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Glut of application management tools a sign of the times

For desktop virtualization administrators, managing apps has become a difficult task. There are many apps and many users, and the old ways of updating and maintaining applications isn't working anymore. Enter: new app management tools.

Application management is one of the more active areas of desktop virtualization today. Many companies are focused on app management, including FSLogix, Inc., Ceedo, CloudHouse, Spoon, Liquidware Labs, Inc., Numecent and even Unidesk, not to mention AppVolumes from VMware.

Citrix even carved out some time during the day two keynote at Synergy 2015 to talk about its new product called AppDisk. At this point I'd call it less of a product and more of a concept (the beta isn't expected until Q3 2015), but talking about the problem of application management in such a prominent forum certainly reinforces the buzz.

There are at least three reasons that everything is coming to a halt right now.

How app management tools fill a gap

The first is, people are realizing their old way of managing applications isn't sustainable. It doesn't matter if you're using Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), App-V, another third-party product, or if you have your environment scripted to no end: Keeping up with the number of applications you have is a never-ending slog.

Of course it didn't start out that way. When you started using one of those approaches, the problem you were trying to solve was probably different. Sometimes you needed applications to be isolated, so App-V was the way to go. Sometimes you simply wanted to avoid sending out a tech to deploy updates to whole departments, one machine at a time. That was manageable ten or fifteen years ago because we had less of everything -- fewer desktops, fewer applications and fewer updates.

That brings me to the second reason. We have more different applications spread around our organizations than ever. Many companies have applications that number in the hundreds, and there are an unlucky (though profitable) few that count their applications with a four-digit number. Not all of them are necessarily Windows applications, but a large majority are.

Before this boom of application management tools, we were stuck managing apps the old way. For example, first you tried App-V, but if an app was hard to sequence, you might have deployed it with SCCM. That's not always a walk in the park, so now you have to bake it into the gold image. But what about when that app changes? Now you have to update the gold image and find a way to update the application or refresh desktops. It doesn't matter if it's virtual or physical, persistent or non-persistent -- it's all a lot of work.

The third reason for the groundswell of products is that compartmentalization is more important than ever. We have an increasing mix of physical and virtual desktops, and users often access both at the same time (some apps local, some remote). Add to that cocktail a growing interest in desktop as a service -- and the challenges of managing applications on desktops that are running in the cloud -- and you can see the more we can slice our users' applications into addressable, manageable chunks, the better.

And at the end of the day, that's what these products are doing. They're taking something that was hard to implement and maintain (applications) and turning them into bolt-on compartments that can follow users around no matter where the user is or what kind of device Windows is installed on -- no sequencing or hardcore scripting required. Sure, there are a lot of these products on the market now, but that's a good problem to have.

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