Lifecycle Management of Mission Critical Applications on XenApp or RDSH

Posted by Andrew Nadeau on Sep 28, 2015

One thing Unidesk is known for is our ability to layer any application and deliver it as a virtual disk container in minutes. Our application layering has proven to be superior to other application delivery models such as bundling apps into an image, isolating apps with application virtualization technology, or using above-the-OS layering technologies that struggle with app compatibility and interoperability issues.

One thing we're not as well known for – but which is becoming immensely valuable to our Citrix XenApp and Microsoft RDSH customers – is our ability to manage the full lifecycle of mission-critical applications.

What Are Your Lifecycle Management Challenges?

Let’s say you have a mission critical application that is being delivered to 4,000 concurrent users through XenApp or RDSH. Assuming your density is 200 users per host, that means every time you patch or update the application you'll need to update the image on 20 servers. Since the application is critical to your business, any downtime will negatively impact your bottom line. If the patch or update doesn't go flawlessly, the cost to your business could be measured in thousands or potentially millions of dollars.

patch tuesday cost

Today, your process to patch 20 servers probably involves senior IT admins spending 2-3 hours per server during off-work hours. Each server will require testing to verify that the update worked and that the application is fully functional. Of course, even with testing, you'll never know for sure that the update "took" until production users come into work the next day.

How much is that 40-60 hours of IT staff time costing you every month? And what happens if there is an issue with your mission critical application? How much more will it cost IT to try to “undo” the update? How much is the application downtime going to cost your company? Lastly, what does this repetitive, time-consuming work do to the morale of your IT team?

A Simpler Approach to App Lifecycle Management

Unidesk offers a simpler approach that makes managing the lifecycles of your mission critical applications much more efficient. With our application layering technology, you simply capture an application once with a standard installation. All of the files, directories, and registry keys laid down by the installation get containerized as a virtual disk layer. Then, you assign the layer to any number of XenApp or RDSH servers through a simple point and click (layering works just as well for virtual desktops and VMs in the cloud, too).

Here's what the process to update the same 20 XenApp or RDSH servers would look like with Unidesk:

  1. Create an application layer revision;
  2. Install all of your application patches/updates;
  3. Finalize your layer revision;
  4. Deploy your new layer revision to a few test servers to verify that it works;
  5. Schedule your new layer revision to be deployed to a few or all 20 servers during a maintenance window of your choosing.

You’re done! All 20 servers will be updated in about 30 minutes during the maintenance window. Since every server is getting the exact same virtual disk, the update will work the same for all of them.

Better still, if you make a mistake with your application layer revision, it's easy to undo. Unidesk's built-in version control system dates and timestamps every layer with a unique audit trail. At any time, you can rollback your application layer to a previous version, restart the XenApp or RDSH servers, and your users are back up and running with virtually no downtime.

What's your take? Does layering solve the lifecycle management issues with application publishing (and VDI)? Let us know what you think!

Topics: Citrix XenApp, application layering, Microsoft RDSH

Posted by Andrew Nadeau on Sep 28, 2015

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