When IT admins think of app management, they often focus on app packaging, entitlements, and delivery. After all, these are the core components and pain points that they’re trying to solve for, and they’re the ones that seemingly cause the most day-to-day headaches. What’s often overlooked, though, is the overall app lifecycle, which begins before and extends beyond those three core components. Understanding the complete Windows application lifecycle management process can help you make your users happier, and your job easier. Let’s take a look at the big picture and how VMware App Volumes and key partners combine to meet all the needs of app management in desktop and app virtualization environments.
Apps everywhere: Windows application lifecycle management
Zooming out a bit on app lifecycle management reveals the eight core activities that should be a part of every app management solution:
- Discovery: identifying apps that need to be packaged or updated.
- Packaging: wrapping applications into standard formats for management.
- Testing: ensuring apps work, are secure, and meet the needs of end users.
- Entitlement: connecting apps to their users and enabling self-service.
- Delivery: delivering applications to end user devices.
- Rollback: removing or reverting an app to a previous state.
- Telemetry: gathering metrics on app usage and user experience.
- Self-service: allowing users to help themselves on demand without involving IT.
While much of the focus is on packaging, entitlement, and delivery, the other activities often see little to no emphasis. While that may not have a negative effect on overall operations, paying attention to each of these can have a decidedly positive effect.
Modernizing app lifecycle management with App Volumes
VMware App Volumes and key partners play a role in meeting the needs of this complete app lifecycle management approach, so let’s dig a little deeper to show you how we can help modernize your approach.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve encountered customers who don’t know how many apps they have. It’s not necessarily their fault since users and departments often take matters into their own hands. It’s not uncommon to find “that one accounting app that we only use on April 15th” was left off the list of apps the last time you tried to assess the landscape.
Discovery can be a daunting task, but it’s necessary to get a proper lay of the land to plan your full application lifecycle management strategy. VMware’s Professional Services Organization has been helping customers to build solutions to locate legacy MSI installers and automatically convert to modern packaged applications.
The first of the well-known steps in app management, packaging can be looked at as compartmentalizing the applications, so they become a separate, addressable unit rather than just a small piece of a monolithic Windows machine. Packaging an app independent of the user and OS lets you assign and deploy it to whomever and wherever you want later in the process. Using the Horizon Cloud app packaging service or the App Volumes UI driven packaging flow can make packaging easier.
There are many types of packages, and not all are created equal. VMware App Volumes supports three of them (App Volumes packages, ThinApp packages, and MSIX app attach packages), and many more exist. Fortunately, there are partners like Access IT Automation, AppCURE, Liquit, and Rimo3 that leverage VMware App Capture’s command-line tools to help convert from other app packages, such as MSI or SCCM.
Testing tends to be overlooked by many, especially those under a time crunch or those used to doing things the old-fashioned way. Testing can mean a few things depending on when and how you use it. First, it’s helpful to test apps that are currently unmanaged or in another management system to make sure they can be packaged in App Volumes. Sure, you can just try it and see if it works, but that’s time consuming. Automated testing can help you identify the problem apps before you start, so you know where to focus your efforts.
Second, testing ensures that applications and updates are compatible with each other. This so-called regression testing is familiar to anyone who updated one app only to break another.
VMware works closely with partners to ensure this vital stage of the app management lifecycle is accounted for, similar to app packaging. For example, Rimo3’s cloud platform has introduced support for uploading and automatically smoke testing VMware App Volumes packages. This unattended automation is the first step in a series of ongoing improvements that Rimo3 has planned to support the App Volumes package format and integrate with associated VMware platforms.
Finally, testing also makes sure what the vendor has changed is compatible with your business processes and users’ expectations. This is often called User Acceptance Testing (or UAT), and application owner admins may update a package stage field from “New” to “Tested” to “Published” as it makes its way through these testing gates.
As a core function of VMware App Volumes, entitlement is where the rubber meets the road. Until now, the efforts have been focused on getting app packages created and tested. Entitlement is where you start to receive the benefits of all this prior work. Instead of complicated logon scripts or automated installers, the entitlement layer allows you to simply assign apps to users or groups so that the next phase knows where to deliver the apps when a user logs on.
And while it can be this simple, VMware knows some business needs aren’t always that easy and exceptions can be handled with more advanced assignment controls.
Another fundamental piece of App Volumes, delivery ensures that users receive the apps to which they’ve been entitled. Based on configuration, apps can be delivered at logon or as the user needs them with Apps On Demand. In non-persistent environments, these apps are removed at log out so they can start again with a fresh session at next login. Each time a user logs in, the entitlements are checked against the available app packages, and if an updated package is available, it’s delivered to the end user without any interaction on their part.
Perhaps one of the most coveted features of an application is an “undo” button. In App Volumes you can revert to previous versions of an application, or to remove apps from a user altogether. Reverting an app is useful in the event of an unforeseen compatibility issue (see the Testing section), and can be done by simply moving the “Current” marker in App Volumes from one app package to another. In classic app delivery, rollback equates to uninstalls, which are cumbersome, additional work to automate, and error prone. With App Volumes, the next time a user logs on, they will get whichever package is marked as “Current,” with no need to perform manual uninstalls or to physically touch a machine.
With Apps On Demand, you have the ability to see when your apps are — and aren’t — being used. If the app is not launched, then it technically isn’t even installed. This alone may help you save software licensing by demonstrating actual app usage during purchases and renewals, and it gives you visibility into apps that are truly required in your organization. Also knowing which apps to prune from your portfolio saves on costs of lifecycle management, as well as lowers your risk profile to vulnerabilities.
Finally, self-service is a key focus of App Volumes because allowing users to help themselves reduces the load on IT admins. This is the essence of Apps On Demand and perhaps is most effectively demonstrated with Published Apps On Demand, where the app-publishing servers build themselves to meet the demand of our users. With newly added APIs, file-type associations, and command-line tools, you can even integrate app delivery into your own self-service catalog and define your own rules for delivering apps in real-time.
Next steps for app management with VMware partners
As you can see, app management goes beyond simply packaging and deploying Windows apps to users. Fortunately, VMware App Volumes has the partners and tools to deliver what you need at every step along the way. Most important, we can do this without fundamentally changing the processes and workflows you currently use for managing your desktop virtualization environment. There’s no layering technology to learn or new image management technology to understand, and it even works inside Citrix environments!
For more information, check out the resources below or reach out to your VMware rep or partner.
- App Volumes Product Documentation
- Apps On Demand Demo — Ron Oglesby’s Cool Feature of the Week
- Revolutionize Virtual Apps by Publishing Apps on Demand on Generic RDSH Servers — a blog by Nilesh Deo
- App Volumes Activity Path on VMware Tech Zone