10 Ways FlexApp Has Raised the Bar for Layering

imagesEvery feature that has been incorporated in Liquidware FlexApp is in the product because either a customer has requested it or our experienced development and product management teams knows first-hand how important it is to a provide a seamless, enterprise, and scaleable application layering solution.

FlexApp layering has emerged as a leader as a scalable enterprise-ready layering solution. If you are evaluating layering solutions or working on a RFP (Request for Proposal), consider a solution that leads the market with multiple ways to save time, make users more efficient, and save money.

Here are 10 exclusive ways that FlexApp sets the bar for application layering in the industry.

  1. Package Once – Once you package an application it simply works across any supporting Windows OS including Windows 7/Server 2012r2 and multiple versions of Windows 10/Server 2016.
  2. Application Layering focused solution – FlexApp focuses on delivering applications that are truly dynamic. This instant layering of applications allows you to keep them separate from the Windows OS image. It enables you to greatly minimize the number of base images you maintain while managing/updating them by any traditional means including Citrix PVS and MCS.
  3. Easy Package Editing – FlexApp provides you with an easy method to edit a package or modify captured registry keys, a great time-saver for administrators that don’t want to repackage apps just because something as simple as a registry key needs to be modified.
  4. One application per layer – While multiple apps per layer is possible, FlexApp’s one app per layer methodology makes packaging and managing applications easy and less time-consuming. Applications remain modular and easily updated rather than encumbered with other apps.
  5. Click-to-layer (AKA Applications on Demand) – enables FlexApp to make literally dozens of application layers available to users with minimal impact on login performance.
  6. Micro Isolation – makes packaging applications that have file conflicts work seamlessly.
  7. FastPackaging™ – FlexApp’s packaging process is the fastest in the industry. Up to 10x per app faster!
  8. Fully integrated UEM – ProfileUnity makes it easy to manage related application challenges, including profiles, registry entries, privilege elevation, and application restrictions.
  9. Built-in High-Availability – No load balancers or cache points are necessary. FlexApp is highly resilient and includes software options for high availability across multiple management servers.
  10. Physical desktop support – FlexApp not only supports delivery to VDI, RDSH, and Citrix XenApp, applications can be layered to well-managed desktops as well.

You can easily try FlexApp today. Many organizations have FlexApp up and layering in under two hours (which could have been reason #11). Download your trial at www.liquidware.com/download now.

Application Layer Editing, Sledgehammer or Scalpel?

In comparison to traditional ways to install applications and other application delivery methods that have been around for quite some time – such as application virtualization – application layering technology is still in its early stages. Because app layering is relatively new, tools for editing existing layers are unfortunately sparse.

You might ask, “Why would I need to edit an application layer?” Well, you could find yourself needing to edit registry keys for an application layer because you want the application to behave differently. So, how would you edit registry keys for a layer that is already created? The default answer for all layering vendors (assuming they can even edit layers, you should ask!) is to put the layer back into capture or packaging mode and make your registry changes there. Sure, this will work, but this is a “sledgehammer” approach when a “scalpel” may be better. When you put a layering tool into capture mode, it records all changes that happen to the operating system. This is a bit heavy-handed when you’re only trying to make a single registry key change.

Windows is noisy. When you put a layering product into capture mode, it is trying to ignore as much of the noise as it can.  You can see how effective layering vendors are at ignoring static by looking at how large your layers are for even the smallest applications. Again, a good question to ask of your layering vendor is, “How big is Notepad++ as a layer — closer to 60 MB or more like 1.2 GB?” If layering solutions playback too much noise when layering an application, they can destabilize the OS. So, vendors have two options. They can either ignore the noise on capture and create a smaller layer, or they can capture all the noise and ignore noise on playback, resulting in inflated layers. No matter what a vendor says, they will capture at least a little bit of noise into the layer. This is the risk of putting a layer back into capture mode.

What’s in a layer? Application layers are made up of files and metadata that tell the layer how to behave on playback when it comes to registry and other behavioral things. Why not just edit the metadata directly with a scalpel and avoid the risk to the state of the layer?

Let’s talk about Liquidware’s FlexApp editing and answer the questions above in reference to FlexApp.

  1. Yes, you can put a FlexApp layer back into capture mode.
  2. FlexApp avoids static/noise on capture.
  3. Since FlexApp avoids static/noise on capture, a Notepad ++ layer is approximately 60 MB.
  4. Yes, FlexApp has an editing tool to provide a scalpel approach to application layer editing.

