InstallFree Nexus: open Dropbox files via real windows apps in a browser. No desktop, no setup, very cool! - Brian Madden - BrianMadden.com
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InstallFree Nexus: open Dropbox files via real windows apps in a browser. No desktop, no setup, very cool!

Written on Apr 11 2012 13,113 views, 20 comments


by Brian Madden

I've been playing with the beta version of InstallFree's Nexus product recently, and it's awesome. (Check it out nexus.installfree.com.) If you use Dropbox, click "sign in with Dropbox" and you're redirected to Dropbox's site to grant access to InstallFree, and then you're sent back to InstallFree's site where see all of your Dropbox files.

Then if you click on a document in Dropbox, you can launch an HTML5-based web connection to a remote copy of the real Windows app for that file type. (So you can open a Word doc in remote Word 2010, delivered via HTML5.) The experience of using the actual remote Windows app is similar to Ericom AccessNow, except it's all tied to your cloud-based file storage system. The remote app actually connects back to Dropbox and opens the doc you clicked via the remote system.

The whole thing is HTML5-based. You don't need any clients or apps installed, and the beta is 100% hosted by InstallFree. Just hit the site and go. I've used it from my desktop and iPad without problems. In fact using Word doesn't feel that bad (in terms of performance), though I don't love that I have to use my finger as a mouse clicker.

But here's the thing. While this is cool for editing Word docs, I really love that I get the "real" version of Word. If I want a simple touch-based way to edit my Dropbox documents, I'm going to use a device-native application like QuickOffice. But sometimes I need to do more and I don't have Word installed on the device I'm using, and that's where Nexus shines.

How it Works

When it comes to the actual HTML5-based delivery of the remote Windows apps, Nexus feels like AccessNow or any of the other HTML5 clients, so nothing special there. What's unique about Nexus is that the remote Windows apps are NOT each running in their own sessions. Nexus is not VDI or RDSH.

We all know InstallFree as an app virtualization company (with a technology that's similar to something like App-V or ThinApp). For Nexus, they're using their own app virtualization to run multiple isolated instances of the remote Windows apps on a regular host. It's a Windows virtual appliance with a bunch of separate virtual instances of their apps. So they can "launch" a remote app as quickly as Windows can (i.e. no separate Windows logon, etc.), and they can get much more density than even RDSH since they're not running a whole Windows session per user.

The whole thing is a server-only solution, and it will work with any Windows application you can virtualize via InstallFree. They also have a bunch of different data connects for Dropbox, SharePoint, Live, etc. (and they're working on Mozy, Google, and others). All apps are launched via a URL, so it's easy to create custom bookmarks on any client.

And as I said, Nexus will be available as a virtual appliance. Scalings will be as simple as building another virtual appliance with the apps you'd like to provide installed. There's no user profile management, no RDS, and no client. You'll be able to host this yourself, through a provider, or (for SMB), directly from InstallFree.

Why Nexus is cool

The huge potential of Nexus will be using it for your "long tail" Windows desktop applications. The beta of Nexus only includes a few apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Visio, Project, Paint and some other viewers). The real power will be when InstallFree releases this and you can hook in your own Windows apps. If you're using a supported storage provider, you can set the whole thing up in an hour and your users are able to work with their data anywhere via any device. It's just so much simpler than XenApp or a full VDI solution. Just install your app into the virtual appliance and be done. No profiles. No sessions. No disk cloning or connection brokers or backend databases. Just the app. Done.

This is the future.

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What about licensing?

[UPDATE April 11, 9:23am] I've received a bunch of questions via twitter asking about how licensing works. For Nexus, licensing is no different than delivering a remote Windows desktop application via RDSH / Terminal Services. So you need an RDS CAL, plus whatever license your app requires. I know that Nexus doesn't actually use RDS, but Microsoft is clear that if the solution runs on Windows Server and the user experience is a graphical interactive UI, then that's covered with an RDS CAL regardless of whether it actually uses RDS.

 
 




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Comments

Rincey wrote re: InstallFree Nexus: open Dropbox files via real windows apps in a browser. No desktop, no setup, very cool!
on Wed, Apr 11 2012 6:07 AM Link To This Comment

"Not available in your region" (NZ) :(

/sad panda.

Alon Yaffe wrote re: InstallFree Nexus: open Dropbox files via real windows apps in a browser. No desktop, no setup, very cool!
on Wed, Apr 11 2012 8:09 AM Link To This Comment

For the beta, we are supporting users in the US, Canada and Western Europe. You can provide feedback and feature suggestions here: installfree.uservoice.com.

