User Environment Management in Azure RemoteApp – Part 1

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In the coming series of blogposts, I want to focus on User Environment Management. In Azure RemoteApp the settings of users are saved in a User Profile Disk (UPD). This User Profile disk is a dedicated VHD file which is mounted during the logon process. The User will not see his profile as a separate disk so the user sees no difference between a normal profile and the User Profile disk. Unfortunately, at this moment it’s not possible to disable the User Profile disk in Azure RemoteApp. This could be useful when you want to user other User Profile management solutions like: Microsoft User Experience Virtualization, AppSense Desktop Now and RES ONE Workspace. In this series I want to look into these solutions and if we can use them together with the User Profile Disk in Azure RemoteApp.

In this first blogpost of the series I want to look if we can use User Experience Virtualization together with the User Profile disk in Azure RemoteApp. User Experience Virtualization saves the settings of a user in separate files on a file share location. Based on (Application) setting templates user settings will be saved. See below a picture of how Microsoft UE-V will work. User Settings will normally be saved on a file share which is hosted in your environment. The (application) settings templates can be deployed through Configuration Manager or can be saved on file share which will be configured in the UE-V Agent.

On each Azure RemoteApp instance the UE-V agent needs to be installed. That’s the first action we need to do. In our Azure RemoteApp scenario, we need to include the UE-V agent in the Master Image. Before we deploy the agent I want to discuss first some Agent settings which need to be configured before the UE-V agent will work. The following settings need to be configured:

  • SettingsStoragePath: Indicates the Universal Naming Convention (UNC) path that defines where settings are stored. %username% or %computername% environment variables are accepted. Scripting can require escaped variables.
  • SettingsTemplateCatalogPath: Indicates the Universal Naming Convention (UNC) path that defines the location that was checked for new settings location templates.
  • SyncMethod and SyncEnabled:
    With UE-V you can sync user settings to the local client. This is needed when you want to use your client offline (not connected to the UE-V Settings Store). In a RDS environment the Sync method can be set to ‘None’ because those environments will always be active and connected.

Above settings need to be configured in each Agent deployment. So also in the UE-V Agent deployment command line for the Azure RemoteApp Master Image these will be used:

AgentSetup.exe /quiet /norestart /log “%temp%\UE-VAgentInstaller.log” SettingsStoragePath=\\<ServerName>\UevSettingsStore\%^username% SyncMethod=None SyncEnabled=False

With above command line the UE-V Agent will be installed in your Master Image with the Sync mechanism disabled. We will enable the sync when the Azure RemoteApp instances are active. The next step is to prepare your Master Image and deploy it to your Azure RemoteApp Hybrid collection. The following settings will be automatically collected:

Operating System:

  • Desktop Settings
  • Ease of Access Settings
  • Network Printers
  • Theme Settings

Applications:

  • Internet Explorer 8,9,10,11
  • Office 2010 en 2013, 2016
  • Microsoft Notepad
  • Microsoft Calculator
  • Microsoft Wordpad

Now let’s activate UE-V in the Azure RemoteApp instances and take a look if settings of Azure RemoteApp users will be saved to the Settings Store of UE-V. Execute the following steps to check if settings are saved:

  1. Change the SyncEnabled UE-V agent client setting to ‘True’. This can be done by using Group Policy, PowerShell, WMI or ConfigMgr. In my case I use ConfigMgr. In one of the following blogposts we will dive into this functionality in detail.
  2. Publish the Calculator Application through the Azure Management Portal
  3. Login with a user in your Azure RemoteApp Hybrid collection and start the Calculator application
  4. Change the Calculator to ‘Scientific’ view and close the application. Next step is to check if those application settings are saved in UE-V
  5. You should see ‘.pkgx’ file in the UserSettingsStore file share in the ‘MicrosoftCalculator6’ folder.
  6. Let’s also check if this works for Office 2013, start Word 2013 from your Azure RemoteApp client
  7. Activate the View Setting ‘Ruler‘ and close Wordt 2013 application
  8. Now check if the settings of Word 2013 are saved in a ‘.pkgx’ file in the UserSettingsStore file.

So the first conclusion is that we can use UE-V to sync the settings of applications to a separate location than the User Profile disk. In Hybrid scenarios this could be very useful. As already explained we could also use UE-V to sync Operating System settings. In an Azure RemoteApp scenario this could be useful for syncing Credentials and Certificates but settings like desktop and theme settings is less usable because you can only publish applications through Azure RemoteApp. In the next blog post we will focus managing settings of UE-V through System Center Configuration Manager 2012. If you have any comments, please let me know!

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