Layers make everything better

App Layering makes everything better

How would you be able to change in a world where 80% of our budget is spend on “keeping the lights on” ? Furthermore change is being perceived as scary, there might be repercussions on your decision to change so we play it safe and maintain the status the quo. We wait and look in awe at the early adopters and whenever one fails you use this as a proving point of your own fears.

It could be you’ve dared to try something new, but the first iteration was very disappointing. We’ve learned our lesson and try to categorize everything in the hype-cycle waiting for technology to pass the through of disillusionment. But after the through of disillusionment comes the 2nd generation. And this is where we are today when we look at application layering. A technology which was first broadly introduced by VMware with App Volumes, sure there were obviously others before them, but I believe VMware made the concept of layering “mainstream”. One of those early companies was Liquidware, founded in 2009, who believed their solutions should not be tied to 1 specific eco-system. That organizations should be able to benefit from their solutions no matter which choices they make when it comes to a workspace delivery. This customer and user-centric focus is the reason I chose to work here. Putting customer value over shareholder value. A wise lesson I’ve learned from one of my former CEO’s.  

Application Layering is a very interesting technology, basically what you do is you take a base layer and then add several layers containing applications on top of it. Theoretically there is a max amount of 2048 VHDX layers you can stack on top of each other but as with many things what’s best is “it depends”. And again, the beauty of Liquidware’s approach is that it embraces Microsoft’s base functionality  and extends it. One of the unique things it does is it leverages “micro isolation” meaning that contrary to traditional application virtualization it reverses the thought process. Rather than isolating everything and punching holes in the isolation bubble everything is open unless there’s a conflict. This creates the situation that applications fully behave as if they were locally installed . Due to this approach the number of applications that can be layered increases dramatically (90%+) and the number of base images can be reduces dramatically. Application silos for instance might not even be necessary anymore. However, in those (rare) occasions that we still require application silo’s we have made sure we also have a solution for the dreaded profile discussion. We have built a solution which can only take those settings belonging to the application and save those to the user’s “profile” leaving the rest to be ignored. This is one of the reasons why Profile Unity and FlexApp share the same basic infrastructure and console. We have even come up with a solution that allows certain applications to receive elevated rights rather than having to make the user “local admin” on his device something which should make CISO’s happy since being local admin creates a huge amount of risk.

And here we come to the true beauty of it all: this technology can be deployed in all kinds of desktop delivery scenarios: it works within virtualized environments (Citrix, VMWare, Azure Virtual Desktop, AWS) but also with physical devices using several delivery methodologies (SCCM, InTune…) or leverage our own client. You could even just send somebody an executable version of the layer. And last but not least: it is non-destructive; meaning it is clean and when removed doesn’t cause “Windows Rot” so every day we have that same 1st-day experience with our device without the hassle of having to set everything up to our liking. In other words a non-persistent environment with a persistent experience. In all my years of End-User Computing the holy grail has been achieved. I feel we finally tackled the windows application challenge.

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