Alon.

Aaron Parker wrote re: InstallFree Nexus: open Dropbox files via real windows apps in a browser. No desktop, no setup, very cool!
on Wed, Apr 11 2012 8:53 AM Link To This Comment

Maybe it's a moot point, but the solution is hosted on Windows XP/2003 which doesn't instill confidence. That being said, it does perform surprisingly well.

Alon Yaffe wrote re: InstallFree Nexus: open Dropbox files via real windows apps in a browser. No desktop, no setup, very cool!
on Wed, Apr 11 2012 9:02 AM Link To This Comment

@Aaron Parker - the solution is currently hosted on Windows Server 2008 R2 64bit servers on AWS. More information in our FAQ at www.installfree.com/nexus/faq.

Oh... and it also works with HTML4 browsers, not just HTML5 :-)

Alon.

Alon Yaffe wrote re: InstallFree Nexus: open Dropbox files via real windows apps in a browser. No desktop, no setup, very cool!
on Wed, Apr 11 2012 9:17 AM Link To This Comment

@Aaron Parker - by the way, the reason you are seeing the OS reported as XP/2003 is due to our virtualization layer. The OS underneath the apps is 2008 R2.

Gabe Knuth wrote re: InstallFree Nexus: open Dropbox files via real windows apps in a browser. No desktop, no setup, very cool!
on Wed, Apr 11 2012 9:23 AM Link To This Comment

Alon - how does it work in HTML 4 browsers? Is this the same JavaScript/Canvas that we see with other HTML 5 solutions, or is there something else going on?

Vishal Ganeriwala wrote re: InstallFree Nexus: open Dropbox files via real windows apps in a browser. No desktop, no setup, very cool!
on Wed, Apr 11 2012 11:13 AM Link To This Comment

@Alon

I need to try it out. Very cool concept.

How is install free different compared to Cloud On?

site.cloudon.com/product

Alon Yaffe wrote re: InstallFree Nexus: open Dropbox files via real windows apps in a browser. No desktop, no setup, very cool!
on Wed, Apr 11 2012 11:14 AM Link To This Comment

@Gabe - right now, we are not utilizing HTML5 features at all. What you're seeing is a highly optimized HTML4 based remoting using standard browser features like Javascript, images, etc.

Try accessing Nexus with IE7. It's not going to break any speed records but it will work :-)

We are working now on implementing Canvas support and additional HTML5 features. Once we do, performance (on supported browsers) should significantly improve.

Alon Yaffe wrote re: InstallFree Nexus: open Dropbox files via real windows apps in a browser. No desktop, no setup, very cool!
on Wed, Apr 11 2012 11:30 AM Link To This Comment

@Vishal - there are a number of differences.

First, Nexus is not iPad exclusive and does not require you to download an app. If your device has a browser, you should be able to use it with Nexus (although currently we only support large-screen devices like iPad, Android tablets, Macs, PCs). We just deployed a very significant update to Nexus this morning and there's absolutely nothing you need to do to see the new version. Just logout, login and that's it.

Second, the integration with your storage services is done at the file-system level (inside the virtual sandbox for the application), so the applications you are using through Nexus can actually read/write/insert files and objects directly from/to the cloud. You can open a document from Dropbox, inset a picture from SkyDrive and save the document Google Docs. CloudOn does some weird file management stuff behind the scene... you can't even click the File menu in Word.

Third... and this might be a bit tough for me to prove... we believe our infrastructure is significantly and fundamentally more efficient than what CloudOn is doing. The fact that our applications are virtualized and isolated gets us much better density per server than what you can accomplish on standard TS.

Ingmar Verheij wrote re: InstallFree Nexus: open Dropbox files via real windows apps in a browser. No desktop, no setup, very cool!
on Wed, Apr 11 2012 12:30 PM Link To This Comment

Looks very cool on paper but I am struggling with the use-case. Is this replacing my desktops (SBC/VDI) or is it an additional appliance to offer access from (mobile) devices?

And secondly, no profiles means no personalisation? What about "Consumerization of IT"?

Brian Madden wrote re: InstallFree Nexus: open Dropbox files via real windows apps in a browser. No desktop, no setup, very cool!
on Wed, Apr 11 2012 12:44 PM Link To This Comment

@Ingmar, depends on your requirements. For many people, yes, this could replace full Windows desktops. For others it's a simple addition, when mobile users just need an app or two.

