It might seem odd to some of you that Citrix would make such a statement given that we have made application isolation and streaming capabilities available in the XenApp platform ever since the introduction of Presentation Server 4.5 over 3 years ago. The fact is that Citrix has always intended to embrace App-V within our XenApp systems, a point that I have often stated, even as early as when Pete Schulz and I were presenting the pre-release hands-on training for Project Tarpon (the project name for what would become XenApp application streaming) as far back as 2006. Regardless, there are always questions posed by customers and prospects who are left wondering which solution to use, and when. The answer is “both”, let me explain…
Application Virtualization in XenApp:
Application Virtualization within the greater context of Citrix On-demand application delivery is the system that enables a) Single Image Application Management, and b) Offline access to centrally managed applications. Within the Application Virtualization capabilities, both XenApp Isolation and Streaming as well as Microsoft App-V are considered equally capable technologies, either of which can be managed within XenApp based upon a customer’s application delivery requirements. So what in earlier versions of XenApp was a Citrix only technology known as “application streaming” is now in XenApp 6 a broader “Application Virtualization” delivery system, consisting of 5 components/technologies.
- Publishing and Management infrastructure (AppCenter)
- Application Isolation
- Application Streaming
- Receiver plug-ins (Citrix Receiver)
- Self-service enterprise app store (Dazzle)
In XenApp Application Virtualization an app can be packaged as either a XenApp .profile or a Microsoft App-V sequence, either of which enables items 2 and 3 in the list above, that being isolation and streaming. In fact, for the most complete solution a XenApp .profile is used to enable XenApp Dual-mode functionality for App-V sequences through the AppStreamingtoAppV conduit(more on this in a later post). These packages are then made available to users through the central XenApp publishing and management infrastructure (item 1 in the list) where various properties and policies are configured to determine if, or how, a given application is delivered to a user based on who they are, what device they are using, over what network, etc…
There are 2 Citrix Receiver plug-ins required for a complete solution with regards to XenApp and App-V, one is the Citrix Offline Plug-in, and the other is the App-V Plug-in for Citrix Receiver.
And rounding out the complete Application Virtualization delivery system is the 5th item in the list Citrix Dazzle, our Self-service enterprise application storefront.
In this system, both App-V and the native isolation and streaming capabilities within XenApp provide virtually the same technical solution, but with a couple of idiosyncrasies that may make one or the other the more appropriate choice for a given application. A perfect example of this would be illustrated in the considerations for rolling out Microsoft Office 2010 as a virtualized application. With the introduction of the Office 2010 deployment kit for App-V, Microsoft is bridging the boundaries between virtualized Office and the role Office has taken on as a common element in many traditional desktop deployments; deployments where a large number of applications rely on Microsoft Office almost as much as they do the underlying OS. A few examples of the unique capabilities enabled by App-V and the Office 2010 Deployment Kit for App-V are:
- Fast search in virtualized Outlook 2010 using Windows Desktop Search
- Ability for virtualized Office 2010 applications to open, edit, and save Office files hosted with Windows SharePoint
- Search indexing support for Office file types
- URL protocol redirection to virtualized Outlook 2010
- Print to virtualized OneNote 2010
But the biggest advantage to using App-V to deliver Office 2010 is “Single vendor support for the application as well as the application virtualization technology”.
With many of the challenges around delivering virtualized applications that will rely on Office 2010 as a central enabling component, coupled with the “single throat to choke” advantage of having the application virtualization technology vendor be the same vendor that is supplying the application itself, in my opinion, it just makes good sense to use Microsoft App-V as the preferred app virtualization solution for that application suite.
Often after I walk a prospect through this particular scenario we immediately jump into the “Is Citrix ending its development of their native application virtualization capabilities and going with App-V instead?” item on the agenda. The answer here is “No”.
The Citrix vision of enabling simple and secure anywhere access is built on many technologies, application virtualization is only one of these building blocks, but it is a critical element of delivering the best user experience to any user on any device while also simplifying the management of the applications. And that is not only why we will continue to innovate across our broader application virtualization solution, for our native isolation and streaming, as well as better and more deeply integrated support for App-V over time, but it is also why Microsoft and our mutual customers see value in Citrix delivering App-V sequences through XenApp. Which leads me to the last and final question I have heard over the last few years and that is “Why would Citrix want to support App-V, and what does XenApp enable me to do with App-V that I can’t do otherwise”?
Simply put, Citrix is always looking for new ways to leverage Microsoft platform elements to enable new scenarios for our mutual customers, App-V is just one of example of a new element we will be leveraging in future releases of XenApp and XenDesktop. As I said at the beginning of this post, we have intended to partner around App-V from the start of project Tarpon, today we are delivering the first incarnation of that intent. As far as what unique value does XenApp enable for App-V, let’s look at a couple of examples available today.
Publish App-V packages directly from XenApp as “Dual-mode” applications
Through our new App-V integration, Microsoft App-V sequences can be published using the same workflows and wizards as all other applications managed through XenApp. Admins can leverage native XenApp Application Virtualization and Session Virtualization configuration parameters and policies to make Microsoft App-V sequences available for online and offline use. Dual-mode fallback is also provided, enabling end-points to access App-V applications from a consistent interface, even if the device is incapable of running the application locally, for example when a user needs to access the application from a Mac PowerBook or iPhone.
Manage App-V client plug-in using Citrix Receiver
The Microsoft Application Virtualization Desktop Client can now be managed and delivered as a plug-in for Citrix Receiver. With XenApp, App-V sequences can now be delivered to lightly-managed endpoint scenarios, even if the end-point is not a member of the Microsoft Active Directory domain. As a result, new App-V use cases and access scenarios are enabled, including the delivery of applications to a consultant or for companies with “Bring your own computer” (BYOC) initiatives.
Subscribe to App-V packages using Citrix Dazzle
With Citrix Receiver, users gain self-service access to applications through an enterprise app storefront. Admins can advertise App-V packages with all other XenApp published applications and services for easy, on-demand access by users.
As you can see, we are making real progress in our integration of App-V within XenApp to enable the most complete application virtualization systems available. We are definately in the mode of “and” rather than “either/or” in this regards. Still, for those of you looking for a feature by feature check list of when Citrix recommends the use of Microsoft App-V in XenApp environments, please refer to the XenApp on Remote Desktop Services: Feaure Analysis document, specifically the section titled Single Image Management.
There are many more exciting things in the Citrix/Microsoft partnering and integration pipelines that we will be sharing over the coming months, all of which complement the trajectory we have begun with the XenDesktop 4 and now this XenApp 6 release on Windows Server 2008 R2. I definitely encourage you to check out XenApp 6 and begin considering the new possibilities this platform can enable in your on-demand application delivery and hosted shared desktop initiatives.