All users are added to the FSLogix Profile Include List by default. If a user is both in the Include and Exclude lists, the exclude permissions takes precedence.
Cleaning up unused disk space
FSLogix takes care of provisioning the VHDs for you, but there is no system that is responsible for the following operational tasks. We recommend that you carefully plan your profile management strategy and remove VHDs of separated employees.
Other FSLogix features
Per Microsoft, FSLogix is a set of solutions that enhance, enable, and simplify non-persistent Windows computing environments. This article is focused heavily on the Profile Container functionality of FSLogix, but that’s far from the only useful feature provided by the tool. FSLogix solutions include:
Profile Containers: Redirect user profile contents to a remotely attached VHD, providing portability for user sessions.
Office Containers: The Profile Container normally contains the portion of the user profile that contains Microsoft Office data. If you have a requirement to redirect Office file operations to a separate VHD, then this feature helps.
Application containers: Redirect an application’s folder contents to a remotely attached VHD. FSLogix dynamically attaches the VHD when the folder is accessed.
File and directory redirection: You can configure redirection rules to automatically redirect IO operations for one path to another path.
Application masking: Install more applications on a single image, and hide the applications from all but a specific allowed group.
Java version masking: If you have applications that require varying versions of Java&ref;, you can create rules to only provide the old version of Java to that application.
See Part three for the gotchas and good to knows.
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