User Installed Applications (UIA) by any other name?

As technologies continue to evolve, so does the terminology we use to refer to and describe them.  As many of us have experienced, terminology can be a minefield, with many discussions based on a difference of opinion on terms, rather than on what the term actually means.  For example, ‘VDI’ was first coined to describe an instance of a virtual desktop session running on a server.  However most people today use VDI in reference to a broader set of desktop delivery mechanisms; encompassing SBC, streamed apps, provisioned OS, client hosted desktops etc. 

Another term that has been used (and misused) recently is ‘User Installed Applications’ also known as, ‘UIA’.

OK, so here’s my definition:  UIA is the ability for a user to install an application into a non-persistent desktop session and then have that application made available in any other non-persistent desktop session – regardless of how that session is delivered.  That means the application must be isolated and treated as part of the user’s personal environment (a ‘follow me’ app if you like).

For example;
UIA use case.
A user installs an application or plug-in/add-on into either a non-persistent virtual desktop session, a SBC hosted session or even on their physical device.  As part of that application install, UIA technology  automatically captures, virtualizes, redirects and installs it into a central repository (e.g. a network share).  This application is then made available (with all application settings such as desktop or quick-launch shortcut and personalization settings) in any other freshly provisioned virtual desktop session.  So in stateless desktop virtualization, users can now install applications, have them saved and subsequently delivered into their next desktop session, even though the desktop is deleted at logoff and then freshly provisioned at next logon.

The purpose of this post is not to promote the need for UIA technology, that’s been covered quite frequently (Demo Video of the AppSense UIA Beta Product at BriForum 2009 , AppSense blog post on Citrix.com – User Installed Applications  and also here on the AppSense blog – What is a User Installed Application? ).  What I want to cover in this post is that even at a vendor level, UIA terminology is being misrepresented at a feature naming level, leading to confusion within the community.

I was recently reviewing a new version of an existing profile management solution, which in the latest release has a new feature called ‘User Installed Applications’.   On further inspection, it turned out that this was not UIA as I understand it, but was in fact, just a simple rename of an existing feature of that product that enables a (nominated) user to install an application into an native OS.   Now this is an important feature, but it’s not UIA!  It does not capture, virtualize and redirect the install.  It does not isolate the application.  It does not deliver the application back into another desktop session.

UIA is undoubtedly an important piece of the puzzle for desktop virtualization and is something that several vendors, AppSense included, are working on.  It is unfortunate, however, that as we all work towards a more complete solution for desktop virtualization, there has to be these points of confusion thrown in for seems like little material gain.

I look forward to the proposed User Environment Management Shoot Out at BriForum ( as per Aaron Parker, StealthPuppy – http://twitter.com/stealthpuppy ) where not only can all the vendors in this space demonstrate some significant progress in managing the user aspect of the desktop, but we can (hopefully) come to an agreement in terminology.  At least for the really impactful capabilities such as UIA.

10 Responses to User Installed Applications (UIA) by any other name?

  1. Happens with every topic, the terminology gets reused over and over by different concepts, some of which don’t even fit with the basic practices. In XenDesktop, using a pooled desktop, a user can install their own applications. Its just that the application will disappear when the desktop gets rebooted. So the user can install an app, but it does not persist. Even if you change the configuration to 1-1 user to desktop, a user could install the app and they remain persistent, but I don’t consider that a user installed app because the system is not protected.

    I think a better term would be Protected User Apps. It means users can install their own apps, but the system, environment, data center is protected from whatever that application is or might do.

  2. Since not every desktop is virtualized (yet), why change the literal meaning of UIA? It could very well be interpreted as User installed Applications for any environment, including physical desktops. The real challenge (or more of a challenge) may be to do that for a virtual desktop.

    To make such an install as useful as the physical one, it has to be “protected” (as Daniel suggested) or maybe “made persistent”. An environment enabling that could then be allocated the feature “protected / persistent UIA for virtual desktops”.

  3. Doug Dooley says:

    AppSense team –

    Great post. We agree with your definition of UIA. Glad to hear that the profile mgmt / UEM vendors are going after this problem.

    As you might know, Workspace Virtualization vendors like RingCube has been offering UIA for some time and customer do love it, especially when deployed on top of VDI and going offline.

    The true “litmus test” for UIA is VPN clients.

    Meaning, you probably have UIA mostly solved when you can generically, properly and consistently allow an end user to install any IPSec or SSL VPN client AND that VPN client stays with that user no matter where they roam.

    Look forward to the shootout.

    Doug Dooley
    VP, RingCube Technologies

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  10. […] you installed one application per server, with VDI, users want to install their own applications (UIA) and you have a whole assortment of “long tail applications” that you have to develop a […]

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