FlexApp’s layer editor for registry entries is a dream to work in. If you know how to use Regedit.exe, then you know how to use our app layer editor for registry. With our metadata Editor which we call a Cap editor, you can edit, delete, create and import registry keys into the layer with precision and without fear of breaking an application layer.

Our metadata Cap Editor will continue to expand in capabilities, and shortly it will be built into our FlexApp Packaging Console for ease of access. For now, you can contact our Support Team or your sales engineer for access to this great tool.

Here are some resources to our layering editing tool:

ProfileUnity and FlexApp Keeps Leading with Advancements in v6.7

CaptureProfileUnity and FlexApp v6.7 was recently made generally available with new and innovative features that further simplify User Environment Management and Application Layering. The new version includes advancements that you won’t find in basic profile management and layering solutions from Citrix, VMware, or any other vendor.

Let’s get right to the innovation.

ProfileUnity now includes Role Based Access and Auditing (video demo). This feature grants the ability to apply administrative user roles to any feature set in ProfileUnity, including the FlexApp Layering solution. This gives powerful delegated authority to team members. For example, now you can deem an administrator on your team as the application delivery specialist and permit all of the features that user is entitled to do perform his/her duties. Permissions for that person to manage and modify might include FlexApp Layering, Registry key modifications, and assignment of virtual disks. Another administrator might have permissions over only printer management and so on. ProfileUnity’s active Auditing feature keeps a running log of changes by user, date, and time so your teams are aware of what’s been changed in the environment.

ProfileUnity also now extends ProfileDisk options to Microsoft RDSH and Citrix XenApp users. The benefit is that you gain the ability to have a very fast user profile even when it is encumbered by Microsoft Office 365/Outlook caching or other large data files. Although, the true power of ProfileDisk is still realized when you couple it with ProfileUnity’s longstanding Profile Portability features, which can instantly adapt a profile to be used across Windows OS versions, makes user migrations across Windows 7/10 and Server 2012/16 versions automatic for users. ProfileUnity remains the Only UEM solution to offer an embedded ProfileDisk options and true profile portability.

FlexApp really shines in this release with two new innovative features; 1) Click-to-Layer and 2) Session Based Layers for Microsoft RDSH and Citrix XenApp.

Click-to-Layer is FlexApp’s applications on-demand feature. Administrators can entitle users with an unlimited number of FlexApp applications on their desktop but they are only mounted instantly when the user opens the application. The first-to-market feature makes it possible to have a very fast logon/post logon experience and keeps with FlexApp’s one application per layer methodology, which streamlines future application management for administrators.

Session Based Layers for Microsoft RDSH and Citrix XenApp enables XenApp/RDSH users to have unique layered applications even when they are on the same server! The big business benefit is that it can dramatically lower the number of base images that you are managing for your RDSH/XenApp farms. You no longer have to silo RDSH servers by department because of application differences on the desktop…just use a standard base image and then publish FlexApp based applications by user or department, everything else is automatic.

Here’s a video demo of the new features and hou can read more about the FlexApp enhancements in this new blog as well.

Current customers can update ProfileUnity and FlexApp directly from within their Management Console (Video Demo of a One-Click Upgrade). If you’re not a current customer you can try the latest version today for free with a download at www.liquidware.com/download.

Baselining the User Experience and Defining a Measure of Success with Stratusphere UX

For over 25 years we’ve seen innovation and change in many areas of information technologies. For example, the shift from monolithic mainframe to distributed microcomputer-based computing. Networking has been completely reborn and wireless technologies have enabled pervasive access for all. Telephony is no longer a dedicated infrastructure and voice is simply another data type. All of that aside, there is a core segment of IT that has yet to ‘fully’ shift and emerge in a new and meaningful way. This segment is the user workspace.

IBM_KeyboardDon’t get me wrong, the desktop systems we have today are substantial more powerful and feature-rich than those IBM Model M ‘click’ keyboards we sat behind in the late 80s and 90s. And we certainly have newer approaches to deliver, manage and operationalize those systems—whether that be VDI, or some other host- or cloud-based workspace delivery approach. But for the most part, we still rally around the machine itself; especially as it relates to the user experience.

