AppSense 2010 predictions – Updated: One prediction may already be coming true.

January 22, 2010

*** Update 3rd Feb ’10::  It would appear prediction #9 may already be coming into play.  Please see #9 for more info. ***

At the end of last year I made some predictions for how I think desktop virtualization will develop in 2010. People who have listened to Brian Madden TV’s prediction show ( http://www.brianmadden.com/blogs/tv/archive/2010/01/22/brian-madden-tv-27-2010-trends-and-predictions.aspx) will have heard references to some of them and I think the time is right to share the whole list with our broader readership. I am interested in your thoughts too, feel free to comment whether you agree or disagree.

Martin Ingram

1. The Proof Year for Hosted Virtual Desktops

From talking to our numerous customers and partners around the world, we see there is now general acceptance that the componentized desktop model is the way to go, and there is a good understanding of the sorts of benefits we will see.  We believe 2010 will see a distinct move to non-persistent, component-based desktops in large enterprises as challenges such as how to manage the user experience in a standardized desktop environment are solved by software providers.  We see more and more enterprises moving from PoC to full implementation.  As they say ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating’ and 2010 will be the proof year for hosted virtual desktops.

2. DV implementations will move from PoC to full implementations (the first >20K seat implementation will occur in 2010)

With over 4000 customers around the world, we are seeing many of our PoC implementations start to convert to full roll outs.  This is important because it means the business case for virtualized client computing is being proven by delivering independent, quantifiable, benefits.  As with any new technology, it is only at this stage that it becomes easy for the majority of organizations to make decisions on future technologies.  We believe that the first 20,000+ seat implementation of a virtualized desktop will go live in 2010.

3. Client Virtualization starts to take off

The principal area of innovation in 2010 will be client virtualization, specifically virtualization of laptops. Client hypervisors from Citrix and VMware will ship and join those from Neocleus and Virtual Computer. These products support very different management models and the big debate of the year is going to be ‘how do we actually want to manage users on virtualized clients?’.  The hypervisor itself is only a small part of a client virtualization solution and most of the benefits come from changes to how we manage the platform rather than the introduction of the hypervisor itself. The model that will be ultimately successful will be based on componentization, similar in many ways to the model that is being implemented now in hosted desktop virtualization, but with some modifications. The modifications will be necessary to take account of the basic difference between a mobile device such as a laptop and a server in the data center – intermittent network connectivity. Key to success will be to preserve the essential features of componentization such as getting economies of scale across software components and delivery of the user environment in this more challenging platform. There are several techniques that are good candidates for this and we will see active debate throughout the year on their pros and cons. Given the proportion of laptops in business today and the imperative to get to a single management methodology across both hosted and roaming users, this will be an important and lively discussion. One of the outcomes will be the importance of choosing a user environment management solution that delivers across all of the platforms in use in the business be they hosted or client, virtualized or traditional.

4. The first commercially viable UIA solution

Since we believe that the non-persistent, component-based desktop model will be the prevalent virtual desktop model in 2010, we also believe that the emergence of a commercially viable solution to manage users ‘personal’ applications will happen in 2010.  By standardizing the corporate desktop and separating it into its constituent parts, (corporate OS, corporate apps and user), the problem with non-corporate user apps remains.  User-installed applications in a non-persistent desktop model is a real challenge and cannot be solved easily.  The inevitable adoption of the non-persistent desktop model will bring a solution to market in 2010.

5. DaaS will begin the move to a more economical non-persistent, standardized desktop model

DaaS solutions out there today are based on a 1:1 user to desktop model.  Although many organizations benefit from subscription-based desktop management, the costs associated with managing and storing many unique desktop images will inhibit the adoption of this model.  By moving to a standardized desktop and separate user personality, significant economies of scale will be realized and DaaS will become a reality for more organizations.

6. Cloud Computing will show little progress in client computing (DaaS being just the first step and the only area of activity)

The Cloud Computing model for client computing will take several years to progress to a mainstream solution, depending primarily on Cloud Orchestration standards and high availability bandwidth.  We do believe, however, that the advent of non-persistent desktops in the newly-emerging DaaS model will begin the move of Cloud from theoretical hype to serious business case consideration. However DaaS is only part of the Cloud model of client computing and there is still plenty that needs doing to enable integration of services across multiple service providers

7. BYOPC morphs into HAPC

While the concept of BYOPC is attractive, in reality, this model is unlikely to be widely adopted by employees.  Support and warranty issues will cause unnecessary headaches for users and many will inevitably contact their own company support desk for assistance anyway.  What is more likely is the use of desktop virtualization in HAPC (Home Access PC).  Employees will be more likely to use their static home PC for work use out of hours and keep their work PC at the office.  A non-persistent virtual desktop model works well in this scenario, as long as the employee has a predictable and personal experience across both devices. These users will be served by either hosted solutions(SBC/HVD) or local execution, the ‘new thing’ here is local execution.

