I have worked quite a bit with some of the products in the FSLogix Apps Suite, so it’s only natural that my first blog post is about one of the products in this suite.
FSLogix Office 365 Container is getting a lot of attention at the moment, and for good reason. It’s very easy to setup and dosn’t require much maintenance, once it’s up and running.
Microsoft MVP and Citrix Technology Professional Aaron Parker has written a nice guide on how to install FSLogix Profile Container and Office 365 Container.
For those of you who hasn’t heard of, or worked with, FSLogix Office 365 Container, I’ll provide you with a short introduction to the product.
FSLogix Office 365 Container provides the following:
- Redirection and roaming of the Outlook OST file
- Redirection and roaming of the user’s Windows Search Index
- Redirection and roaming of the user’s OneDrive content
FSLogix is redirecting these features to a VHD/VHDX file/disk on the network. This means that we no longer have to deal with OST files or the OneDrive content in users profiles, OST and OneDrive sync usually means HUGE profiles and resyncs on every logon as OST and OneDrive isn’t roamed. As FSLogix uses the SMB3 protocol, it is possible to use block level transfer instead of file level transfer which is used with the traditional redirection features, this brings in a significant performance increase of the network traffic going in and out of the file server.
Another issue with the OST and OneDrive sync, is that the default paths are in the user’s profile which means that all writes go to the C-drive, and in a non-persistent Session Host or VDI setup we would usually like to have as few writes to the C-drive as possible, because writes consume our write cache which these days are usually in RAM.
Let’s say we have 10 users logging on to a Session Host. Each user has a 50GB mailbox in Office 365, as this is the default mailbox size in Office 365. According to Microsoft, we have to enable “Exchange Cached Mode” (OST file) when using an Exchange mail account in Office 365, to provide a better experience. This means that we now have to consider the amount of mail account data that needs to be synchronized down to the OST file.
Maybe each of the 10 users needs to synchronize at least 5GB of data, this is 50GB of data in total, all writes that goes to the C-drive. Our write cache is now long gone and our Session Host or VDI is currently caching to disk, which usually does not perform as well, as caching in RAM. This is just the user’s OST file, we haven’t even begun synchronizing the OneDrive content.
Microsoft’s solution to the OST issue, is to redirect the OST file to a network share. On the surface that may look like and easy and straight forward approach, however it does present us with a few other things to consider.
Microsoft didn’t design Outlook to store OST files on network drives, Outlook expects the OST file to be available at all times, this may not always be the case if storing an OST file on a network file share. All sorts of things can go wrong in that scenario.
A network outage may cut the connection to the OST file which means that it’s not available, hence Outlook stops working, until the OST file is available. A poor performing file server or storage subsystem may present it selves as if Outlook is not performing at an acceptable level.
Microsoft’s solution also presents another issue. The Outlook mailbox index is not roamed! This means the every single time a users logs on, Outlook and the Windows Search Indexer will start to do an index of the OST file. This may not be that big of an issue with 10 user’s 5Gb OST files, however imagine 20, 30 or maybe even 50GB OST files for hundreds or thousands of users, that may present a huge performance impact on the Session Host or VDI and the file server hosting the OST files.
Again we haven’t even started addressing the issues with OneDrive synchronization. Basically the scenario is the same, however as we cannot control how much data the user synchronizes to the local drive, this means that the amount of data may be way beyond the 50GB mark which just intensifies our current headache with the OST files and Windows Search Index roaming.
If you are considering to switch to Office 365 or if you are already on Office 365, you may run into the issues mentioned and at the moment FSLogix provides a great and cost-effective solution to a potential major headache.
Feel free to signup for a fully functional 30 day evaluation of FSLogix Apps Suite and have a look at the other great products from FSLogix while you are at it.