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When to use published apps vs. streaming apps

Don't get lost in application delivery. Compare application publishing and streaming to find the best option for an organization's unique setup and needs.

Deciding between publishing and streaming applications is similar to choosing a mode of transportation.

A plane may be fastest, but it can get costly. Cars are great, but they don't hold many people. IT must weigh all the factors when selecting planes, trains and application deployment methods.

Published apps use an automated policy to perform a traditional application installation onto the desktop OS. Application streaming, on the other hand, lets a server stream sandboxed applications to endpoints -- although there are a number of variations on this technology.

Published apps and streaming apps each have their own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to deployment. As an administrator, it is important to determine which method is best suited to each unique situation.

Prepare for takeoff with published apps

The published applications approach is simple and reliable. Administrators have been installing applications onto desktop OSes for decades. The main disadvantage to the published apps approach, however, is that it does not scale well because IT must deliver an individual copy of each application to each unique user who works with that app.

Application publishing tends to make license tracking difficult.

Application publishing tends to make tracking licenses difficult as well because it is hard to keep track of every copy of the app out there. It can also be difficult to keep published apps up to date because each desktop OS has its own copy of the applications, and verifying that each and every application copy is properly patched can be challenging.

Board the streaming apps train

Application streaming solves the scalability problems of published apps. Applications stream from a centralized server, so there is only one copy of each application, as opposed to each user having his own individual copy. This greatly simplifies application patch management and software license compliance. Most streaming app technologies allow administrators to specify the number of licenses the organization owns for each application. The server will never stream applications in a way that exceeds the license count.

Streaming apps also make technical support easier. If a user calls the help desk to report an application-related problem, the help desk technician does not have to wonder which version of the application the user is running or how the application is installed. The exact same application is streaming to everyone. Streamed apps usually run in a sandbox, which helps prevent applications from interfering with one another.

Streaming apps are a good choice for virtual desktops. Streaming keeps applications separate from the desktop OS. This helps decrease the OS footprint, potentially allowing the underlying VDI to achieve a greater virtual desktop density. Streaming apps also disassociate the applications from the OS. Rather than having numerous OS images to service the needs of various departments, it becomes possible to have a single, standardized OS image that all users share. IT can then set policies that stream applications to the individual virtual desktops, based on each user's job function.

App streaming roadblocks

Application streaming is not always an option. Even though the technology has greatly matured over the last few years, there are still some applications IT simply cannot stream because of the applications' designs.

The other disadvantage to streaming apps is the approach relies on the underlying infrastructure. Streaming apps are completely dependent on application streaming software. Application streaming software adds another layer of complexity to the deployment and additional cost because of licensing requirements. This stands in stark contrast to published applications, which IT can often deploy without any additional software. Application management tools do exist for published apps, but some organizations publish applications using native tools found in Active Directory or even install apps manually.

At the end of the road

Streaming apps are generally the best choice for delivering applications in a large enterprise or for virtual desktops. Smaller organizations may be better off using application publishing, because it allows for a simpler infrastructure and can potentially cost less. As such, many organizations end up using a combination of publishing and streaming for application delivery.

Next Steps

Take a deeper look into application streaming and all it offers

Decide to support virtual desktops, virtual apps or both

A complete guide through the world of application delivery

This was last published in October 2017

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