8. Desktop component delivery commoditizes

As non-persistent corporate desktop images become the norm, the standardization and automation of the delivery of these assets will become less valuable and the updating of the source image and the management of the user’s individual environment will increase in value.  Platform providers will deliver efficient means of delivering desktops and corporate applications from a standardized source image, with the management of these source images becoming the value-add in the mid-term.

Longer term, image management will move to become a service that is provided by software vendors and will be part of our contracts with the vendors. Configuration and personalization of applications will remain inside the business because so much of the information involved is business and user specific. This becomes a major direction for user environment management.

9. We reach a decision point on the mobile platform for client computing – virtualization or a de-facto standard. – Updated

Currently there are few corporate applications available to run on phone platforms. In part this is a result of the platform variance that has existed to date which would have required an application developer to support each platform separately. For a number of years vendors have been working on hypervisors for mobile devices that would allow a single common view across all the devices. VMware bought Trango a year or so back and investment was rife. This year we will either see virtualization get adopted for mobile platforms or a single platform adopted instead. If not virtualization what would the platform be? Android is too new, Microsoft suffers from platform variance perhaps leaving Apple or RIM to become the de facto standard for mobile devices – there is a sizable chance of Apple ousting Microsoft because of a lack of consistency in the Microsoft platform. Whoever moves to take this position will have to find a better, more business focused, way of selling applications than AppStores.

*** Update 3rd Feb ’10: It would appear this may be coming true with the recent new of Citrix and OK Labs, please see my latest blog post on this matter here ***

10.  Stand-alone application virtualization ISVs will find 2010 a real business challenge

Application virtualization is an increasing important component in desktop virtualization, and this will continue through 2010 and beyond.  Such is the importance of this mechanism, that we expect smaller, independent ISVs specializing in this area to become either swallowed up by the platform vendors (like Softricity and Thinstall) or find new directions.


User Installed Applications – won’t they just cause me a huge headache?

November 12, 2009

Do we really want to allow our users to have the ability to self provision / install applications? Won’t this just cause mayhem and anarchy? How will we ensure that we are licensed to install the applications that the users choses to install?

These are a small sample of some of the obvious and key issues that the IT administrator needs to seriously consider when thinking about allowing the user to install applications of their own choice.

Just this week, @HarryLabana asked the following question via twitter – “Are user installed apps a compliance nightmare waiting to happen?”. A very sensible question that effectively is asking, “WHY should we even consider allowing the user to install their own stuff?”

To labor on the need briefly, it is relatively simple as to why we need to cater for it (we don’t need to agree with it but we do have to accept it to a certain degree :-( ). Bottom line is that for years, there has been a challenge with packaging all the applications required by a user to conduct their daily duties. This is a challenge that traditional desktop managers have had for years, and now with desktop virtualization it is perhaps getting more noise. Unfortunately it is not going away any time soon, in fact may be getting worse as time progresses and the number of applications increases. If we choose to not allow users to install their own stuff, then how do we ensure that the user does not fall foul downstream of an application not being available and hence their inability to conduct their work? An obvious example would be the corporate user who uses Microsoft Live Meeting to conduct online meetings, who has a meeting booked with an organization that uses Citrix GoToMeeting. The GoToMeeting client would not be installed, and hence the user would only find this out 5 to 10 minutes before the session, and hence would be unable to join :-(

@coldroyd wrote about the various user installed applications a month or so ago and is well worth a read – https://appsense.wordpress.com/2009/10/05/what-is-a-user-installed-application-and-why-should-we-care/

So, now we have accepted that we need to cater in some form or another, we can move on to consider HOW. The key aspects to delivering users with the ability to install their own apps is CONTROL – it would be insane (most would argue) to allow ALL users with the ability to install their own stuff. Very quickly the enterprise would find themselves in a situation where literally 1000’s of applications have found their way in, and are posing a serious legal issue. It is [mostly] true that a typical enterprise using laptop devices has this very issue today, since the majority of users of laptop devices are administrators of them. There is usually a solid business reason [from years gone by] as to why the user is an administrator, whether that reason being a requirement to install printer drivers [pre Vista] or something like that. Typically, once a user has admin rights, it is nigh impossible to get them back again :-(.

