In the Spirit of Freedom, Microsoft Keeps FSLogix Independent. Thank you!

Microsoft keeps FSLogix independent! Microsoft just announced the release details of its acquisition of FSLogix last November. Like many others in the industry, I worried that FSLogix would disappear into some far corner of Microsoft with a niche focus. “RIP another good-technology-buried-in-a-big-organization,” I thought. Hoping things might be different, I joined the voices of support to keep broad access to FSLogix. Much to my delight, Microsoft announced that as of July 1, 2019, FSLogix is broadly available and included across many Windows deployment types – on-premises and in the cloud – to address numerous customer use cases.

You can read more details about what FSLogix does here. In this post, I want to point out some key things that I think are significant and share a thought I had for the FSLogix team.

Microsoft gets serious about a problem they created…

Here’s why it’s important that Microsoft keeps FSLogix independent. Persistent vs. non-persistent desktop debates have been around for years. Here are some of my thoughts from 2013! Move the clock forward to 2018 and you can read Workspot’s perspective that there is a need for both persistent and non-persistent, spanning a complexity spectrum of use cases. Workspot provides a global fabric of cloud desktop solutions on Azure, including Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) to meet our customers’ requirements.

The Importance of Microsoft Keeping FSLogix Independent

Complexity is increased as you move left to right on the spectrum toward non-persistent desktops.  This is because you are forced to grapple with user settings and applications that essentially assume the use of a single operating system – not the multi-user operating system that is used to deliver non-persistent desktops. The promise, of course, is of lower costs due to the use of a multi-user operating system, yet its use introduces new problems that make it very challenging to deliver a good user experience. Traditional approaches to solving the issues surrounding non-persistent desktops include third-party user environment management (UEM) suites to manage user profiles, settings and context, and machine-based application delivery layering technology born with an image layering mindset. Neither approach has achieved significant adoption because they both introduced additional complexity and cost. Unsurprisingly, the promise of non-persistent desktops has not yet come to fruition for broad customer adoption. As people realized that UEM solutions were too complex, the industry shifted to simpler solutions that optimized for a few core capabilities, evidenced by a variety of acquisitions made by the legacy, on-premises VDI providers, and leaving the complex UEM solutions to end up at private equity-backed firms. Similarly, image-focused, machine-based application layering did not succeed. The limitations of a machine-attach focus to deliver applications at boot time rather than on-demand by users, and the dependency of having control of the underlying virtualization infrastructure, make native cloud deployment practically a non-starter.  Better-known, older options such as application virtualization (running a Windows app in its own container, rather than published apps) were at best material niches in organizations. There was a time when application virtualization seemed to be the future until people realized that traditional Windows apps are too temperamental to simply put in a desktop container. Therefore, other, lighter-weight solutions emerged with a focus on user-based application delivery that could also leverage machine-based attach for certain application delivery scenarios, where they could access the virtualization infrastructure; these are still evolving and FSLogix was able to evolve some of the best concepts from these to introduce their own application management capabilities. FSLogix takes many of the lessons of past attempts at UEM, profile management, and application management to enable non-persistent Windows environments and then makes them available as an easy-to-use solution that also improves performance for Office use cases. This is why it’s so significant that Microsoft – who created the problem in Windows – finally has a viable technology to plug many of the holes in order to enable non-persistent Windows app and desktop delivery. This is why I applaud (and you should too!) Microsoft for making the power and simplicity of FSLogix available to a broad set of Windows use cases across the complexity spectrum.  It’s a win for customers and a win for the industry.

Windows Server 2019 is not dead to EUC – customers cheer!

Additionally, on the same day, Microsoft also posted its plans for improving the Office app experience in virtual environments. It’s awesome that FSLogix features prominently in these plans and recommends that the best Office 365 ProPlus experience will be on Windows 10. However, I think it’s a huge deal for many customers that they will be able to run Office 365 ProPlus on Windows Server 2019 to support their RDSH use cases.  This will be a massive relief for many customers who are concerned about Windows Server 2008/R2 and 2012/R2 end of support dates and their Windows 10 readiness internally. I’m curious to see how Windows Server 2019 with FSLogix will evolve to solve customer problems. Will it open up further adoption of Windows Server 2019 in Azure and other clouds to deliver published desktops and apps? Will this slow the move for some to the cloud and create a new on-premises anchor? Will Windows Server 2019 ever be able to get rid of the UI, or is that Windows Server.next? Will FSLogix capabilities for Windows 10 multi-user diverge from Windows Server 2019? Will FSLogix evolve Azure-only capabilities to create a stronger cloud pull for both Window 10 multi-user and Windows Server 2019? Time will tell, customers will help shape this evolution by being able to use FSLogix independently across the use cases of the complexity spectrum. This gets a standing ovation!

Dear FSLogix team – App Masking for persistent desktops?

When most people think FSLogix they think non-persistent desktop. It’s known that certain features of FSLogix work for physical PCs, which by definition are persistent. Well, I’d love to see more done for persistent desktops to broaden the use of the technology, both virtual and physical. I really like App Masking from FSLogix. It is similar in concept to something called AppCloaking in 2014 that was an idea I developed with my team in a previous life, although using a different technique under the covers. It made sense then and still does today to start with a focus on non-persistent desktops to reduce the number of images. Here’s my suggestion for the FSLogix team: Also make App Masking available for persistent desktops to address more use cases on the complexity spectrum! This was something we wanted to do back in the day as a hungry startup before other distractions took over.  It could be used to deliver similar benefits and is much simpler and viable for cloud than legacy machine-based attach application layering solutions. You already have user containers as other features of FSLogix, a filter driver to enable redirection, so you can persist some state in containers for the apps you manage as needed. Perhaps stream the App Masking VHDX offline to PCs as well using the same startup block concepts of the past used in Application Virtualization minus the headaches of container isolation for legacy Windows apps.  The remainder of apps can be delivered through SCCM/InTune, or through some future clever integrations. I have some ideas about that too and would be happy to discuss. 🙂

So there you have it, customer and industry-friendly updates giving FSLogix freedom to be used across the complexity spectrum. In the spirit of freedom, I’d like to wish all those celebrating a happy July 4th holiday.

@harrylabana