VMware ThinApp encapsulates apps from the end-user devices, easing app entitlement, updates and other tasks. Nevertheless, app virtualization shouldn't happen overnight.
Peter Björk, author of VMware ThinApp 4.7 Essentials and a VMware EMEA ThinApp and Horizon specialist systems engineer, spoke with SearchVMware about how VMware app virtualization elevates end-user computing (EUC), the benefits of virtualized apps and how ThinApp works. The ThinApp application virtualization tool is now part of the Horizon Suite.
What's new in version 4.7 of VMware ThinApp? And in the Horizon Suite?
Peter Björk: ThinApp 4.7 is the main version covered in VMware ThinApp 4.7 Essentials, with details through version 4.7.3. For ThinApp 4.6 users, 4.7's main difference is enablement around the Horizon Suite. ThinApp 4.7 supports Horizon Workspace [formerly Horizon Application Manager]. You can entitle users to ThinApp packages.
VMware previously had two end-user computing programs with View and ThinApp. Now, with the Horizon Suite, it's a broader approach to EUC. Horizon covers virtual desktops, physical desktops and the user's aggregated workspace -- the whole end-user computing stack. VMware still offers a virtual desktop software tool with Horizon View, reaches out to physical devices [via Horizon Mirage] and now uses Horizon Workspace as a workspace aggregator. It makes sense to have ThinApp application virtualization with all of these products. It ties the components more tightly together.
How does application virtualization work?
Björk: The basic functionality behind ThinApp has been around for a long time. You can think of application virtualization as app deployment 2.0. In the old process, we deployed apps by user, installing them onto a physical machine. Application virtualization encapsulates apps so they are not locally installed on a machine. In this new method, we entitle apps on a per-user basis, making the app behave as if it is on the machine. For example, entitled users can execute Windows applications without needing to install them.
Application encapsulation offers other benefits like conflict protection and the potential to run legacy apps on newer OSes. Users can execute apps without affecting their underlying OS. Consider the effect on bring your own device and migrations to Windows 7, for instance. The IT team is not installing apps on machines' OSes.
How should an IT team approach virtualizing their apps?
Björk: Newcomers try to cover too much too soon. Start with virtualizing a few apps, and get used to the packaging format. You can never -- almost never -- virtualize 100% of applications, so virtualized apps and non-virtualized apps should coexist in the infrastructure.
Set a goal to virtualize 30% of your apps. It's a low percentage, but even just that level will make apps easier to deploy, manage and support. Once you're accustomed to ThinApp and have defined desktop management around this toolset, you can investigate further virtualization. Don't jump in and try to virtualize 70% to 80% of your apps, even if you technically can. Get to know VMware app virtualization first.
How do you see app virtualization changing in the future?
Björk: In the future, IT teams will start out with application virtualization. This evolution is comparable to how server virtualization started out -- companies would virtualize a small percentage of servers to test it out. They didn't trust virtualization and hadn't seen its benefits firsthand. IT strategies weren't devised with virtualization in mind. And look at where server virtualization is today.
Application virtualization is becoming a trusted way to manage infrastructure. For example, SAP, with their SAPGUI, officially supports application virtualization with ThinApp.
What does an admin deploying apps with ThinApp need to know about its architecture?
Björk: Users can compare ThinApp with its main competition, Microsoft App-V. What's different about VMware ThinApp is that it has an agentless architecture. To run a VMware virtual app, nothing is predeployed or managed on the user's device. IT just allows access to an executable. That's it. For example, if you package Microsoft Word as a VMware virtual app, the user just double-clicks on Word, and it will open.
There is no local component for IT to manage and update with ThinApp. You don't have to update your existing infrastructure when you upgrade ThinApp. Two app packages, at different ThinApp versions, can coexist on the same machine.
Virtual desktop administrators will also be interested in application streaming, where the application package is hosted elsewhere on the network, like a Windows file share. Users stream the app from the network share, with no underlying agent or infrastructure required.
Editor's note: VMware ThinApp 4.7 Essentials by Peter Björk is available from Packt Publishing Ltd.