It’s Not Really the Machine

At the end of the day, whether we are delivering physical desktops, server-based end-user workspaces, or Desktops as a Service (DaaS) from the cloud, the shift from a machine-centric approach to a user-centric approach has yet to occur. Of course we have gained considerable experience in alternative Windows-based workspace delivery approaches. No one would doubt that fact. But how many of you still define success based purely on machine key performance indicators. One of the core differentiators and approach taken by Liquidware Stratusphere UX is the ability to provide user-centric visibility.

Think about it… The rollout of a new application. The deployment of the latest version of Windows. The creation of a golden image tied to a corporate laptop standard. The platform or architectural update of your VDI solution. All of these are a means to an end. Right? The common thread through all of these examples is the user. From the users’ point of view, all of what we manage is merely a step along the path. Yet most of us define a measure of success based upon on these incremental steps.

Hardware Assessment vs User Baselining

The majority of IT professionals see the value in an assessment to understand sizing and design considerations for an infrastructure, including an examination of metrics such as aggregate totals for CPU, RAM and storage. Further, most see the value in the visibility into how users naturally group, such that a measure of user tiering and an application strategy could be determined. These are excellent steps in support of designing and building the infrastructure as well as helping to cast the correct image and application delivery strategy.

But what about the user and measurement of their relative performance over time, during a platform migration or as a means to validate a change in how Windows is delivered? One reason customers choose Stratusphere UX is to determine if their current workspace consumption is suited to being transitioned to a next generation (physical virtual, or cloud) workspace. User baselining and on-boarding answers those questions and sets the stage for successful workspace projects.

LWL-Stratusphere-UX-User-ValidationBeyond the assessment—which is critical for platform, architectural and image (application) design—Stratusphere UX can also be employed to baseline the user experience as a means to on-board users. User experience is a tricky thing. It’s difficult to quantify and it can also be incredibly subjective; varying widely from user to user. As difficult as it can be to quantify, there are ways to measure it and Stratusphere UX provides everything you need to support the creation of user baselines.

Baselines are useable in a number of ways, but most importantly, they’re a real world benchmark you can use to validate that your transformation project is on target as it progresses from a proof of concept to a production environment and beyond. A key way that baselining is very useful, is in the establishment of ‘thresholds’ of normal or acceptable performance. Subsequently, if measurements of the new workspace fall outside of normal thresholds, it signals that issues may be developing—this is a cornerstone for user-centric monitoring and diagnostics.

Stratusphere UX and Your Next Workspace

Regardless of where you want to go, it is critical that you define some user-centric measure of success. How else would you know when you are done? How would you define a KPI or SLA to showcase completion of the project? Surely you don’t define success simply because the help desk phone isn’t ringing. A few months ago, I wrote about putting user experience at the center of the workspace—examining and trending performance and consumption metrics based on the user (versus infrastructure or APM-based trending that primarily focus on the hardware and platform).

User-Centric Visibility

User baselining is the enabler to support the shift that is occurring in the user workspace. In addition to a hardware assessment, capturing the baseline is critical to ensure you provide an equal-to-better user experience when making any changes to the user workspace—again, regardless of physical, virtual or cloud-delivered.

Liquidware Stratusphere UX provides the visibility necessary to baseline the user experience and define a measure of success for your organization. I’d love to hear how you leverage user-centric information and metrics to measure success in your workspace projects. Please share! And contact us to provide some details about your desktop virtualization project; we’d love to provide you with some free licenses to get you started on your own shift to leverage user experience baselining.

Application Layering VS Operating System layering

Managing desktops is always one of the main struggles facing enterprises. Add in complex application management and the issues increase drastically. Software solutions are often geared towards relieving this pain. Over the last few years, the concept of converting the … Continue reading

Citrix Synergy 2017 Round Up! Citrix App Layering, FlexApp Layering, Monitoring, & More!         

Citrix Synergy 2017 is still fresh on our minds. If you didn’t make it to Orlando this year here is a look our experience.

dsc_1103.jpgI cannot recall a more enthusiastic attendee crowd at a Citrix Synergy! This year many attendees seemed to make a beeline for our booth. Maybe it was our re-brand to “Liquidware,” or latest version of FlexApp Layering and demos of XenApp Session isolation – and how it compares to Citrix App Layering, or perhaps it was our involvement in becoming one of just a few select M7 party sponsors. Let’s breakdown the highlights.

