Profiling Applications with VMware User Environment Manager, Part 1: Introduction to Application Profiler
Successful management of applications across physical, virtual, and cloud devices is becoming increasingly important. Whether your organization fits neatly in to one of those silos, or spans all three, the challenge is finding tools designed to work well for any one platform, and seamlessly across them all. VMware User Environment Manager is one of those tools. With a little savvy, you can provide a superior experience for your end users while simplifying profile management.
Personalization, or management of user-specific application settings, is one of many features included with VMware User Environment Manager. This feature enables end users to roam between disparate devices, while preserving custom application settings. IT benefits from simplified application installations, while delivering necessary configuration settings based on any number of environmental conditions.
If you are new to User Environment Manager, I encourage you to visit the VMware User Environment Manager Product Page for an overview, and the VMware User Environment Manager video series on YouTube for more detail. You will learn about a variety of features and benefits such as dynamic policy configuration across physical, virtual, and cloud desktops. An overview of User Environment Manager is outside the scope of this blog post, but there is a fundamental concept which is sometimes overlooked or misunderstood. VMware User Environment Manager takes a whitelist approach to managing the user profile. Given this design approach, IT must specify which applications and settings will be managed. Although it does mean a little more work up front, this solution prevents excessive profile growth and profile corruption, enables user settings to roam across Windows versions, and provides IT granular control to manage as much or as little of the user experience as needed.
Preserving user-specific application settings and applying or enforcing specific default application settings are key features of User Environment Manager. Both of these concepts are illustrated in a recent blog post titled VMware User Environment Manager, Part 2: Complementing Mandatory Profiles with VMware User Environment Manager which demonstrates the power and flexibility of combining User Environment Manager with Microsoft Mandatory Profiles. VMware provides application management templates for commonly-used software packages, and the VMware User Environment Manager Community Forum contains many more templates created with an included tool called Application Profiler.
Application Profiler is a standalone tool that helps you determine where in the file system or registry an application is storing its user settings. The output from Application Profiler is a configuration file which can be used to preserve and roam application settings for your end users. Optionally, you can record a default set of application settings, and apply and/or enforce these defaults for your users based on a variety of conditions.
For more information or to get started with the Application Profiler tool, see the VMware User Environment Manager Application Profiler Administration Guide.
The Pareto Principle
The Pareto Principle, commonly referred to as the 80/20 rule, states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. I have been using application management software in some form or another for nearly two decades. In that time, I have found the Pareto Principle to be particularly applicable in that a small number of applications tend to cause the vast majority of challenges for IT.
While the Application Profiler tool is easy to use, and most applications can be profiled with little more effort than a simple installation, there are exceptions. The aforementioned Community Forum is a great place to look when you are having trouble profiling an application, but what if you cannot find the particular application template you need?
Know Thine App
A friend once gave me a t-shirt with this expression on it: Know Thine App. Over the years, I have found it to be invaluable advice, though it is sometimes easier said than done.
Because Windows is an open platform, application developers have a great deal of flexibility in the way applications they design behave. While guidelines and best practices have been established over the years, we still occasionally find an application which writes a log file to C:\Temp!
Understanding the behavior of an application, not just during installation, but as the application is opened, modified, updated, and so on, is critical to successfully managing the application lifecycle. There are a number of tools available, such as the Sysinternals Suite, to help you understand how an application behaves. These are powerful tools, but as you can see they are plentiful, and can be time-consuming and cumbersome to use.
The VMware User Environment Manager Application Profiler tool is purpose-built to help you easily understand how an application behaves. With real-time application analysis capabilities, Application Profiler automatically generates configuration files which enable application management.
What to Expect from This Blog Series
The purpose of this blog series is to enable you, the IT Administrator, to successfully profile and manage any applications you choose. In each subsequent blog post we will explore a new application.
Going back to the Pareto Principle, most applications are simple to profile using the steps detailed in the VMware User Environment Manager Application Profiler Administration Guide. Because of this, applications known to require some troubleshooting will be chosen for this series. You will get a chance to see the symptoms of applications that do not initially profile correctly, and the process used to resolve the problem. You can then take these practices and apply them to applications in your environment.
This series is designed for a User Environment Manager administrator with at least a basic understanding of the Application Profiler tool. If you are new to Application Profiler, review the guide listed previously before continuing to the rest of the series.
In Part 2 of this blog series we show you how to apply and troubleshoot predefined settings using VLC Media Player and an example. In Part 3 we demonstrate Application Profiler exclusions using Google Chrome.
Managing applications with User Environment Manager improves the experience for end users and simplifies application lifecycle management for IT. Profiling applications is a simple process, and most applications will work out of the box. For problematic applications, you can find configuration templates on the Community Forum. If you cannot find what you are looking for, the skills you learn in this blog series should help you to create your own templates. Have you already created a configuration template? Be sure to share!
Many thanks to my fellow colleagues, Josh Spencer, Jim Yanik, Pim van de Vis and Stephane Asselin for authoring the original article here.