Application Layering has been all the buzz and Liquidware Labs has innovated in this space since 2011 with FlexApp. FlexApp leverages a pair of File System Filter Drivers to layer applications into a Windows desktop OS on well-connected desktops such as Virtual desktops, Citrix XenApp/RDSH Servers, and even physical desktops.
What Problem is Layering Solving?
Application layering is solving the challenge of multiple base image management. With new application delivery technologies like FlexApp Layering, it should really be the goal of any Windows organization to get to single image management. With a capable layering solution, and then technologies that complement layering like Microsoft App-V, it really is now possible to get to a single base image.
Many layering solutions push that you to get as many applications into a layer as possible for a department or group of users. There are different reasons for this (outlined below-keep reading). But what this does is shift the industry problem of multiple base image management to multiple application layer management!
FlexApp is different. While you CAN do multi-app layers with FlexApp, our performance, our truly “Portable” application layers, and our Micro-Isolation technology, allows you to keep each application into a separate layer. The advantages of this is that you no longer have to manage big layers per group and you can manage/update each application layer separately without modifying a layer full of application. FlexApp provides a very straight-forward approach to updating layers. Through the FlexApp packaging console you clone a layer (because it may be in use by users), update or extend that layer, and put it back into production. At users’ next logon, they get the new application through the updated layer. It is possible to do “hot adds” of layers with FlexApp (and makes for a WOW demo) but with users using applications that would not be safe or smart – boot and logon is the safest time to not affect user productivity.
Why do other vendors push multi-app layers?
Other vendors push multi-app layers for a few reasons.
- Some vendors do not have truly “portable” layers, they tie layering to the OS or to a hypervisor. FlexApp is true portable application layering available today.
- Some layering vendors are very limited to the number of layers/volumes that they can mount. FlexApp limits are very high, see below.
- Some vendors do not have “Micro-Isolation” which avoids file and registry conflicts if applications with conflicting files are not put into a big layer. Note: Micro Isolation is not full-isolation like Microsoft App-V. FlexApp features automatic Micro-Isolation.
- Some layering vendors may not have good performance when playing back/mounting layers. FlexApp plays back multiple layers in seconds.
- Most vendors are limited to AD groups do not have in-depth “context-aware” assignment capabilities. FlexApp leverages AD groups, etc, PLUS a context-aware filter engine with more than 300 combinations of ways to apply an application.
The technical volume/layer limits per desktop with FlexApp are higher than most any vendor in the industry – 2,000 VHDs and 58 VMDKs AND you can mix and match VHDs and VMDKs. Not that you would want to assign this many layers to a desktop, but that is the “technical limit.” The “performance limit” is different. While many large organizations may have over 1,000 different applications, your average user does not use more than 20 or so applications. VHDs and VMDKs do take time to mount whether at boot time or at logon time. For FlexApp to mount 20 or more separate application layers only takes seconds. You always have the capability to do multi-application layers but why would you want to? The whole reason the industry wanted to do layering is to minimize base image management, not shift the problem to multi-application layers!
FlexApp is available as an integrated part of ProfileUnity User Environment Management for good reason, however, you can license the features separately if desired. Check it out and download it today. A trial license is included.