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Real-Time Application Delivery & Lifecycle Management with VMware App Volumes

Harry Labana

Author: Harry Labana

Harry leads the app delivery team as vice president of management services and strategy for VMware End-User Computing (EUC).

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Update: VMware App Volumes is available now for faster application delivery and unified management. 


Read the latest App Volumes news.

Tectonic shifts globally require businesses to quickly adapt to change and shift costs to activities that increase productivity. Traditional approaches to application delivery and lifecycle management, designed for the distributed computing era, will not scale for modern enterprises.

This places new demands on IT that require them to provide instant service delivery in a world in which change is constant. This requires a reimagination of application delivery and lifecycle management for the enterprise.

I’m delighted to share that following the acquisition of CloudVolumes in August 2014, we will launch a VMware-branded version of CloudVolumes called VMware App Volumes in late Q4 2014, the fastest integration in VMware end-user computing (EUC) history.

App Volumes will be included with our VMware Horizon Enterprise solution. A new integration between the Horizon connection server and App Volumes manager will optimize performance. In addition, the solution will continue to be available as a standalone product.

What Is App Volumes?

App Volumes provides real-time application delivery and lifecycle management. IT can use App Volumes to build a real-time application delivery system that ensures all applications are centrally managed. With App Volumes, applications are delivered to desktops through virtual disks, without modifying the desktops or applications themselves and can be scaled out with superior performance, at lower costs and without compromising end-user experience.

How Does App Volumes Work?

An operating system (OS) with an App Volumes agent introduces a second layer of virtualization above the OS. Applications, data files, settings, middleware and configuration licenses act as separate, layered containers that we refer to as read-only application stacks (AppStacks) or Writable Volumes in a read/write mode.

AppStacks

These AppStacks are assigned from the web-based App Volumes Manager, which is also integrated with Active Directory for application entitlements. IT creates AppStacks that are stored in shared volumes across virtual disks. These AppStacks are easy to provision as they don’t require any special packaging formats and don’t require snapshotting technologies. Instead, App Volumes watches the entire installation process and captures it, honoring native application installers.

Once an AppStack is provisioned, with the click of a button, the App Volumes Manager delivers these AppStacks to the desktop, or to the user or group they choose. For end users, applications delivered by App Volumes appear and perform as if they are natively installed. Applications seamlessly follow end users across sessions and devices. Data can also optionally follow that end user. IT can update or replace applications in real time. IT can also remove any assigned application in seconds.

Writable Volumes

Writable Volumes takes this to the next level by enabling a per-user volume where data (profile, settings, files, user installed apps) can be installed and configured in different ways and move with the user. This complements user environment management (UEM) solutions, which can manage data within writable volumes at a more granular level and provide contextual rules to enforce policy based on different conditions or events.

What Are the Benefits of App Volumes?

Enterprises struggle with the complexity of application management, resulting in slow and unreliable service delivery for end users. A modern approach includes three key requirements for real-time application delivery in the mobile-cloud era:

1. Provide Complete Application Lifecycle Management

IT can manage the entire lifecycle of applications with App Volumes: Provisioning, delivery, maintenance and retirement. This begins with the initial installation of the application to users or devices. When an application requires an update or an upgrade, App Volumes helps speed up this process and, additionally, supports easy application replacement.

App Volumes allows IT to dynamically deliver applications and data to any number of virtual machines in seconds, without interrupting users (even if they are logged in). Applications are stored in shared, read-only virtual disks that instantly attach to desktops by users, groups or devices. These applications perform like natively-installed applications for end users, providing a seamless desktop experience.

2. Reduce VDI Infrastructure Costs & Accelerate Efficiency

With App Volumes, IT can drive down compute, network and storage costs by leveraging on-demand layering and a non-persistent architecture. App Volumes virtual disks can be placed on any supported vSphere datastore, enabling IT to leverage the most appropriate storage–including fast storage with high read IOPS (such as VMware Virtual SAN) instead of streaming applications across the network from a CIFS share.

Combining App Volumes with VMware Horizon, IT administrators can dynamically deliver and manage applications in virtual desktops with a 30% reduction in storage capacity requirements versus Horizon alone.

3. Provide Persistent End-User Experience across Non-Persistent Environments

End users can take advantage of fully customized desktops and the freedom to install their own applications and have these persist across sessions. With App Volumes, IT can deliver a persistent user experience while benefiting from the cost savings of a non-persistent architecture.

How Does App Volumes Integrate with Horizon?

App Volumes will integrate with the Horizon connection server to shorten login times and dynamically deliver applications. App Volumes will also communicate with Horizon, the beginnings of a strategic integration with VMware products.

How Will App Volumes Support Citrix?

App Volumes will continue to be available as a standalone product and support Citrix customers. We see the virtualization of desktops or applications as a piece of the solution for the customer, not the entire solution. The entire solution includes real-time app delivery, environment management and dynamic assembly.

Customers have a choice. So we will continue to build agnostic technologies, while still taking advantage of our portfolio synergies to offer optimal solutions for customers.

What’s Next for App Volumes?

I often get asked, what happens to VMware ThinApp application virtualization? Internally, we’ve already brought the App Volumes and ThinApp teams together. We will continue to offer all the isolation benefits that ThinApp application virtualization provides to make our combined solution even more powerful and unique. Similarly, we see opportunities to bring real-time application delivery to VMware Mirage desktop image management.

I’m really excited about our just-in-time desktop vision called Project Meteor, a combination of Project Fargo and App Volumes. Project Fargo enables the instantaneous cloning of a running virtual machine (VM), essentially a VM “fork”.  The cloned VM is identical in every way to the original and initially shares all memory and disk with it, as well.

Editor’s Note: VMware Instant Clone Technology for just-in-time desktops is now available.

It’s been a whirlwind introduction and warm welcome to VMware for the CloudVolumes team, and we’ve focused on getting things done with the same spirit we had as an independent startup. It’s certainly not the VMware I used to compete with, and it’s an exciting time to be part of EUC. I am excited to solve a problem that I struggled with for years as a customer and still see so many struggling with today.

For more information about today’s other announcements at VMworld, check out the blog posts by Sumit Dhawan, Erik Frieberg and Kit Colbert.

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