What is Unified Application Delivery and why do we need it?

With a multitude of technologies available for getting software to users, how do you know where to start and which is the best application deployment tool? We’ve evaluated the different technologies and highlighted why Unified Application Delivery (UAD) is an invaluable solution for all types of organizations.

It seems controversial to say – although it’s widely acknowledged – that there’s one great way to deliver applications (apps) to end-users. The main reason behind this complexity is the focus for nearly a decade on desktop delivery. The reality is it’s the apps that need to be delivered and NOT the desktop. So, what’s the best way to deliver apps? Or desktops? Or desktops and apps together?

Here’s the truth. Prepare to be shocked… there is no best way.

Despite what the vendors may tell you and print in their blurb, no one vendor or manufacturer can deliver all your apps to all your devices in a high value and flexible way. And importantly, in a way your end users can understand where to go to get the apps they need.

Method #1: Direct Installs: Downloads, SCCM and Imaging – a.k.a. the Old School

When we talk about legacy ways of delivering apps, offering a direct install is as old as the tech dinosaur! But many IT pro’s stick with this tried and tested route. And in some cases, it’s the ideal solution. Apps such as the Microsoft Office suite make sense to be directly installed on a device: lots of end-users want to get work done without a Wi-Fi connection and, whilst there are other ways to make apps available offline, this is by far the easiest way to deliver some apps. Equally some vendors ‘like’ the software to be installed locally and this is a great solution for user-owned and unmanaged machines. Despite being a bit antiquated, lots of IT professionals still deliver apps using a local install and direct download, or a reliance on Microsoft’s SCCM technology.

Software installation

Method #2: Virtual Desktops (VDI): Citrix, VMWare etc. – a.k.a. the Red Queen

On the tin, it’s true: VDI can deliver 99.9% of apps to 99.9% of desktops and users. So why not just use VDI to deliver all your apps and satisfy all your software delivery use cases? Two obvious reasons. Firstly, the cost – this is the most expensive way to deliver apps. Indeed, the clue’s in the name: VDI is about delivering desktops and most users just need their apps. The second issue is around user experience. Most large apps (AutoCAD, SOLIDWORKS etc.) need incredible amounts of server power to deliver anything approaching a worthwhile user experience. So when you combine issue 1 (cost) with issue 2 (performance), you get VDI sprawl and ever-increasing costs – the Red Queen.

In Alice in Wonderland, the Red Queen famously always runs as fast as Alice; no matter how fast she runs she never gains ground. The same is true for VDI sprawl. It doesn’t matter how many servers you get, there are always more intensive apps using more and more computing power. The truth is, as most modern devices are capable of running most apps, end users already have the necessary computing power on their end device, meaning that’s where the apps should and need to be delivered.

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)

Method #3: Application Virtualization: App-V, Cloudpaging etc. – a.k.a. the Brave New World

Application virtualization is one other way to deliver apps. App virtualization tools – available from many different vendors – let you do bulk app delivery and management. Whether you use legacy systems like Microsoft’s App-V or VMware’s ThinApp, or the leading solutions like Cloudpaging from Numecent, you’ll find some amazing benefits from application virtualization. Application virtualization encapsulates computer programs from the underlying operating system on which it’s executed. This means that there’s less reliance on the OS to deliver apps, offering greater freedom to the end user.

Benefits of Numecent Cloudpaging

The big issue here is that most legacy systems like App-V and ThinApp can’t deliver all the apps required due to technological restrictions. Cloudpaging from Numecent, which boasts an incredible 99.9% app delivery rate, probably offers the best solution for virtualizing Windows apps to Windows devices. And there’s the problem with application virtualization technologies – did you spot it? It’s Windows only. So, whilst we have the perfect solution for Window apps, users on other devices would need to access apps in a different way, and require a different solution from the IT department.

What’s the answer? Which delivery method is best?

The answer to that question is simple, despite what some vendors will tell you: no single technology can satisfy all your software delivery use cases.

Application delivery tools - comparison table

The reality is that most organizations will need a blended approach to deliver their apps to their end-users, and in some cases desktops, too:

  • Commonly used apps (e.g. the Office suite) by install/download/SCCM
  • Secure and low-impact apps with licensing restrictions through VDI and/or desktop virtualization
  • Heavy, complex apps through application virtualization

But this creates a new problem… how does the user know which technology to use, on which device and under which conditions? Where do they go to get their apps if you have multiple ‘portals’ for your different delivery technologies?

What the user needs is:

  • Consistency: One single portal to access any application on any device.
  • Ease of use: The portal needs to know what device they have and deploy the app to them automatically: the user does not need choice, they just want the app.
  • Low Maintenance: IT pro’s do what they know best: package, deliver and manage the app in one portal.
  • Integration: All the apps to be delivered through one portal, regardless of the background technology being used.

Step forward AppsAnywhere…

We recognise that no single method of app delivery is the best, or at least, no deployment tool can deliver any app to any device on its own, in a way that doesn’t involve six-figure IT investment. By integrating with leading software delivery tools, AppsAnywhere aggregates the multiple technologies an organization might use to get apps to users, and presents them all side-by-side in one access portal. This means IT can satisfy all use cases and meet all employees’ demands, with a consumer-simple user experience: an app store!

With more and more organizations needing to use several technologies to deploy their apps, ‘User Access Portal Sprawl’ is becoming a headache for IT. With AppsAnywhere, users only need to go to one location [portal] to get all their apps, and thanks to Smart Prioritization, AppsAnywhere automatically chooses the best delivery technology based on the user’s circumstances (including location, device, and OS).

AppsAnywhere App Store

We call this Unified Application Delivery; bringing together your delivery methods into one ‘single pane of glass’, to benefit both IT and end-users with the aim of satisfying EVERY possible scenario. AppsAnywhere integrates with a range of technologies, including desktop virtualization solutions from VMware, Citrix and Parallels, application virtualization solutions including Cloudpaging and App-V, and other tools like Microsoft SCCM.

Find out more about our integrations >


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