May 23, 2022 - Jo Harder
“We’re migrating to multi-user Windows 11 on Azure Virtual Desktops!”
The migration to multi-user Windows 11 seems like an easy process. Just create a gold image consisting of a new operating system, package the apps and load ‘em up, and go, right? Not so simple.
Applications are clearly the biggest headache when it comes to migrating to AVD. Why?
Multi-User / Windows 11 Impact
Although enterprises are starting to migrate faster than in previous versions, the Windows 11 operating system and/or multi-user functionality can cause applications to malfunction or fail due to the inherent system changes. More specifically, the customizations and unique configuration required by your organization combined with changing the operating system can cause application failures or unexpected performance changes.
- Windows 11 Operating System. Windows 11 includes new security features such as Smart App Control that may cause poorly written applications to be perceived as a threat and hence disallowed. Thus, an important application that users accessed with no issues under Windows 10 may be blocked by Windows 11 because it is not deemed safe based on code certificates or an AI application trust model.
- Multi-User Functionality. Multi-user functionality based on a server-based operating system has been available for over 20 years, and multi-user workstation operating system functionality was released as an Azure-only option in late 2019. While multi-user is not a new technology, it continues to have a profound impact on the success of applications.
Virtual desktops can be deployed either as 1:1, i.e., a single operating system services a sole user, or 1:many, i.e., one operating system is accessed by numerous users. When multiple users access the same operating system at the same time, system resources such as program files and data are shared. Some applications cannot tolerate sharing overall or only under specific circumstances, such as when specific commands are executed simultaneously. This is a more common issue in older applications but can rear its ugly head within newer applications as well.
Between IT staff shortages, change control requirements, security processing, cost pressures, and the plethora of business applications, testing is indeed cumbersome, but nonetheless a necessity. Rather than manually creating new VMs, installing apps, and then testing under the context of an admin, a user, and then multiple users, automation is key.
Tips and Tricks (AKA, avoid working at 2:00 AM)
- Gather the list of essential business applications early, including installation files. Learning about additional applications during crunch time is not fun, nor is chasing down repositories. In addition, ask about any new apps to be deployed. Tools like Liquidware’s Stratusphere UX will help you discover the applications installed across your workspaces, and just as importantly, which applications are being used. Don’t bring unused applications along to your new environment - now is the time to EOL unused applications to reduce support overhead, configuration complexity, and licensing costs.
- Automate the application testing process. Rimo3 is a fully automated application testing tool that will show which apps are good to go based on AVD, Windows 11, and multi-user OSs. It will also identify app resource and performance issues before you move into production and impact users. It is critical to test against your unique build configurations, rather than assuming a “plain vanilla” OS testing approach.
- Test under the context of specific user permissions. Not all users have the same permissions, so it’s possible that a blocked resource or other policy setting may cause an app to fail for specific users.
- Determine if/how applications will be packaged. Will MSIX with or without App Attach or something else be used? Yep, Rimo3 packages apps too. Not all applications will easily convert to MSIX, or your organization may want to consider other solutions, like VMware App Volumes or dynamic application layering from Liquidware FlexApp.
- Don’t assume that all applications will migrate flawlessly. Build work effort into the project plan for difficult apps. The sooner you test your application readiness, the sooner you can begin any needed remediation.
- Line up User Acceptance Testers (UAT). Schedule your internal business application owners to fully test the newly migrated feature functionality before rollout.
- Always test app releases. All apps require updates, some more frequent than others. Fully automated app testing isn’t a one-time process; it must be repeated for each app to align with change control, compliance, and other security processes.
Investing in automation for application testing means reducing the time your organization is exposed to potential security threats, reducing the potential for user downtime, and reducing surprises in resource utilization when upgrading or patching to newer OS and application versions. According to several news sources, Windows 11 changes the servicing update model used for Windows 10. Rather than two major releases each year, there will now be one, plus regular updates. An effective, automated testing solution will allow you to take advantage of critical enhancements as soon as they release, while keeping your workspace assets evergreen.
In the enterprise, every app matters!
Jo Harder has been hands-on with virtualization technologies since 1999, back in the early days of Citrix WinFrame and MetaFrame. She loves to explore the 0s and 1s (literally!) of technology and has held both vendor and customer roles. Jo is a Citrix Technology Professional awardee and a Women in Technology mentor.