If you haven't heard about Unidesk's new application layering breakthroughs that will completely change what is possible with Citrix XenApp, then you probably missed one of our most popular webinars, too! The other day, Unidesk Chief Solution Architect Ron Oglesby and Chief Marketing Officer Tom Rose held a webinar on our new capabilities that included a live "First Look" demo by Ron.
Citrix CTPs, EUC evangelists, and customers were completely blown away and asked a ton of questions. For those of you who missed it, here are the Top 5 questions that were asked, Ron's answers, and the video clip of Ron's demo.
Q1: How does Unidesk integrate with PVS? Will it also work with MCS?
Ron: Yes, Unidesk will work with both Citrix Provisioning Server (PVS) and Machine Creation Services (MCS). How it works is pretty much the same. You create a Layered Image by selecting a Windows Server OS layer and any combination of application layers. Our file system and registry virtualization tech will merge these layers together to create a Windows image. You can generate as many of these Layered Images as you want for different silos, yet you'll only have to patch Windows and apps once to update all XenApp servers in your farm.
When you want to distribute the image, you use our Publish Layered Image feature and just choose the PVS platform connector, which automates the configuration of the Layered Image into PVS. We built the PVS connector first because that's the image delivery technology used in most XenApp farms. But we're also building one for MCS.
If you want to try it with MCS even before we have the connector, it's pretty easy. Just publish a Layered Image to a network share, copy it to your target environment, and follow the same manual steps you would normally use to distribute an image with MCS.
Q2: Can the same app layer be delivered to XenDesktop and XenApp?
Ron: Yes, if you’re using the same Windows OS. Remember, XenApp runs a server OS like Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows Server 2012 R2. XenDesktop typically runs a desktop OS like Windows 7, 8, or 10, but you can also use a server OS. So if you’re using a Windows Server OS for both, the same layer can be delivered to both.
You could also run the same layer on different OSes, but it may or may not work depending on how the install is run. Different things happen when you install an app on a Server OS vs a Desktop OS. So there’s potential to cross over but by default we prevent that.
Q3: Now that I can build app layers into an image or deploy them at logon using Elastic Layering, how do I decide which to use?
Ron: That's the right question to ask - you have a lot of flexibility in how to deliver and manage your apps now with our pre-boot Layered Images and our on-logon Elastic Layers.
For apps that are needed by every user, like antivirus, Office, Single Sign On, and Internet Explorer, you might as well deliver them as part of a Layered Image. This will cut down on how many apps need to be hot-added at logon.
Then you should take the next step and ask, "What type of app is this?" Is it something that impacts boot? Does it have a driver? Does it have an OS dependency? These are the kinds of apps that traditional app virt and above-the-OS layering technologies have trouble delivering. But our full stack layering (which includes the OS) has no problem with them. You'll just have to push them out as part of a Layered Image. If it's an app that's only used by 10 users, you'll probably want to create a special Layered Image with that app added. The cool thing about Layered Images is you're still only patching Windows and apps once - we generate the images for you and distribute them through your favorite provisioning tools (see PVS/MCS question above).
On the other hand, if there’s an app that doesn’t have any boot impact or OS-level requirements, you can hot-add it based on user entitlements using our Elastic Layering. But you will have some architecture decisions to make and trade-offs to consider. Even if attaching a layer processes quickly, say in a second, if you hot-add 10 layers that means 10 seconds are added to your login. There's no way of getting around the virtual disk (VHD) mount. So you'll have to leverage our layering flexibility to optimize delivery and logon times based on user requirements.
For example, if you are a hospital where the clinicians want to swipe their badge and be into Epic EMR in 6 seconds, then you should put more of the apps they need into a Layered Image or package more than one app in the same layer so only a few virtual disk mounts are needed at logon.
The bottom line is you'll get easy application and image management whether you do Layered Images or Elastic Layering. You just need to make sure you pick the options that provide the delivery and logon times that satisfy the end user experience.
Q4: How is Unidesk different from Citrix AppDisk?
Ron: Sure, AppDisk is Citrix's new layering solution. From what I've seen, it's a machine-based layering technology based on Personal vDisk from the RingCube acquisition. It's basically an easier way to install apps on a virtual machine to replace hand-installs, app virtualization, or agent-based installs.
There's a bunch of things that make Unidesk different. We enable you to:
- Simplify XenApp image management. We can distribute Layered Images with the same Windows Server OS layer and different app layers to all XenApp servers through our integration with PVS. You'll only have to patch Windows once no matter how many silos you have or how big your farm gets. No other solution layers the Windows OS in addition to apps.
- Manage across different XenApp versions. A lot of Citrix customers have 6.5 servers they don't want to touch, but they're deploying new servers on 7.x. With Unidesk, they can use the same common OS layer on their existing 6.5 servers and new 7.x servers. No other solution can span XenApp versions.
- Give every XenApp user their own unique apps. Our new Elastic Layering and Session Container technologies enable apps to be delivered on-demand to XenApp users at logon based on their identities. For the first time, every XenApp user can have their own unique set of apps. No other solution can deliver apps through XenApp on a per-user basis (AppDisk is machine-based).
- Give every XenApp user the option of full personalization. A writable persistent layer, delivered by our Elastic Layering and Session Container technologies, enables profile settings, user-installed apps, and other customizations to persist across XenApp sessions. For the first time, every XenApp user can have the same customizable user experience offered by persistent VDI. No other layering technology can deliver this personalization on a per-user basis.
- Switch infrastructure or move to the cloud with ease. Citrix customers can package apps once with Unidesk and deploy them as layered images or as elastic layers through XenApp on vSphere, XenDesktop on Nutanix Acropolis, XenApp on Hyper-V, and other platforms. Or move apps to the cloud just as easily. No other app management solution offers this layer portability and platform flexibility.
Citrix has always been pretty good about partnering with vendors that have clear value-add, even when there is a little bit of overlap. So no surprise Citrix is partnering with us and supported our announcement.
Q5: Will these new app management capabilities also work for cloud platforms like Azure?
Ron: Yes. You'll be seeing more announcements about how we automate the Azure RemoteApp image preparation and upload process, so that the same app layers that can be deployed to XenApp servers on-premises can be quickly turned into images for delivery through the cloud.
As I said, all the new features I've shown today are part of our new Unidesk 4.x platform. They're coming out for XenApp first because it's so widely used and we're seeing a lot of demand for it. But our goal is to separate Windows apps from infrastructure so they can be managed once and delivered from any end user computing solution, on any cloud, to any device.
Watch the "First Look" demo!
If the 5 questions and demo clip weren't enough, watch the full webinar recording here! As always, we would love to hear your feedback - comment below and let us know!