FlexApp Layering “State of the Union” blog

The recent release of ProfileUnity 6.5 was a significant platform improvement for both ProfileUnity and FlexApp. The commitment to robust integration points between ProfileUnity and the FlexApp layering platform is reflected based on the positive feedback from current and new customers alike.

As we approach the ProfileUnity with FlexApp Feature Release 1 milestone from Liquidware Labs it seems appropriate for a FlexApp “State of the Union” address of sorts. From a FlexApp perspective there are some critical updates as part of this 6.5.1 release. Here is a brief description of the new updates:

  • Optimized Architecture – As a continuation of the recent 6.5 release, version 6.5.1 adds significant infrastructure improvements with the agent and filter driver workflow that ultimately increase VHD and VMDK performance in guest. These improvements lead towards reduced CPU and memory overhead, which significantly increases the overall performance of the FlexApp environment
  • Windows 10 support – Initially both ProfileUnity and FlexApp will provide baseline support for Windows 10. As is often the case Microsoft made significant changes to the management of the user space within the updated operating system. New Windows 10 templates have been added to ProfileUnity to address the majority of these changes. These templates will be refined over time to achieve seamless profile migrations across operating system versions using ProfileUnity
  • Micro-Isolation
    • What is it?
      • FlexApp’s Micro isolation is a technology that engages automatically to resolve interlayer application conflicts. The applications within the FlexApp Layer are still perceived as native to the OS and other application layers. FlexApp is just redirecting the layered applications request for a file or registry key to its own layer so two versions of the same file or registry key can coexist.
    • Why is it important?
      • Without Micro-isolation when creating independent layers for an application, each layer is unaware of other layers and can conflict at the file and registry level causing failures.
    • What does this mean for your Application strategy?
      • Normally the best way to solve application conflicts are to combine the conflicting layers into one large layer. This creates management problems, when you can’t just update a single layer and you have to deal with larger layers. This is also back to the old problem of having everything in the base image problem but at the application level, which is what everyone is trying avoid.
      • Truly Dynamic Application Layering – no need to stack multiple apps in layers – instead create a single layer for each application which allows for ultimately granularity in assigning apps to users, groups and machines.  It also make updating applications very simple by updating a single package for a single app rather than dealing with cumbersome multi app layers. Lastly makes packaging applications and deploying them much more successful without dealing with conflicts manually!

The Application Layering platform is still a relatively new concept. The two primary competitors in this space are VMware App Volumes and FlexApp from Liquidware Labs. Each product has made tremendous advancements in a short amount of time. I am constantly asked to compare and contrast the two products. The following discussion points represent a few of the key differentiators that put FlexApp Layering in a category above App Volumes.

Basic technical capabilities

Both technologies have created a more efficient way to package and deliver applications to desktops. The infrastructure required to achieve these results is significantly different.

  • Load Balancer requirement
    • App Volumes requires a separate load balancer, often F5 by name
    • FlexApp leverages a Point and Click clustering platform, embedded by default
  • Database requirement
    • App Volumes requires a separate SQL Cluster
    • FlexApp leverages an HA Mongo DB platform, embedded by default
  • vCenter overhead
    • App Volumes makes numerous calls / searches regarding machine identify to VMware vCenter and the vCenter DB, which could cause performance issues over time
    • FlexApp understands machine identity more efficiently therefore making fewer calls / searches within VMware vCenter and the vCenter DB
  • Manipulating VHD’s and VMDK’s
    • App Volumes cannot create or manipulate VHD’s or VMDK’s. Templates are imported to the App Volumes manager and applications are then added to it. This could cause application update complications over time.
    • FlexApp has complete control over creating and manipulating both VHD’s and VMDK’s. This capability provides a greater long term use benefit as the product expands and grows with an enterprise environment.
  • Mix and Match
    • App Volumes lacks the ability to switch back and forth between VHD’s or VMDK’s as project requirements shift or expand. Once you pick one form or the other, you have to start over if you want to switch between the platforms
    • FlexApp has the ability to clone layers between VHD’s or VMDK’s with ease as project requirements shift or expand.
  • Single App per Layer?
    • App Volumes recommends as many as 6 apps per volume for various technical reasons.
    • FlexApp can be flexible based on the customer environmental requirements. Some approach recommendations are:
      • Single App per FlexApp Layer
      • Application Suite per FlexApp Layer
      • Departmental FlexApp Layers

User experience management integration

  • VMware has the Immidio platform, which unfortunately is not fully integrated with App Volumes.
  • Liquidware has ProfileUnity, which is fully integrated with the FlexApp Layering technology.

