Application Layer Extraction is the Next Frontier

For many, many years now we’ve have various layers to our user cake.  We’ve extracted the OS from the hardware with hypervisors and OS virtualization.  We’ve extracted the user with RES, AppSense, UPM, you name it.  We’ve extracted data with redirected folders and network shares.  The last slice of the cake is, to me anyway, the application layer.  So let’s take a look at where the app extraction sits today and what the future might hold.

For starters I see application extraction in 3 entirely separate tracks:

1) Application streaming- Apps virtualized with technology like AppV and ThinApp.  These technologies have existed for years in various forms and functionality.  There are quite a lot of reasons to use these types of application layer technologies, most notably the ease of delivery.  The apps are streamed into the user session as needed.  There are still functional limitations to this type of packaging but it gives a centralized control of app delivery especially with integration into other tools such as SCCM.

2) Application redirection – This is my term for the technologies such as CloudVolumes, FlexApp, Mirage and Unidesk.  These are “cloud” application stacks.  The app layer truly is a slice of a virtual disk that attaches to the OS layer using hooks into the Windows OS that makes it believe that the apps are locally installed when they aren’t.  These technologies can give users their own install space as well as provide pre-packaged app slices from a centralized delivery service.  In many ways this is a direct competitor to the Application Streaming technologies, especially as some of them allow the installation of applications by the user.  In a pooled desktop environment this allows you to provision machines as a pooled resource with the user’s apps following them between machines just like their data.  This is a relatively new space compared to Streaming Apps but the competition is definitely heating up and some clear market leaders have emerged.  I am going to go into more detail on these technologies in a future blog post.

3) True cloud applications – This is a fairly controversial topic if you happen to like your OS :).  When you look at what places like Google and Amazon are doing, you see rack upon rack of compute resources with NO operating system.  Applications are being written that directly address those resources and don’t need an OS to interpret their requests to and from the hardware layer.  This is a very, very new space but it has explosive growth potential.  I don’t think you will be losing your favorite OS any time soon, but 20 years from now our IT world could be a very different place.

Long term what happens?  Well, I suspect the application streaming will ultimately fade into the other two technologies.  Application redirection is frankly so versatile you don’t NEED application streaming anymore.  It can duplicate all the functionality while still allowing user installation when needed.  Make sure your application strategy takes into account these changes and don’t be left behind with a bunch of hand-installed difficult to maintain packages.  Take the time to evaluate your options because 2-3 years from now things will be different.  I know, easy to say in IT 😉

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