For profiles, InstallFree product has long been able to insert user specific reg keys and files into the bubble on launch. (Similar to Flex profiles or the new Microsoft UE-V.) So if you need per-user customization, it's possible. (And really that doesn't usually happen at login anymore even for full VDI or RDSH desktops.)

Denis Gundarev wrote re: InstallFree Nexus: open Dropbox files via real windows apps in a browser. No desktop, no setup, very cool!
on Wed, Apr 11 2012 3:17 PM Link To This Comment

@Alon, you said that you are using Win2008R2. But how you got XP components there? reverse engineering? Windows Embeded in virtuozzo-like containers?

Correct me if i'm wrong, but there is a lot of 2003/XP files, even IE6 is available and this bits are not included in 2008R2.

Alon Yaffe wrote re: InstallFree Nexus: open Dropbox files via real windows apps in a browser. No desktop, no setup, very cool!
on Wed, Apr 11 2012 4:02 PM Link To This Comment

@Deniis, these components are part of our sandbox to ensure we can transition applications between different server configurations without repackaging them.

Denis Gundarev wrote re: InstallFree Nexus: open Dropbox files via real windows apps in a browser. No desktop, no setup, very cool!
on Wed, Apr 11 2012 4:16 PM Link To This Comment

@Alon, pardon me, but these components are part of Microsoft products, not yours.

Steve Greenberg wrote re: InstallFree Nexus: open Dropbox files via real windows apps in a browser. No desktop, no setup, very cool!
on Thu, Apr 12 2012 1:44 AM Link To This Comment

I think this is totally awesome. I signed up, connected right to my Google Docs and works exactly as advertised!

VMWare was showing something similar at VMWorld, but this seems to be quite stable and performance

Great Job!!!

Christopher Barlow wrote re: InstallFree Nexus: open Dropbox files via real windows apps in a browser. No desktop, no setup, very cool!
on Thu, Apr 12 2012 4:43 AM Link To This Comment

I absolutely love this, it's a very elegant solution.  Exciting times now that APIs for the cloud services are enabling greater levels of integration between each other and spawning solutions such as InstallFree Nexus. There is more to this than just the initial wow factor - this could be the ultimate BYOD solution.  And it definitely feels like the future.  

You say this will be available as an appliance, shall we assume that means a virtual appliance too?  How simple will it be to scale this out to support many users?

Will it be possible to connect back into storage on the company's internal network as well as cloud storage?  

It's slightly depressing from an geeky perspective that there is this awesome technology available now in the form of Dropbox and Sharefile etc which have the potential to make life so much easier, which many enterprises simply won't go near with a 50-foot barge pole due to data protection concerns.  Anybody had much commercial success in the field with this?

Alon Yaffe wrote re: InstallFree Nexus: open Dropbox files via real windows apps in a browser. No desktop, no setup, very cool!
on Thu, Apr 12 2012 8:16 AM Link To This Comment

@Christopher Barlow - we are still reviewing the details around enterprise deployments and internal storage integration. We will announce the information as it becomes available.

appdetective wrote re: InstallFree Nexus: open Dropbox files via real windows apps in a browser. No desktop, no setup, very cool!
on Fri, Apr 13 2012 10:14 AM Link To This Comment

Meh- A brilliant way to extend the life of crappy MS locking you in for even longer. Sure I'm going to cancel all my strategic projects to look at some arcane virtualization bubble than encapsulates Windows components in their engine and shares them across many devices. Is that a license issues (shhh don't tell MS). Even if no, what happens to patches etc. I don't think I most will care, since they are already too far down the App-V path. There has to be a better future than this for new device types. Native apps baby! Why the F are we wasting time with sub par Windows experiences on devices not designed to run Windows...

Christopher Barlow wrote re: InstallFree Nexus: open Dropbox files via real windows apps in a browser. No desktop, no setup, very cool!
on Mon, Apr 16 2012 8:11 AM Link To This Comment

Coudn't agree more appdetective.  The sooner the world loses it's dependence on Windows the better.  Until then, any solution that can reduce the complexity of providing Windows apps to any end-point has got to be good.

Ron Kuper wrote re: InstallFree Nexus: open Dropbox files via real windows apps in a browser. No desktop, no setup, very cool!
on Tue, Apr 17 2012 2:47 AM Link To This Comment

Is this what AppBlast back-end going to be like?

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