Deciding How to Integrate Applications into a Virtual Desktop

A customer asked me, in fact many customers have asked me this question, “I’ve got a XenApp environment and I want to add virtual desktops for my users. What is the best way to integrate the applications?” My response, “It depends”.

And like all things in the IT world, most decisions do depend on many factors like:

  • Are the applications used by many users?
  • Are there a lot of dependencies?
  • Are we dealing with legacy or new applications (16bit, 32bit, 64bit)?
  • Do these applications need to be available offline?

This is only a few questions that should be part of your application integration portion of the virtual desktop design. If we go back to the example where an organization has most of the applications hosted on XenApp and they implement virtual desktops would they keep the applications on XenApp or move? If you keep all of the applications where they are, and you provide your users with a Windows 7 virtual desktop, then why do they need this Windows 7 virtual desktop if all it is, is a nice front-end to the applications? If you wanted to give your users a virtual desktop, you might be better off with a Hosted Shared Desktop made to look like Windows 7.

However, most organizations are not to this point with XenApp. Many have a few applications on XenApp and a massive number of the end points. This is where the analysis questions come into play. The first thing I like to do is create a high-level categorization of the applications to get started. I’ve been using the following for a few years now and it provides a great way to begin.

Application Categories



Resource Intensive

Technically Challenging

Common apps needed by all users Unique custom built apps

Uncertified Terminal Services support

Have heavy system requirements Large, complex apps with many moving parts and dependencies

Frequent updates

Example Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook), Adobe Acrobat CAD/CAM, data processing Epic, Cerner, SAP
Primary Delivery Method Installed on Desktop Virtualized on Desktop Virtualized on Desktop Installed on Server
Alternative Delivery Method Virtualized on Desktop Installed on Server

Installed on Desktop

Installed on Server

To go further, you need to align user requirements with application characteristics. This is where I suggest you read the Application Integration Planning Guide that was just added to the XenDesktop Design Handbook. BTW, the handbook now supports offline syncing. Check it out. Once you select “Enable Offline”, go into your “ToGo Kits” and download the tool. Now you don’t have to go back to the site. Just launch the app and sync. Cool

Daniel – Lead Architect

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