Welcome back to yet another article of the Horizon Control Plane blog series, where we talk about how each of the five cloud management services supports today’s most urgent use cases such as work from home, business continuity, real-time bursting, disaster recovery and high availability. In the previous segments, we learned about image management and universal brokering and multi-cloud assignments.
Horizon Control Plane services simplify the delivery and management of Horizon environments on-prem and across clouds.
Now, what if you could go beyond virtualizing your operating system images from hardware, as you can with image management, and also virtualize your apps from the image to make app management easier? VMware App Volumes, an enterprise solution for delivering applications in real-time, helps reduce operational and storage expenses by consolidating your image count, in some cases even down to one golden image. You may have heard of App Volumes before or even have it deployed on-prem or in the cloud; however, with App Volumes 4, VMware gives you lifecycle management capabilities to manage not only your images, but your apps from the same Horizon Control Plane.
In this article, you will learn about how App Volumes 4 simplifies application management while providing insights into the application lifecycle management with tools such as packages, stages and markers.
The Challenges of Application Lifecycle Management
There are many challenges with traditional application management. For brevity, let us look at a bulleted list of some challenges which VMware addresses head on:
- Each user has unique app needs, resulting in image sprawl.
- When the app is installed in the operating system image, an app change requires an image change.
- Admin needs to accommodate vendors’ varying release cycles and EOL schedules.
- Users get bogged down by continuous app updates, preventing them from being productive.
- Updating apps for large groups of users results in time-consuming recovery.
- Some users depend on an old version of an app, but it is no longer supported.
- Organizations want to be cloud-first, but some critical applications are not ready for the cloud.
The next few sections outline the new application management capabilities in the Horizon Control Plane, and explains how packages, stages and markers help with the previously listed challenges of app management. Additionally, we have also included some links at the end for you to learn more.
The Application Management Service
The application management service in the Horizon Control Plane, powered by App Volumes 4, brings both flexibility and control to application management.
In this short excerpt from VMworld, see how the admin can assign and deliver unique applications of both App Volumes and MSIX formatted packages to two different users on a Windows 10 multi–session desktop.
Package once; deliver everywhere!
App Volumes uses a unique method of virtualization which supports a simple click-through process to package applications. You only need to install the app once on a packaging desktop and then assign the app for real-time delivery to thousands of users. This VMware technology is compatible with nearly all Windows applications, including some of the more complex and industrial applications such as Office, AutoCAD and ArcGIS. App Volumes also makes packaging simple by eliminating sequencing and other common packaging challenges.
Furthermore, App Volumes 4 improves real-time application delivery by enhancing the performance of virtualizing numerous individually packaged applications. Each user is unique and so are their applications. Instead of trying to box users into persona-based operating system images, the application management service allows for an add-on app assignment, to help address the individual needs of users. App Volumes 4 enables admins to decouple app packaging from the app assignment processes. These are activities that admins would naturally do separately and grouping applications often plagues admins as they try and rationalize personas across operating system images. In fact, the application owners and packagers are often different employees and sometimes even different organizations than the helpdesk staff who ultimately handle the assignment and provisioning of the applications.
In this clip from VMworld, a leading medical device company discusses their experiences packaging and delivering applications using App Volumes 4.
Administrators can avoid last-minute application remediation efforts by managing the full lifecycle of each individual app in accordance with the vendor’s unique support cadence. App Volumes provides tools to IT organizations for agile yet controlled updates to the application for end users. That’s where package stages come in to play.
Stage your changes
With the new inventory structure in App Volumes 4, managing applications is made simpler by organizing packages by application. Each package gets its own lifecycle stage attribute that you can map to key business processes.
Starting with a new “unpackaged” package, the app is installed once just like it would be on the end user’s system. Once the app is packaged, the virtual disk in which the application resides is available for testing. Using the stage field, each package can mature at its own pace, recording any user acceptance until it is marked published for production use. There are even cases where the owner may not want to continue proliferation of a package—especially if a vendor no longer supports the program inside it—yet it is still deemed critical to certain business functions. In this instance the business may accept the risk by staging it as “retired,” which indicates this item should no longer be assigned to any users.
Make your mark!
In addition to stages, the little green pill, or the CURRENT marker, is used in the management console to indicate the package all users should default to when assigned the application. It is a way for application owners to indicate the mainstream version for an application. While one application may have multiple packages with the same stage, only one can be marked with a CURRENT marker.
Take Adobe Reader for example. At any given time, there may be two or more versions in an organization. A new version of Acrobat DC that was recently released from a vendor which is currently being tested, a current published version of Acrobat DC that is used by all users, and a legacy version of Acrobat XI which is needed by a group of special users who has a unique dependency on the older version. With App Volumes 4, all three versions are managed in the same control panel where users can be assigned the correct version for their needs. If an admin assigns multiple apps to a user, such as during an onboarding process, the default CURRENT marker assignment will be used. If an admin needs to assign a different version of the application, they can use a package assignment which overrides the more general current assignment. With this model of assignment, IT organizations can standardize and keep users of the current version of the application while still having the flexibility to handle exceptions with direct package assignments. Rolling out a change to a large group of users becomes as easy as moving a marker, and likewise, rolling back the same change is as easy as moving the marker back.
TL;DR: Solutions Powered by App Volumes
The application management service powered by App Volumes simplifies application management and provides solutions to common application lifecycle management challenges using packages, stages and markers. Here are some things you can do:
- Virtualize and deliver apps in a way that unique user needs do not require more unique images to create and manage.
- Control updates to applications without needing to make changes to the image.
- Track vendor releases and EOLs with package stages and notes.
- Move a marker to deploy the current version of an app to large groups of users.
- Likewise, simply roll-back changes by moving the marker back.
- Handle lifecycle exceptions by using stages and package assignments on a case-by-case basis.
- Deliver the same App Volumes 4 packages both on-premises and into any cloud!
For more information
If you would like to learn more about application management and App Volumes, please refer to the following:
- Horizon Control Plane services product page
- App Volumes product page
- App Volumes 4 now available for Horizon Cloud blog post
- App Volumes on Horizon Cloud on Azure demo
- App Volumes Reference Architecture
- App Volumes 4: What’s New video
- App Volumes 4: Feature Review demo
- Mastering App Volumes activity path on Tech Zone
- VMworld 2020 session: Optimize for the end user: Windows Virtual Desktop & Horizon Cloud on Azure