Why GPUs Matter for Remoting Environments

Do graphics processing units (GPUs) really improve remote end-user experience in virtual desktop environments? The answer is yes, they do in many use cases and for both on-premises and cloud setups. One reason is that the Central Processing Unit (CPU) load on a remoting host can be reduced significantly by offloading graphics calculations used in many modern Windows applications to a GPU. Another reason is that GPUs can do video encoding and decoding much more efficient than any CPU. Simply said, offloading graphics calculations and video codecs to a GPU improves remote end-user experience.

For details on this topic, check out the brand new article Kristin Griffin and I published on the RDS Gurus blog: Why GPUs Matter for Remoting Environments.

Windows Virtual Desktop Announcements

Last week was dominated by Microsoft’s announcement that Windows Virtual Desktop including Windows 10 Enterprise with multi-user capabilities is in public preview now. For those who don’t know what Windows Virtual Desktop is, I want to recommend to check out http://aka.ms/wvd. What’s important to know is that any user who has either of the following licenses is entitled to use Windows Virtual Desktop.

  • Microsoft 365 E3/A3
  • Microsoft 365 E5/A5
  • Microsoft F1 Business
  • Windows 10 Enterprise E3/E5
  • Windows 10 Education A3/A5
  • Windows 10 VDA per user

Last November, Microsoft acquired FSLogix. All four FSLogix product modules (Profile & Office 365 Container and App Masking/Java Control) have now been put to work in Windows Virtual Desktop, in particular to enable faster load times for non-persistent or pooled desktops. Any user with a Windows Virtual Desktop entitlement or an RDS CAL is eligible for the entire FSLogix suite. That’s pretty much everyone who has access to a remote desktop, hosted in Azure, in AWS, in GCP and on-premises. This is exciting news!

All these entitlements will take effect later this year (hopefully soon). A rebranded FSLogix suite will be released alongside the general availability of Windows Virtual Desktop. An important detail of the FSLogix integration into Remote Desktop Services is that Profile Containers will replace User Profile Disks as the default technology for redirecting user profiles.

Microsoft acquires FSLogix – Two months later…

It’s almost 18 months ago since I wrote my last article on this blog, and I thought that it’s about time to come out of my self-imposed stealth mode again. From one of my previous articles you can see that I became an investor in FSLogix in July 2017 – and this is where the roller coaster ride began (in a very positive way). It was an experience of a lifetime to be part of a successful IT startup, both in the role of a technical evangelist and in the role of an investor. The icing on the cake was the exit, when Microsoft acquired FSLogix on November 19, 2018. The weeks before the acquisition were truly exciting. Some of the things I’ve learned during that time make some great anecdotes I can use in upcoming presentations and articles. Stay tuned…

But what’s next for me? Very simple, it’s business as usual. As a result of the FSLogix acquisition I’ve signed a 1-year part-time contract with Microsoft. My mission is to help them to “assimilate” FSLogix and educate my new colleagues and their customers about what FSLogix brings to the table – Office 365 Containers, Profile Containers and Application Masking are hot topics. At the same time, I will continue my EUC community activities around Azure Windows Virtual Desktop, Microsoft Remote Desktop Services, VMware Horizon and Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops. Add AMD and NVIDIA GPUs to the EUC mix and you get the complete picture. In that context, fellow MVP Kristin Griffin and I have founded REX Analytics to build a software framework we can use in remote end-user experience benchmarking projects. But why are we doing this? Simply because there is a growing demand generated by vendors and enterprise customers when it comes to measuring and optimizing perceived performance on end-devices used for remote connections. Desktop as a Service (DaaS) in general and Azure Windows Virtual Desktops (+ FSLogix) in particular are massive drivers here. But there is no existing remote end-user experience benchmarking toolset out there in the market – and together with our community friends in TeamRGE, we are the one-eyed among the blind now 😉

With that, I’m really looking forward to 2019, which I think will be the year of DaaS + GPUs + benchmarking. I’ll keep you updated about my community activities and the market news I find interesting. Next is my presentation “Remote end user experience benchmarking results when using IGEL clients in Microsoft RDS and VMware Horizon environments” at IGEL DISRUPT in San Jose, USA, on February 7.

Using FSLogix Office 365 Container for Outlook Search in Non-Persistent RDS Environments

When Outlook is running in cached Exchange mode, Outlook data is stored in user-specific .OST files. These .OST files must follow the users as they roam from host to host. Windows Search Service indexes locally stored .OST files and creates an index catalog for each user to enable search functionality in Outlook. In non-persistent and load-balanced Remote Desktop Service environments, the index catalog doesn’t roam with user data. As a consequence, the index catalog must be rebuilt every time the user logs in and the Connection Broker send him or her to a new pooled desktop or a different RD Session Host within a Collection. FSLogix’s Office 365 Container was designed to solve this issue by roaming a user’s Outlook data as well as their search index catalog in such a way that it is compatible to the Windows Search Service. The FSLogix O365 Container implementation is based on a file system filter driver that redirects the users’ .OST files to virtual disks attached to the local file system in such a way that makes the VHDs look like local folders. This enables users to use the local Windows Search service in Outlook while they are accessing their emails. But how good is this solution in terms of performance and end user experience? The folks from RDS Gurus have the answer. Read more..