Arguably this is all part of something called “User Rights Management” as well as “Personalization”. Both of these are clearly becoming markets in their own right with vendors appearing in it regularly, and many other vendors morphing their solutions to fit the model(s) also ;-)

In order to deliver against the need, but to do so in that all important controlled manner, we need to enable / allow for the following (there will be more – these are just the key areas);

  • Only allow certain users to install apps (AD group based / end point device based)
  • Only allow those users to install from certain [internal] network location(s) – that way the enterprise can control exactly WHAT a user who is authorized to install can install
  • Only allow those users to install applications from certain vendors
  • Full reporting is required to enable the administration team to be able to see what is out there in a quick snapshot
  • Full administrative override to enable rapid removal of any applications as necessary

The overriding point here is simple – user installed applications is NOT for everyone, but it will be for a significant portion of the user population, so we need to provision for it in some way – simply saying no will not cut it.


Environment Manager New Feature – Logoff

October 27, 2009

AppSense Environment Manager 8.0 Service Pack 2.0 has introduced some new Logoff functionality.

To enable all Environment Manager actions to complete on logoff and to prevent the logoff black screen from appearing on Vista and Server 2008, the Shutdown Windows API call is detoured.

This API call is called whenever a user logs off or shuts down the system. The detour allows Environment Manager to:

  • Trigger Environment Manager logoff actions
  • Prevent logoff continuing until all Environment Manager actions have completed

When Environment Manager actions are completed or a 60 second default timeout has been passed logoff continues allowing any remaining processes to shut down before Windows itself shuts down. You can override the default timeout by setting a millisecond value in the “LogoffActionWaitTimeout” registry key. Since Environment Manager has already completed its work, it will not be a cause of the Windows logoff black screen.

Whilst the Environment Manager logoff actions are taking place, the system is effectively stalled and the user may wonder what is happening. To alleviate their concerns, a custom screen can be displayed informing the user that Environment Manager is busy. The screen is activated when text for the screen is configured from within the Blocked Text Library.

Adding an entry to the Blocked Text Library with the Title Logoff Message will allow a custom message to be specified for display.

Note: Once logoff continues, Environment Manager has effectively finished for the user session, therefore no more Policy Configuration actions or User Personalization will take place. Additionally, if another application decides to misbehave at this point, the black screen may still appear for those applications.




NEW FEATURE No. 11 – AppSense Environment Manager 8.0 Service Pack 2 – Registry Hive Exclusions

September 17, 2009

This is the eleventh installment in a series of posts about the new features and options in AppSense Version 8 Service Pack 2.  (If you have not yet downloaded this latest release, you can read more info and download it from here )

AppSense Environment Manager 8.0 Service Pack 2 introduces new functionality to the Registry Hive action – Registry Hive Exclusions.

This feature allows the administrator to specify registry settings to hive out at a specific level and then exclude certain keys or values beneath that level in order to reduce the registry file size on disk. For example, you could hive out the whole Microsoft Office key, but exclude settings for Microsoft Access.

Note: You can use wildcards for the key name and you can explicitly exclude a key name with an embedded wildcard character by enclosing the key name with quotes “”. However, it is not possible to specify a key path with a leading wildcard such as *\Software”wildcardkey*”.

Note: It is not advised to use keys that start with HKEY_CURRENT_USER since the software does not use this key internally

Note: Registry Hive Exclusions currently only work when hiving out settings rather than hiving them in. This is the preferred method since it reduces the amount of required storage space on the network.

P:S
As this is an ever growing blog topic, the previous posts on the other new features we have detailed can be found below:

NEW FEATURE No. 1 – AppSense Environment Manager 8.0 Service Pack 2 – Run As

NEW FEATURE No. 2 – AppSense Environment Manager 8.0 Service Pack 2 – Connect As

NEW FEATURE No. 3 – AppSense Environment Manager 8.0 Service Pack 2 – Improved compression and data handling protocol

NEW FEATURE No. 4 – AppSense Environment Manager 8.0 Service Pack 2 – Manipulation of files in Personalization Analysis

NEW FEATURE No. 5 – AppSense Environment Manager 8.0 Service Pack 2 – Run Once

NEW FEATURE No. 6 – AppSense Environment Manager 8.0 Service Pack 2 – Group SID Refresh

NEW FEATURE No. 7 – AppSense Environment Manager 8.0 Service Pack 2 – Trigger Action Time Audit Event

NEW FEATURE No. 8 – AppSense Environment Manager 8.0 Service Pack 2 – Stop If Fails

NEW FEATURE No. 9 – AppSense Environment Manager 8.0 Service Pack 2 – New Application Categories in the User Interface

NEW FEATURE No. 10 – AppSense Environment Manager 8.0 Service Pack 2 – Refresh

NEW FEATURE No. 11 – AppSense Environment Manager 8.0 Service Pack 2 – Registry Hive Exclusions