Bang for your Buck

Now more than ever enterprise budgets are stretched pretty thin. Corporate IT is constantly looking for ways to optimize and maximize on the investments made with EUC support tools.

  • App Volumes can only be acquired through an enterprise level agreement with VMware, which tends to be very expensive.
  • Historically the Liquidware Labs offerings provide an extremely cost effective value add to any organization regardless of the platform decision made.

Hidden costs

As software developers attempt to innovate, they are constantly asked to be cognizant of any hidden costs with respect to add on 3rd party components required. The latest “Point & Click Clustering” features from Liquidware Labs provides enterprise highly available (HA) load balancing and database scalability. Without the need for additional, expensive SQL clusters or F5 load balancers, like that of our competitor.

Key ProfileUnity integration points

Full integration with a profile management suite is a critical part of any application layering solution. Primarily because a fully optimized user experience can only be achieved by leveraging aspects of both profile management and application layering features. Unlike some of the competitor products on the market today, the combination and integration between ProfileUnity and FlexApp Layering has evolved. Here are some of the key differentiators that make ProfileUnity and FlexApp the best of breed solution:

  • Application Rights Management
    • Privilege Elevation
      • Elevate applications that need admin rights for standard users
        • The standard user does not need to be admin for just an application.
        • This benefits Server Based Computing because applications needing admin rights have not been compatible with SBC.
      • Allow application installations on persistent virtual or physical for standard users
      • Controlled by policy, from location, by certain manufacturers, securely locked down
    • Application Restrictions
      • Allow/Deny Process list
      • Example: Restrict specific application(s) in the base image or Kiosk mode of white list
      • Streamline base image management and disable apps for users with context aware filters
      • Whitelist only specific app(s) for very tight control
      • Application access control: Use context aware filters to enforce location/context aware compliance
    • Run as Admin
    • Manages Windows with “Administrative” privileges, standard users have no access
      to change HKLM
    • Is capable of granular or complete desktop Lockdown
  • Trigger points
    • Enable apps based on context aware triggers
    • Enable policies and/or profile changes based on context aware triggers

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How does FlexApp compare to Citrix AppDisk?

Citrix released an application layering product called AppDisk for Tech Preview a few months ago. Liquidware Labs has become a strong partner for Citrix. Considering AppDisk will support XenApp 7.7 or higher and is based on the original “RingCube” PVD technology, FlexApp can easily provide support for XenApp 7.7 and below. Citrix is working hard to strengthen the 3rd party tool ecosystem available to customers and partners. Liquidware Labs ProfileUnity and FlexApp have evolved into key tools to support Citrix XenApp environments moving forward.

How does FlexApp compare to Unidesk?

People often try to compare Unidesk with other Application Layering solutions. This can sometimes be a bit misleading. Unidesk is typically considered an “OS Layering” platform as opposed to an “Application Layering” platform. Granted they have a feature called Application Layering, but it is wrapped into the proprietary OS Layering mechanisms. For Citrix environments, implementing a Unidesk solution often means shifting away from PVS, which tends to be a deal breaker for most environments. FlexApp Layering continues to be a seamless, cost effective add on to any Citrix XenApp environment.

2016 and Beyond

As we approach the New Year, look for some exciting “Automation” from both ProfileUnity and FlexApp!!!!


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2 thoughts on “FlexApp Layering “State of the Union” blog

  1. Pingback: FlexApp Layering “State of the Union” blog – DABCC

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