Application layering has been a hot topic in the End User Computing space, specially the last 24 months or so. Layering allows you to decouple applications or groups of applications form the underlying operating system thereby enabling you to manage them indepedently. There are quite a few players in this space including AppVolumes by VMware and FlexApp by Liquidware Labs and Citrix’s AppDisk to name a few. But there is no arguing that Unidesk has been around the longest and has the most mature and comprehensive solution.
With today’s announcement from Citrix around the acquisition of Unidesk, customers have even more flexibility in terms of how applications and workspaces are delivered to their end users whether the workloads are running on premises or in the cloud.
Before we get into the key benefits of Unidesk and why this acquisition adds tremendous value, its important to understand some of the challenges that Citrix customers face. A good place to start is this survey that Unidesk conducted.
The Problem At Hand
1. Image Management – Today both PVS and MCS customers have to maintain multiple images. Larger environments sometimes manage and maintain over 10 images on a day to day basis. One of the reasons for this is business units needing one off applications leading to various silos. The administrative overheard involved in maintaining the images sometimes leads to needing dedicated resources who solely focus on image updates, testing and deployment.
2. Pooled desktops and assigning layers at runtime – Most Citrix customers are forced to use persistent desktops for certain use cases today due to users needing different sets of applications. If there was a way to decouple applications from the OS and deliver applications at login dynamically based on user privileges, then the same pool of desktops can be used for multiple use cases thereby reducing infrastructure costs and operating costs.
3. As customers move workloads to the cloud, there are new challenges that surface when it comes to image management. These need to be addressed in order to reduce cost, improve performance and thereby increase cloud adoption.
4. Not every application can be delivered via XenApp. Some applications need to be installed locally. App-V has been an alternate technology that a number of customers use but many still like to have the ability to install these locally.
5. While AppDisk provided layering, there were various limitations including the inability to attach layers at run time and the inability to use layers with persistent desktops. Appdisk also lacks true version management and rollback.
How the Unidesk acquisition helps address these issues
1. Unidesk already has a large number of Citrix customers and tight integration with both XenApp andXenDesktop. They are a proven technology at scale, a preferred MS partner for application and image management, and well regarded in the partner community.
2. Unidesk has connectors for PVS and MCS thereby simplifying application delivery and eliminating the need to manage and maintain multiple images.
3. Unidesk provides flexibility in terms of how the layers are delivered either at pre-boot or and dynamically delivering apps into running session hosts without reboot. Unidesk has a feature called Elastic Layering that allows for layers to be attached at run time. So in a XenApp environment for instance, since applications are attached at run time, different users groups can be assigned different applications while connecting to the same server. This eliminates the need for silos.
4. Application compatibility is no longer a concern as Unidesk supports layering applications that have drivers and system service dependency and even apps that run while users are logged out.
5. Unidesk supports layering for persistent desktops in addition to XenApp and pooled desktops thereby addressing every use case. Also persistent layers can be assigned to users even while using XenApp. This allows administrators to provide users a more cost effective VDI option to their end users with persistence based off of XenApp.
6. Full Lifecycle Management of layers across your environment with version control, rollback etc.
7. Unidesk’s approach to layering is fundamentally different. A layer is assigned per application. Administrators the have the ability to create a profile so to speak consisting of the various layers for a user group. These layers are then combined into a single vhd that is then attached at boot or at run time depending on the assignment. When compared to other layering solutions since the number of vhd’s mounted is minimized, performance is greatly improved and login times reduced.
7. Cloud adoption has increased steadily over the past couple of years and customers are more inclined than ever to start moving workloads to public clouds, especially MS Azure. The Azure connector from Unidesk simplifies image management in the cloud. Layered Images can be assigned to different Azure collections. In addition all image collections can be updated by patching the OS and app layers only once. The Unidesk applicance can also run in Azure and is available via the Azure Marketplace. When you combine Citrix Cloud with Unidesk, there is definitely a better story now to be told around deploying and managing VDI workloads in Azure.
The Unidesk acquisition along with our recent acquisition of Norkskale helps customers further reduce infrastructure costs while increasing operational efficiencies and guaranteeing the most optimal end user experience. For customers running VDI in cloud or considering the move, Unidesk is a great new addition and will simplify image management. Citrix’s position as the industry leader in End User Computing is further solidified.