A better application layering solution with UniDesk


UniDesk is now part of Citrix!

Are you wondering why?

I could try to bury you with a list of features, but I want to focus on one fundamental difference that I think explains why.

Let’s first look at the promise of application layering.

Traditionally, administrators would install an application into an image.  The same application might be installed across multiple images for different departments.  When the application requires an update, the administrator is forced to update the application multiple times, once for each image that contains the application.

Application layering tries to simplify this approach by creating a layer for each application.  Multiple applications layers are attached to a virtual machine, resulting in a complete desktop for the user.

I said “Application layering tries“, because there is a major limitation with many application layering technologies.

Most application layering solutions simply attaches each application layer’s virtual disk to the operating system image disk at startup or at logon.  Those virtual disks are seamlessly integrated so the user only sees a single drive within Windows Explorer.  However, as the number of attached virtual disks increases, the system performance decreases. This performance degradation results in a slow performing desktop and a bad user experience.

To combat this well-known issue, many application layering solutions recommend that the number of layers assigned to a single VM should be limited to 8-10 layers.  In order to achieve this, while still providing the users with the correct applications, we have to create application layers with multiple applications.

WHAT!?

Do you see the problem with this recommendation?

The promise of application layering is that application management is simplified because each application is deployed within a single layer, meaning we only have to manage an application once.  But because of the limitations with application layering technologies, we have to create layers with multiple applications, resulting in a single application being part of multiple layers. This means we now have to managing the same application multiple times.

How is this  approach any better than managing our images like we did traditionally, with the operating system and applications installed natively?

This is one area with UniDesk is unique.

With UniDesk, each application layer contains one application, but UniDesk does not incur a performance hit like other application layering solutions.  UniDesk overcomes the application layering performance hit by merging all assigned layers into a single, complete image that gets deployed to users.

This might sound minor, but it is huge.  Instead of deploying a blank OS image and attaching application layers at startup or at logon, UniDesk creates an image where the OS and application layers are already merged. When you look at the details of the VM, you only see a single virtual disk.

This “small” difference overcomes the performance hit experienced by other layering technologies.

You might be asking if unidesk allows layers to be added elastically at logon. Yes it can.  But you wouldn’t do it for every app. Why would you?  There is a time and a place for both options (more on that in future blogs).

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