RG038 – Differences between Profile managers

By Patrick Kaak

 

In this article I want to address Differences between Citrix Profile Manager, Immidio Flex Profiles and the RES Zero Profile component in RES Workspace Manager 2011. Recently I ran into an blog article by Helge Klein, about the differences between Citrix Profile Manager and Imidio Flex Profiles. Nothing wrong with it! Great explanation about the differences. However, I missed the RES Zero Profiles in it, so with Helge’s permission, I edited his original article to answer the same questions to include RES Workspace Manager’s Zero Profiles also:

 

Can the product be used to provide a single profile on multiple platforms?

  • Citrix Profile Management 3.x does not have cross-platform capabilities built in. That means you cannot use an XP profile on Windows 7, but you can use the same profile on 32 and 64 bit Windows. There are however some things to remember when using a profile across 32/64 bit: For example, think about hardcoded paths, the Program files (x86) directory, and the HKCU\software\wow6432node. It must be noted that Citrix currently has a beta version of Profile Manager with cross-platform support for MS Office and Internet Explorer.
  • Flex Profiles do not have true cross-platform capabilities either, however it can be used to make settings available cross-platform that have the same format on all platforms. For example: HKCU\Software\Paint.NET is probably a no-brainer, whereas copying HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer around indiscriminatly is probably a bad idea.
  • RES Workspace Manager has great cross-platform capabilities. With RES Zero Profiles, you can take a lot of settings from Windows XP to the Windows 7 environment, but you also have to be careful in some situations. RES Workspace Manager however has built-in templates, so it should be safe to roam the settings of Windows XP Internet Explorer 8, to Windows 7. Roaming between 32 and 64 bit operation systems poses the same problem as Citrix, when programs move to the Program Files (x86) directory and have hardcoded paths in the registry. Workspace Manager can however change these paths on the fly if they are located in HKCU for non-virtual apps. If the applications are delivered via ThinApp, Citrix Streaming Server or MS App-V, Workspace Manager can make changes in both HKCU and HKLM.

 

Can the product be used on SBC, VDI and fat clients?

  • This is true for all three the products. Licensing restrictions may apply.

 

Can the product be used to preconfigure a user’s environment?

  • Both Citrix Profile Management and Immidio Flex Profiles are classic profile management products without the capability to set up a specific user environment or distribute updated settings to all users. That is typically referred to as “user environment management”.
  • This is something that RES Workspace Manager does great at. What’s even better is that this functionality is available even in the free Express version of the product. Regardless of edition, Workspace Manager can deliver a totally preconfigured and continually managed user environment. All settings (drivemappings, registry settings, variables, etc.) can be made dynamically: When a registry setting needs to be changed, you can update it even when profiles are already saved by overwriting the user made settings in the registry. This can be done either every time or only the first time as a Run-once.

 

Can portions of the profile be saved during a session as well as at logoff and at disconnects?

  • Citrix Profile Management loads (or perhaps more to the point; streams) the profile at logon and writes changes back at logoff. It also has a feature called “active write back” which, if enabled, causes changed files to be written back to the user store immediately. This works for files only, not for registry keys.
  • Flex Profiles typically is configured to import settings at logon and export again at logoff. Since Flex uses a simple tool for the imports/exports it is conceivable to call that tool during a session as well. There is, however, no built-in support for that. Neither is there for exporting settings at disconnects.
  • RES Zero Profiling is very flexible in these scenarios. You can load (this is referred to in Workspace Manager as pre-fetch) settings on logon. This happens as a background thread so it doesn’t delay the logon process. The product also has the ability to load and save settings on both session and application launch/end. In other words, RES Workspace Manager is able to save changes immediately to the profile while the program is actually running. If you choose that setting for your applications, you do not need to save the settings at disconnect, as that’s already done when changed accured. Finally it serves to note that RES Workspace Manager actually can import existing Flex Profiles and create User Settings from them.

 

Can you configure what to save and what not?

All three products are very flexible when it comes to which parts of the profile should be saved. Yet there is one major difference:

  • By default, Citrix Profile Manager saves everything, hence it runs immediately without anything configured.
  • Flex Profiles saves nothing by default. As a consequence Flex needs to be configured for each application individually before it will work.
  • RES Zero Profiles can do both. When applications are set to ‘Track changed immediately, it works out of the box. You can also choose to select what you want to save yourself at startup/ending of an application or at logon/logoff time. In that case it works like Flex and things need to be configured. To make this process easy for unknown applications, the Workspace Manager includes SampleMode, which can pick up changes across a subsection of users (for example one out of ten users) what is being changed. When using specified mode, the Sample Mode log will only include items which you’re currently NOT picking up, i.e. it becomes very clear if you’re missing something, rather than relying on trial-and-error. You can also rely on the before-mentioned built-in templates as an alternative to building your own User Settings from scratch. Finally you have an in-between mode in RES Workspace Manager. This mode will initially track settings you specify once. After that it will switch to tracking mode to pick up any changes going forward. This gives the best of the two options and is well suited for scenarios whare you are moving from one environment into another, for example; Physical to VDI or XP to WIN7.

 

Can I also use this to roam settings between different application versions?

This is a bonus question often asked by my customers when to move from Windows XP to Windows 7 or Windows 2008R2 and also upgrading from Application v1 to Application v2.

As for Citrix Profile Manager and Flex Profiles it depends. The big question is; does the program still use the same keys and files to store its data in and is the format still the same. Look at Microsoft Office for example. It just doesn’t support switching back and forward between versions and use the same settings. The settings are saved in different nodes in the registry (Office 11, Office 12, Office 14 etc). If the office apps detect old registry keys it will do a one-time upgrade, but there is no guarantee that other apps exhibit the same behavior. Second, it’s only one-time one-way. As a general rule, you can roam settings between platforms, but if the different application versions aren’t using the same keys to store these settings, the two versions of the app will ignore each others changed settings. To rub salt in the wound, when roaming or migrating from 32bit platform to a 64bit platform, you also have the problem of the HKCU\software\wow6432node.

In  RES Workspace Manager, you can actually do this.

It requires a bit of interesting configuration. Here is the skinny on how you set it up: In the RES Workspace Manager, you have the option to use variables just about anywhere in the console. This includes the path you specify as part of a specified User Setting. Second, you have the option to make rules based on the content of any part of the registry (including HKLM!) or the version of an .exe file. Third, you have the ability to Link (share) user settings between two managed applications. Mix all the above ingredients well and bake at 220C, and you have a solution.

We will cover how to do this in a future RESguru article.

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