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Posted on by Peter Cooke in Student Experience, Application Virtualization

Accessing Applications Off-Site with Application Virtualization

Background

The number of people wanting, and needing, to work from home is growing at an enormous rate, with the benefits of working from home, even occasionally, now widely accepted by many employers.

Not only does it reduce the amount time commuting people have to do, enhancing their work-life balance, but many are actually more productive in this environment.

Home working has the potential to deliver huge infrastructure cost savings, from car parking space, to office maintenance and general running costs, such as heating and electricity. Reductions in all of these areas would help reduce the Universities carbon footprint.

Alongside these cost savings it would improve the quality and reputation of the organization, because good employment practices can enhance the reputation of businesses.

It is likely that IT services would also be looked on more favorably by HR as there is evidence to suggest home working allows for better staff recruitment and retention, therefore reducing HR costs. Additionally home working can widen the recruitment pool by attracting people who have traditionally struggled to find work, such as single parents and those with disabilities.

From a productivity viewpoint it allows staff to work at home on an unplanned basis, perhaps parents looking after unwell children.

BT saves £2.2 million per year through home and flexible working, whilst Suffolk County Council was able to cut the size of its new central services office block by a third by using these practices. Employers as diverse as the Nationwide Building society and the Ministry of Defense are reporting productivity gains achieved by home working.
However, according to the TUC one in five people want to work from home but are being restricted from doing so by their employer.

Restrictions

For many employees technology has moved forward enough to allow them to work from home without any limitations. With the commoditization of telecommunication and specifically broadband technologies most barriers have been removed from a technology perspective.

However for some staff a barrier still hangs over application provision and specifically how these can be accessed offsite.

Devices

From a device perspective there are various options.

For those that regularly work from home thin client machines or personal laptops could be used.

Depending on the job role, and the software applications needed, thin client machines may not be able to handle the application, for instance those that are graphically intense. Whilst thin client machines are lower cost and have a lower power consumption there is more work taking place at a server level. Additionally a permanent internet connection is likely to be required.

The benefit of laptops is that for those that work occasionally at home only one device is needed, as they can take it between work and home. Applications can be run using the power of the machine, rather than an external server for which an internet connection is required. Whilst likely to be more expensive the price of laptops has come down considerably over recent years.

Another option is personal machines. The risk with home machines is the potential helpdesk headache, supporting issues that are machine, rather than application, based. However the organizational benefit is that they have not had to purchase, provision and subsequently manage the device.

Regardless of which option you choose Application Jukebox is able to provide the application distribution layer to all these devices, with full central control over the application and the licenses.

What is application streaming?

Application Streaming is the mechanism of delivering an application, or rather ‘some’ of the application to an end machine to allow the user to access and start using the application.

The advantage of this, over a normal download, is that for larger applications the user can be up and running quickly. Additionally this initial ‘stream’ is only needed the first instance they access the application.

You could even argue why do you need to install all of an application onto a machine when the user will only need say 20-30% of an application? As well as reducing the time to first use, compared to a full download, it helps keep machines cleaner and therefore increase its lifecycle.

What is application virtualization?

Application virtualization is how the application runs on the end machine. Once on the device the application is running in a virtual file structure, which is basically an encrypted cache on that machine. This virtualization element ensures that there are no conflicts with other locally installed, or virtualized, applications.

The problem with most application virtualization technologies is that applications are running in an isolated manner – so they can only see other applications in the sandbox, or bubble. To achieve this applications have to be packaged (or sequenced) together. Application Jukebox does not have this limitation.

Application Jukebox

Application Jukebox is the only application virtualization solution on the market that allows for ‘configurable’ virtualization. This means that when packaging the application you can determine, down to a file level, which parts are isolated and which integrated. This means that you are able to virtualize any windows desktop application.

Application Jukebox is the third generation application streaming and virtualization product from Endeavors Technologies.

With headquarters in Irvine, California, Endeavors are the inventors of application streaming and have cross licensed the technology to many major players in the market place.

Endeavors first product was used by a division of Vodafone in Japan to deliver a ‘games on a demand’ service to around 300,000 subscribers, all of these would have been unmanaged machines. A case study on this service is included with this document.

