The future of application virtualization: The VDI app store concept

Is a virtual desktop infrastructure app store on the horizon? See how VMware ThinApp could change application management.

The success of the iPhone can partially be attributed to its App Store, which gives end users the power to choose the applications they want on their mobile devices.

In the future, enterprise applications may also be handled this way.

Currently, there are two forms of app virtualization: streaming mode and local mode. But vendors are looking for ways to support all applications with minimal impact on the end user. So far, VMware is the only vendor to have accomplished this. VMware ThinApp separates an application from the desktop and does not depend on any back-end infrastructure. This capability makes the concept of an enterprise app store possible.

How an enterprise application app store would work
To enter a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) app store, you would to have to connect and log into a webpage. Once inside the virtual store, you would see all the applications available to you. You could either download the application locally or run it from the webpage -- much like in the iPhone App Store.

However, in the iPhone App Store, all the applications are for the iPhone. In the VDI app store, the applications would be "ThinApped" to work on all current versions of Microsoft Windows. And who knows, these apps could someday run on Linux or Mac systems.

While the VDI app store would be controlled on the back end by the company managing the software, the apps themselves would run locally on the desktop or laptop. Therefore, the app store vendor would not need special connectivity to the end users' corporate network. Since the desktop, laptop or virtual desktop is on the corporate network, the ThinApp application has complete connectivity to that secure network. When a user no longer wants an application that he has downloaded locally, he can just delete the application package and would not have to do a full uninstall.

Another advantage is that the administrator would manage end-user permissions through the website and not through the application itself. A Web management product such as Microsoft SharePoint would be ideal in this situation.

Citrix has used this concept of presenting end users with a webpage for years, but I think the major differentiator of a VDI app store is that it wouldn't require a server infrastructure or any desktop components. As a result, you wouldn't have to worry about interoperability problems because there would be nothing to cache and nothing to install.

This is why VMware ThinApp -- with a great website developer -- could make application management simpler to use and easy to manage with a quickly deployable VDI app store.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Brad Maltz is CTO of International Computerware, a national consulting firm focused on virtualization and storage technologies. He holds certifications from VMware and EMC for many technologies. Maltz can be reached at bmaltz@iciamerica.com for any questions, comments or suggestions.

This was first published in January 2010

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