Getting a grip on your application packaging and delivery strategy

Before you deploy VDI, you need to take stock of your applications, how often they're used, and how users access them. Plus, make a long-term plan.

When you deploy VDI, it's easy to forget about the individual applications. But improved application delivery is a central benefit of desktop virtualization, and it's one of the aspects that most affects end users.

When virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) first came about, the industry focused heavily on the infrastructure components needed to run a VDI environment. Now, with technologies such as server-based caching and deduplication-based flash appliances, the cost of deploying VDI has dropped to the point where it financially makes sense to adopt it. But while VDI can have a standalone purpose such as centralizing the desktop in a secure data center or bringing the desktop OS closer to enterprise applications, these reasons are not the long-term driver for VDI.

Four steps to app delivery success

To be truly successful with in-house desktop virtualization or Desktop as a Service, you need to plan a long-term application packaging and delivery strategy for your organization. These four steps can help you determine your application delivery needs based on your existing workflows:

Step 1. Analyze and document all applications your organization uses. You can do this via many methods such as network, laptop and desktop scanning, asset management inventories and more. The majority of organizations do not have a handle on how many actual applications are being utilized or even installed throughout the organization. Performing this analysis as thoroughly as possible will ensure that when you deploy VDI, you won't have any issues with missing applications.

Understanding the application dependencies is another part of the application discovery process. Each application version has a different set of dependencies including -- but not limited to -- Microsoft OS version, Java, .Net, Adobe technologies and many more. These dependencies will become ever more important when the packaging of these applications is performed for the VDI environment.

Step 2. Understand your existing application packaging and delivery workflows. Are your applications delivered via your base Windows image or are they installed via Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager? Are they packaged with scripts and tools that can modify the installer, or are they basic standard installs of each application?

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Many organizations don't have a good application packaging and delivery workflow due to lack of time, lack of staff to maintain it, or simply because the desktop is managed by the most junior people in the organization. With the transition to VDI or even Desktop as a Service, the workflows need to be re-evaluated. Sometimes the old ways work well, but other times these workflows need to be re-designed based on new tool sets and delivery mechanisms.

Step 3. Develop a use-case breakdown by application. When the population of the organization is divided up into groups of users based on common set of applications, you might come across a theme that can help determine how those groups need to be managed. Traditionally, users would be handled on a departmental basis or even individually. With a use-case driven strategy, the applications will dictate the user groupings. This is done via a set of criteria such as application usage percentages, corporate financial impact and/or application dependencies.

Step 4. Determine the long-term vision. Figure out what the organization wants to deliver to end users over time. Is the goal of the organization to work with cloud-based applications? Are legacy applications going to need to be supported based on organizational technology roadmaps? Are applications going to be delivered via mobile platforms?

Application sprawl has become a well-known issue in most organizations, so following these four steps will help you develop an application strategy and prevent that problem. Whether you're deploying VDI or not, an application packaging and delivery strategy needs to be updated and re-designed to conform to more current methods as well as more end user devices.

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