Liquidware Labs chose Citrix Synergy to announce to the end user computing marketDSC_1097 that we’re now simply “Liquidware.” The time for VDI experimentation in the industry has come to an end. Now more than 1,700 organizations using Liquidware solutions in production to run their physical, virtual, and cloud based desktops. We gave out cold hard cash to celebrate. Everyone that participated won a minimum of $1 and many people won a lot more! Look at this attendee that won $100! Using Liquidware solutions is like money in the bank!

We also announced several new features for FlexApp layering at Synergy. If you have not checked out FlexApp you are doing yourself a HUGE disfavor. We encourage you to try Citrix App Layering first, if it does not work for your needs you should check out FlexApp! Unlike Citrix App Layering, FlexApp truly decouples apps from the underlying operating system. With this approach, applications are not prone to “breaking” with OS update and changes. You can truly package most apps once and they work across OS versions as long as they are the same bit (32/64). And yes, FlexApp can layer complicated applications with drivers and services too. When you choose FlexApp, you can go on building and maintaining your base OS images with Citrix PVS or MCS just as you always have and let FlexApp do its thing to layer apps just in time just after user logon. In the forthcoming version, FlexApp Layering will deliver apps to Citrix XenApp users with session isolation…or on a per user basis without affecting other user’s sessions. Industry first Click-to-Layer capabilities were announced too, enabling users to get FlexApps on demand just by clicking their icon on the desktop. If a user doesn’t need an app, it’s not delivered, it’s that simple. If you don’t have time to compare Citrix App Layering to FlexApp, we’ve done it for you. You be the judge.

Furthermore, we announced that we’re extending ProfileDisk features to Citrix XenApp users. ProfileDisk will now support multi-session XenApp sessions and each user can get their robust profile from VHD! This takes care of Office 365 use cases where the profile can be very large due to Outlook and OneDrive caching and sync. ProfileDisk automatically takes care of Outlook, while our VHD profile containers can easily keep the current sync of OneDrive, Dropbox and more. This gives a quick logon without bloating XenApp servers and we’ve long supported XenDesktop in this capacity.

Stratusphere UX was prominently on display as well, we were showing off the latest reports, discussing the ease of scalability to deployments with thousands of users, and revealing new agents for Mac OS to close friends. NVIDIA asked us to show off our latest GPU metric and reports in their booth and our very own Chris Walker attracted quite a crowd!

VMblog.com stopped by and interviewed us about what we were showing as well. Here’s their 3 minute video overview. 

DSC_1124Liquidware was one of just  a few exclusive vendors to sponsor the week’s most sought after party, the M7 Partner event. The M7 are a group of key Citrix partner integrator that lead the way in selling, consulting, and implementing Citrix and Liquidware solutions. We were happy to step up and be a major sponsor this year in the absence of other vendors that were absorbed by acquisitions this past year. The competitive landscape for User Environment Management, Application Layering, and Monitoring has changed dramatically in the past year and Liquidware continues to lead on all three fronts. If you haven’t given our Workspace Environment Management solutions for physical, virtual, and cloud a try yet you need not wait any longer. Download and try them today.

What’s In a Winning Cloud-based Desktop Strategy? DaaS Done Right.

cloud-with-question-mark_318-52143Citrix, VMware, and Amazon are racing to the cloud to serve customers that want desktops/workspaces with less management, lower costs, and (hopefully) better
performance. But we must ask the question, “Is every desktop user a good candidate for DaaS?”  While increasingly the answer is “yes,” for office workers, it’s not the right answer every time. How do you know who is a candidate? How do you ensure a satisfactory User Experience? And, how do you deliver cloud based desktops with the same benefits as on premise desktops?

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Citrix App Layering (Unidesk) – When it Works & When it May Not Work for You.

Citrix released Citrix App Layering last week. The Citrix solution layers applications, and optionally the OS, to Citrix desktops and XenApp servers. We’d encourage every Citrix customer that has access to the solution to try it, after all most features are included in the Citrix stack while some advanced features are reserved for Citrix Platinum customers. Ever since the recent introduction of Citrix AppDisk, Citrix customers seemed to have longed for something more capable so it’s good news to customers now that they have another method of layering in their stack to try in the form of Citrix App Layering. When layering works correctly the image management and application delivery benefits of layering can be tremendous.

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