Approximately ten years, and two versions, later one of the strengths of the technology is still the deployment of applications to unmanaged machines. These could be staff or students personal machines, essentially devices where little is known about other applications that may be installed on them or even the general stability of the machine.

Offline access

If appropriate, offline access can be granted using Application Jukebox. This means that all of the applications are streamed down to the users machines. Once complete, the benefit of this is that an internet connection is not required permanently. A perceived issue would then be around license management but this is where Application Jukebox’s License management kicks in.

At an administration level you can determine how long users can access an application offline, this is set by the number of days. As an example, if you choose to set an offline license for 30 days, at the end of this period it is necessary for the user to reconnect to the network to validate their license, if they do not follow warnings to do so then the application is isolated and cannot be accessed. This ensures that license agreements are adhered. It also allows for a flexible use of concurrent licenses.

Low overheads

Thin client, and similar technologies where the application is being run on a server, require a huge infrastructure to support users. When researching VDI, Glamorgan University estimated that each server would be able to support 30 users. At this level such technologies are simply unsustainable from a cost perspective. Because Application Jukebox uses the power of the end device minimal infrastructure is required. Once on the machine the bandwidth demand is simply a heartbeat from Application Jukebox player to the server to ensure that the user still has valid license.
If already running Application Jukebox internally it may be that you do not need to add to this existing setup, and if you do it is likely to only be one or two servers.

Support

Deploying applications via Application Jukebox helps make supporting unmanaged machines much easier. The normal step for a support person, once it is determined that it is an application issue and not human error, is to ask them to simply open the Jukebox player and if the application is running to ‘stop it’ and then ‘remove it’, before ‘re-launching’. This takes the machine back to the state it was in before use of the application. On most occasions this will solve any compatibility issues or conflicts.

Competitive Analysis

Whilst Software2 clearly have a vested interest in Application Jukebox this section is intended to provide an overview of other technologies in the market in our opinion. All information provided is taken from feedback provided by other Universities.

Citrix – Technically very strong. However to access the steaming and virtualization technology you need to purchase other modules which may not be required. From an infrastructure perspective it is quite demanding. This, combined with the fact that Citrix don’t offer academic discounts, makes it an incredibly expensive solution.

ThinApp – The main limitation to ThinApp is that it is just a virtualization solution and does not contain the streaming solution – a key component when looking at deploying applications to external users. Additionally license control is very weak, which presents risks if considering deploying applications to unmanaged machines. ThinApp also virtualizes applications in an ‘isolated’ manner so can only deliver about 70% of those required.

AppV – All of Software2’s University customer have come from using App-V. The main limitation is the number of applications that it can deliver. Estimates other Universities have provided Software2 with are in the region of 70%. However the issue here is that whilst inexpensive the labor costs to manage the system can be high. Finally delivering applications off the domain is hard, if not impossible.

Symantec Endpoint Virtualization – Like Citrix the streaming and virtualization element is part of a larger solution which makes it cost prohibited.

Other VDI solutions – Whilst the technology may fit for a small number of users there is again a limitation around which applications can be delivered, and a software deployment solution is still likely to be needed alongside. As well as large upfront costs there is a huge infrastructure requirement, it is bandwidth intensive and requires a permanent internet connection.

Conclusion

Home working is now an essential offering that needs to be made to staff and students. As well as reducing travel costs it would help reduce the Universities carbon footprint through travel reductions and onsite heating and electricity bills.

When considering technology to aid off site working it is important to look at which applications are required by users.

Application Jukebox presents an agile and flexible way to deploy software to users. It then offers the same, expected, user experience.

Application Jukebox is the most advanced application virtualization technology on the market today. The product is gaining a huge support in the academic market, not only because of the high level of functionality but because of incredibly competitive education pricing.

The technology even offers the opportunity to provide services to other organizations, and use it to create additional revenue for the University. Future initiatives could include managing local schools applications externally.

We trust that this document is useful, should you have any questions, or comments, please do not hesitate to contact any of the Software2 team.

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