The new age of application delivery methods: More than just install

There are lots of application deployment methods these days, including streaming and 'presenting' via RDS. It's time to form a complete app delivery infrastructure.

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Series: It's the Apps, Stupid!

Application and desktop virtualization, streaming, automated installation and packaging, virtual machine-hosted apps -- oh my! Dig around the hottest technologies and you'll quickly see that applications have become job number one. We've built mature infrastructures, secured their networks and learned how to best operate them, so what should we focus on next?

In this ongoing dramatic series, experts Greg Shields and Don Jones take the stage to help you realize the answer that's right in front of you: "It's the apps, stupid!"

Other episodes in this series:

Citrix VM Hosted Apps: Using VDI for application hosting

Reverse seamless windows: The secret to local apps on remote desktops

What's in a name? Demystifying app delivery and VDI product naming

Virtual desktop applications: Learning from Terminal Services' mistakes

It wasn't too long ago that IT delivered apps by simply installing them, but application delivery methods have grown to a sizeable handful. Silencing and automating installations gave way to streaming, which now integrates into the greater whole we think of as application delivery infrastructure.

In this month's episode of It's the Apps, Stupid, Greg helps illuminate Don on application delivery infrastructure and why the myriad of application deployment options today is causing confusion for many IT professionals.

GREG:    Hey Don, name an application.

DON:      Uh, WinZip.

GREG:    And how do you deliver that application to a user?

DON:      Generally, you install it. Most of the time you install it to the user's desktop.

GREG:    True, but there are other ways to connect that application to a user, right?

DON:      Sure. With Microsoft's Remote Desktop Services (RDS), you can install the application onto an RDS server and then "present" it to the user. That's a newer way of doing things. You can also present an entire desktop, with that WinZip application available on the remote desktop's Start menu.

GREG:    You're right. People have been using Remote Desktop Services for a long time -- specifically when it makes more sense than installing the app locally.

DON:      So, what's your point?

GREG:   That there's a conscious decision being made about application delivery there. It's growing more important for IT pros to separate the idea of the application from the actual application deployment method.

DON:      I'm confused. Why does that matter?

More on application delivery:

VDI isn't the only factor to consider for application delivery

Virtual application delivery controllers could lead to better apps

Four mobile app delivery options for IT to consider

App delivery allays cloud resistance in the enterprise

GREG:   Because there are lots of new ways to deploy apps, but some IT pros are stuck in the old way of doing things -- just installing it. Each of these new application delivery methods uses a different provisioning approach and each has its own use cases. Some are more technologically advanced, but may not always provide the best user experience. You want to combine these app delivery methods into a comprehensive application delivery infrastructure that caters to different needs.

DON:      Makes sense. Streaming, for example, might be better than RDS when there's no network between client and server. On the other hand, RDS might be better if there's lots of traffic between an app and its server. Can you list the major application delivery approaches IT pros should consider today?

GREG:      Sure, here are the major application deployment approaches as I define them:

  • Streamed to local desktop: An application is streamed to a user's local desktop using an application virtualization tool.
  • Presented within remote desktop: The app is installed or streamed to a server, and then presented to a user within the server's remote desktop.
  • Presented as application: An application is installed or streamed to a server, and then presented to a user as a remote application on his local desktop.
  • Presented within virtual desktop: An app can be installed or streamed to a virtual desktop, and then presented to that user within the remote desktop.
  • Presented as application on virtual desktop: The app is streamed to a virtual desktop, and then presented to that user as a remote application on their local desktop.

DON:      I'm guessing that list isn't comprehensive.

GREG:   Nope, and when you add in all the products that facilitate application deployment, things get even more muddled. For application virtualization, the big names are Citrix XenApp, Microsoft App-V and VMware ThinApp. XenApp also has Citrix Streaming Profiler for sequencing applications and a special Offline Plug-in for receiving them. For desktop virtualization, there's Citrix XenDesktop and VMware View, among others.

DON:      And, it's no small investment to take advantage of these app delivery options. For a shop that's still doing things the old way, why should they make the investment?

GREG:   It's the apps, stupid! Those apps are what make a business run. Data is just as important, but that data still requires an app.

DON:      Now I get it: There are more use cases today that define how and where users interact with their apps, so you also need more diverse application deployment methods to connect them to those apps -- essentially an entire application delivery infrastructure that can meet the needs of each use case.

GREG:   Exactly, and it's IT's newest mission to figure out what app delivery methods make sense for which use cases. 

DON:      Brilliant! Now, get me a sandwich…

GREG:   You got it.

Read all episodes of the It's the Apps, Stupid series.

This was first published in February 2012

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