Dan's Take

VDI: It's All About the Apps, Stupid

Dell knows about the importance of delivering applications to end users, since it's one of the biggest hardware manufacturers in the industry. Here's the company's take on the different ways it can be done.

Dell Inc. VP and General Manager of End User Computing Steve Lalla and I enjoyed a lively conversation about end users needing to access desktop and corporate apps using many different types of devices. End users want access to these apps regardless of whether they're using a desktop PC, Mac, laptop, tablet, smartphone or something new that we don't know about yet.

Here are the types of delivery mechanisms Dell supports, broken down using the Kusnetzky Group model of virtualization (see here for more on the model).

1. Full Desktop Environments. Today, this usually is delivered by loading a desktop OS on a PC or laptop, along with the necessary apps. This is the traditional approach and is familiar to most end users and IT. While it does offer end users the experience they're used to, it poses quite a number of challenges to admins in the areas of configuration management, security, OS and app updating. Little or no virtualization technology is in use in this configuration. Dell offers the Latitude or Optiplex systems to support this use case.

2. Encapsulated Desktop Environments. This is delivered by encapsulating an entire desktop environment, including the OS and all apps and tools, and executing it on either a PC, Mac or laptop system. The data being developed or used may reside on the local system or be stored back in the datacenter. End users are allowed to have their own unsecured, self-managed environments side-by-side with managed, secured enterprise environments. The enterprise environments can be managed, secured and updated by corporate IT while the personal environment can be managed by the individual. Typically this means deploying virtual processing software, such as VM software (also known as a hypervisor) or OS virtualization and partitioning software. Dell offers Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) to support this use case. EMM, by the way, is a product of Moka5.

3. Streamed or Delivered Desktop Environments. This type of system is given to the end user as a bare system. When the user logs in, the appropriate desktops are delivered down the network to the system. As with the encapsulated desktop environment, corporate IT is responsible for managing the virtual environment, and the data may reside on the local system or back in the corporate datacenter. In this case, virtual processing software is combined with management tools for virtual environments that allow delivery of virtual images to remote devices. Dell recommends vWorkspace for this use case.

4. Encapsulated Apps. Individual apps can be encapsulated and loaded on PCs, Macs or laptop systems. The data can reside either on the local system or back in the datacenter. IT admins can manage these individual apps. This is the use of application virtualization technology. Dell suggests customers use either Citrix XenApp or VMware ThinApp to address this use case.

5. Streamed Encapsulated Apps. Individual apps can be encapsulated and streamed down to PCs, Macs or laptops on demand. The data can reside either on the local system or back in the datacenter. IT admins can manage these individual apps. This is also the use of application virtualization technology, but management of virtualized environment tools have been added. Dell suggests customers use either Citrix XenApp or VMware ThinApp to address this use case.

6. Remote Desktop Access Desktop. Desktop or app images, in this type of environment, actually execute back in the datacenter. The data they develop or use is also back in the datacenter. IT admins manage and secure these environments. These desktop or app images can be accessed by the end user using a PC, Mac, laptop, or properly equipped tablet or smartphone. This is the use of access virtualization. Optionally, application virtualization and processing virtualization could be in use to encapsulate individual apps or desktop images. Dell offers several solutions to this set of requirements, including vWorkspace, Citrix XenDekstop or VMware Horizon View.

7. Tablet and Smartphone Apps. Organizations can develop or purchase custom apps that are designed to work in a specific tablet or smartphone environment. Most organizations select one or more target environments to support rather than offering something for each and every device and device operating system. These apps become the clients and access server-centric applications back in the data center. This approach makes the user interface appear to be exactly like the target client environment. This really isn't the use of virtualization technology. It is just the newest form of client/server computing. Dell offers EMM to address this set of requirements.

8. Web Interfaces for Applications. With the emergence of HTML5, it is now possible to develop a "universal client" for enterprise applications and offer a different approach to client/server access. In this case, the client software is the HTML5 compliant Browser and the server-side component of the application is a Web server supporting application access. As with tablet and smartphone apps, this really isn't the use of virtualization. It is another form of client/server computing. Dell offers vWorkspace HTML5 access for this set of requirements.

Lalla stressed that Dell has expertise in all of these forms of end user applications. The goal, he pointed out, is helping organizations accomplish their goals not to push any specific type of technology. Some organizations, he pointed out, will deploy only one of these approaches. Others will use a combination of these approaches to make it possible for their staff and customers to access applications. Lalla pointed out that suppliers typically combine a receiver, a connector and client software into a single package, so it would be best to think about models No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6 as a single category.

About the Author

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.

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