Why I Became an Investor and Team Member of FSLogix

This article was previously posted on the FSLogix Blog.

Here’s my little story of becoming an FSLogix investor earlier this year: Since launching my first technology startup when I was a university student, I’ve always been watching the international startup ecosystem very carefully. I’ve had the opportunity to be in leading positions at several international startups over the last 15 years, including my own (visionapp, Immidio and REX Analytics just to name a few). I’ve learned that equity investments, where the funders get a piece of the company, are a great way of directly participating in startups at an early stage. And this is exactly where FSLogix comes into the picture. Read more..

A Beginner’s Guide to XenApp and XenDesktop on Azure

This article was first published on the RDS Gurus blog, by Benny Tritsch and Kristin Griffin.

Deploying Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop in Microsoft Azure is an interesting solution for everybody who wants to deliver Windows desktops or applications from the public cloud. Citrix and Microsoft are working closely together to develop this modern application delivery platform based on Azure Resource Manager (ARM). This article introduces the multiple variants of hosting XenApp and XenDesktop on Azure, allowing potential customers to make the right choices for their particular use cases and business models. Read more..

My Professional Year 2016 in Review (Part 2)

In part 1 of my 2016 review I put the emphasis on my engagement with Lakeside Software which consumed a substantial amount of my work time. This part 2 is about all my other activities, like short projects, workshops, presentations and community work. Let’s start with the short projects and the customer workshops. Primarily they were around pure Microsoft Remote Desktop Services infrastructures and end user experience benchmarking. It is interesting to note that there are only a few independent experts (including myself) that have some solid field experience with pure Microsoft RDS environments, both on premises and in the Azure cloud. Kristin Griffin from the US and Freek Berson are two of them, and in 2016 we joined forces. Together we deliver our consulting services under the label RDS Gurus. I think the name is self-explanatory. Over the last months we have learned that pure RDS – without add-on products from Citrix or VMware – is a growing market. This is particularly true for price-sensitive hosted environments supporting multiple internal or external tenants and with highly specialized system admins. The release of Windows Server 2016 gave this market segment an extra boost, due to its remote desktop user interface that is identical to Windows 10 and the improved remoting protocol capabilities. In 2017 I expect to see a lot more pure RDS environments including some third-party point solutions for system management and resource control. Read more..

My Professional Year 2016 in Review (Part 1)

2016 was an exciting year for me. It was my first full year working as an independent consultant, with Lakeside Software as my biggest customer. In addition to my part-time engagement with Lakeside, I’ve completed a number of successful smaller Microsoft, Citrix and VMware end user computing projects and workshops. Some of the projects were together with my community friends Kristin Griffin and Freek Berson. Under the label “RDS Gurus” our focus was on customers with pure Microsoft Remote Desktop Services environments. To our own surprise this is a rapidly growing market, both on prem and in Azure. But there’s more. Since many years, I have a “hobby” called remote end user experience (REX) benchmarking. It’s all about comparing Microsoft RDS, Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop, VMware Horizon View and other Windows remoting technologies from an end user’s standpoint. In 2016 things became a lot more serious. Kristin Griffin, Freek Berson and I joined forces and founded our new software company REX Analytics, headquartered in Seattle and focusing on creating the tools and frameworks needed for remote end user experience benchmarking. But there is still more. My community friend Ruben Spruijt and I are very interested in the latest and greatest advances in GPU-accelerated remoting. Under the label “Team Remoting Graphics Experts” (TeamRGE) we are benchmarking NVIDIA, AMD and Intel GPUs. We use our findings and results in technical whitepapers and presentations at industry events, such as Microsoft Ignite, BriForum or E2EVC. The following paragraphs include some more details of my 2016 activities for Lakeside Software. Part 2 of this article will highlight RDS Gurus, REX Analytics, TeamRGE and community programs. Read more..

Joint Webinar with FSLogix and deviceTRUST

On November 16, I had the great pleasure to moderate a joint webinar with FSLogix and deviceTRUST. I like both companies and their products very much as you can see from previous articles (FSLogix, deviceTRUST). But combining the two is even better! In this webinar Kevin Goodman and Sascha Goeckel demonstrated how deviceTRUST provides monitoring of endpoints through context awareness and uses policy/admin defined triggers that provide FSLogix Apps the ability to control application access on those endpoint devices in virtual sessions. This can be used for license compliance and to secure VDI gold images. If you want to watch the recording of this webinar, view it here (registration required).

Tools I’ve used in my Ignite session

A bit more than two weeks ago I’ve presented a breakout session titled “Get an independent insider’s view of desktop virtualization and session remoting” at Microsoft Ignite in Atlanta. Here is the video of my session on Channel 9 for those who want to watch it. As part of my session I demonstrated some great tools and add-on products provided by community fellows. I actually felt like the anchor of a news show walking people through some real-world use cases. After my session, I received emails asking me for more details regarding the tools. Here we go… Read more..