UEM and the search for the holy grail

It’s 2015, and somehow capturing settings for Windows applications is still a difficult thing. The latest attempt at this task is VMware’s User Environment Manager (Immidio Flex+ acquisition) product that has seemed to fly under the radar for some reason.  I scanned the 100+ page manual and followed several very good guides including this one and this one.  UEM addresses a missing piece in the VMware EUC puzzle: centralization of system and applications settings that can be applied across all Windows flavors (7, 8.1, 10 [I hope], 2008R2, 2012R2, etc.).  Here’s the good and the bad from my testing:

The good stuff:

  • Nice, and I mean nice UI.  After spending months working on Citrix UPM settings in a MMC snap-in, the UEM management utility makes it easy to enable, disable, add and remove settings.  You mean there’s no delay every time a setting is applied?  Yes.
  • It just works.  It doesn’t try to replace the default Windows profile.  Rather, it modifies it after creation.  The number of corrupted profiles so far?  0.  Simply brilliant.
  • Users can restore their previous settings.  A “self-service” shortcut on the desktop lets the logged in user restore settings if something gets messed up.  It’s like Time Machine for Windows settings.  Useful?  Maybe not.  Cool?  Yes.  This also means customizable automatic backup of profile settings too.
  • Off of that second bullet, it’s way easier to troubleshoot configuration.  UPM testing involved an epic amount of login/logoff time.  Logon/logoff scripts aside, almost all other changes can be tested by simply refreshing the UEM settings while logged in.  Again, very awesome.
  • Unified experience.  Change the default font size in Word and setup Outlook on a Windows 7 VM.  Logoff, and launch Outlook as a published RDSH app on a Server 2012 R2 host and everything is just as it was before.  Try that with a writable volume or Citrix PvD.
  • Customized Start Menu.  Set conditions on applications so that shortcuts only appear in the Start Menu if the application is installed.  Very useful.
  • Temp is temp, not something else.  Has anyone tried capturing the Horizon View client as an App Stack?  App Volumes seems to do something strange with the temp folder to the point where the View client refuses to install.  Slightly ironic.  There’s also weird behavior with Office too.  UEM doesn’t modify this folder at all luckily.

The not so good stuff:

  • Time.  Applying UEM without any changes results in a useless Start Menu.  Every application must be analyzed manually using the application profiler.  Some templates are built-in but had to be modified to be useful.
  • Program Files data isn’t preserved.  Yes it’s bad code if your application stores user data in %ProgramFiles% but what choice do you have if it does?  UEM won’t grab anything in this directory, even if it’s just one file that you need to preserve.
  • Themes.  Aero isn’t working so each desktop looks boring.
  • What about my stuff?  Save a file to the Desktop, logoff, logon and it’s not there.  Remember, this is settings only, not data.
  • Off of that bullet, folder redirection is required, unless you go the persistent VDI route.  It’s great most of the time, but what about that one application that refuses to save to a network path?
  • Permissions suck.  Two file shares at minimum each need customized permissions.  Then a folder redirection share if you want data preserved.  If this could be automated it would make setup a lot quicker.

 

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