Vmware published an article  a couple of days back on how they believe Thinapp and VMware View enhances Xenapp. My personal belief, on the contrary is that XenApp ELIMINATES the need for View and Thinapp in a lot of  use cases. In many scenarios, customers want “VDI” without really understanding whether it is the right fit and without understanding what else is out there. I will save this argument for another day, but for now, I want to try and go through VMware’s claims on why they feel View and ThinApp enhance XenApp:

1. “Requires only a single application instance: With ThinApp in a XenApp implementation, you need only one copy of the virtualized application stored on a ThinApp file share. With other applications presented with XenApp, you must install the same application on each of the XenApp Servers in your server farm, and each of these native installations must be individually maintained.”  

This claim is totally FALSE. XenApp includes an application streaming utility known as the Application Streaming profiler which I consider to be ThinApp on steroids. There is no need to install the same application on every XenApp server. Application streaming profiles can be stored on file shares just like ThinApp and deployed to servers. To take it a step further, the security model around the delivery of app streaming profile packages is a lot better. Based on my experience with ThinApp, it is great for virtualizing stand alone applications, but when it comes to cross linkages or any application that goes beyond a snapshot, it gets very complex with ThinApp. The application streaming profiler is a much more robust tool.

In addition to the application streaming profiler, the XenApp platinum license also includes Citrix Provisioning Server which provides the ability to have one golden image streamed to thousands of XenApp servers. So when there is an application update that needs to be rolled out to large number of servers, you only need to update the golden image.

2. “Application conflict is eliminated: To avoid application conflicts, Citrix isolates applications from each other via XenApp silos, which requires additional hardware. ThinApp isolates applications with software, not hardware. ThinApp virtual applications are isolated from each other and therefore can be placed on the same XenApp Server.”

Again this is FALSE.  XenApp provides multiple ways of addressing application conflicts. One way is to create silos or worker groups which host certain applications. The other method is to use application streaming profiles to co host conflicting applications on the same XenApp server. For instance you can run Office 2010 and Office 2007 on the same server, or IE 6 and IE 8.

3.  “Recovery is simpler: If a XenApp Server fails, you have to reinstall the XenApp server. However, if you have stored your virtual applications separately on a ThinApp file share, you have only the baseline XenApp server to reinstall, and you do not have to reinstall the applications.”

My response to the first claim addresses this as well, but to summarize, all of what can be done with ThinApp can be achieved with application streaming profiles. In addition with the help of Provisioning services, we can easily provision additional XenApp servers within minutes since all the servers can boot off the same golden image that is streamed to the server.

4. “Updates are simpler and faster with ThinApp: With a standard Citrix XenApp setup, you must update each natively installed application on each XenApp Server, and you need to take each server offline to update the applications. If you use ThinApp to virtualize applications, you update only the single application on the file share, and ThinApp applications can be updated automatically while in use.”

This once again is a repetition and is already addressed above. Application streaming profiles can also be updated while the application is in use.

5. ThinApp can virtualize IE6, and the migration to Windows 7 is eased: ThinApp allows you to virtualize Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 (IE6), and you can package IE6 along with a legacy application that depends upon IE6 or an older version of Java. Users can run virtual IE6 alongside a later version of native IE on the same desktop. The migration to Windows 7 or to later Windows versions becomes easier if you have the option of carrying forward any IE6-dependent legacy applications.

Application streaming has the same functionality. In fact, application linkage is a lot easier in the application streaming profiler as compared to ThinApp thanks to Inter-Isolation profiles. One of the clients I was recently working at (which by the way was a VMware shop with NO citrix) wanted to evaluate ThinApp and Application streaming profiler. After seeing the complexity of application linkage in ThinApp, which includes text file editing among other things, they decided to to give XenApp application streaming profiler a shot. We got the application packaged and deployed in less than an hour. They had invested over 10 hrs on ThinApp and failed.

So while XenApp can definitely do IE 6 linked to other legacy apps, the important point is that we can virtualize a lot more legacy apps that are complex in nature as compared to ThinApp.

6. “Users have their own desktops, with their own operating system and applications: XenApp provides users with a shared operating system and shared applications, and users can conflict with each other. VMware View provides users with their own desktop environments, with their own operating system instance and their own applications. Users do not conflict with each other.”

I am not sure how this claim proves that “VIEW ENHANCES XENAPP”. XenApp does provide users with a shared operation system, but users run their own instances of application within their session. The claim that users conflict with each other is FALSE! Published desktops in XenApp has been around a long time and is a proven solution. Users can have their own customization using profile management solutions. The look and feel can be completely skinned to look like a desktop operating system. This is much more cost effective as compared to a solution like VMware View. Not to mention, if we want to talk apples for apples, Citrix does offer XenDesktop!

7.”You can eliminate physical desktops and cut costs: Eliminating the maintenance of physical desktops saves time and money. See The Business Case for Desktop Virtualization.”

HUH? And XenApp does not? I thought the whole premise of using XenApp is to virtualize your applications and thereby reduce costs on desktop hardware refresh!

8. “The underlying infrastructure is familiar: If you have used VMware vSphere to virtualize your XenApp Servers, you can use your vSphere expertise to run View virtual desktops on the familiar infrastructure.”

Ah! I was waiting for this one. VMware’s favorite point to convince customers to go View! Just like View, XenDesktop also runs on vSphere. Oh but wait, XenDesktop also runs on XenServer and Hyper-V! In addition, in a lot cases, there wont be a need for View or XenDesktop when XenApp is in place!

Bottom line is that View and ThinApp by NO MEANS enhances XenApp. If anything, XenApp eliminates the need for View and Thinapp in a lot of scenarios.

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