Citrix bought AppDNA. Quest bought ChangeBASE. Can we declare a winner? Let's look at both.

With both AppDNA and ChangeBASE being recently acquired, (by Citrix and Quest, respectively) Gabe and I decided to get both of them on the phone. Our intention wasn't really to do a head-to-head shoot-out and declare a winner; rather it was more to find out what was going on in the space in general.

With both AppDNA and ChangeBASE being recently acquired, (by Citrix and Quest, respectively) Gabe and I decided to get both of them on the phone. Our intention wasn’t really to do a head-to-head shoot-out and declare a winner; rather it was more to find out what was going on in the space in general.

ChangeBASE AOK and AppDNA AppTitude both scan through all of your applications to check for migration compatibility issues and then find ways to fix what can be resolved automatically. They’re powerful solutions that remove a lot of the risk from migration for large companies (Presentations from both sides included slides with impressive customer lists). One of our main questions for both was to ask what their stories are after the main Windows XP to 7 hurdle is passed.

The process—where things are the same

Both ChangeBASE and AppDNA scan and test applications to produce a matrix that gives compatibility reports for Windows XP, Vista, and 7; 32- and 64-bit environments; various virtualization solutions; and various browsers. The matrix shows application/platform results as green when they will work fine with no changes, amber when automated changes will be enough to make them work, or red for cases where heavy lifting (such as re-engineering or completely replacing an application) will be required for compatibility.

For the issues that come up amber, there are various ways of modifying, replacing, and repackaging DLLs, drivers, services, runtime files, boot components, connections to other applications (especially Office), and core components in order to get an application to work in a new environment. (We didn’t get extremely technical about this in this on these calls—it’s an extremely complicated area that would necessitate much longer articles from people like Tim Mangan.)

There will always be some issues that are can be missed, but both venders claim pretty high rates for being able to find problems: 96% for ChangeBASE and 95% for AppDNA. “Ah-ha, we have a winner!” we said. But seriously, with the issue detection rate being just about the same, it simplifies the choice by eliminating a variable in the decision process. And 95% or 96% is a heck of a lot better than testing and remediating all of your apps by hand.

Where things start to diverge

While they both essential accomplish the same tasks, it often feels like ChangeBASE and AppDNA are working at different levels—ChangeBASE gives the 10,000 foot elevation view, will AppDNA is a lot closer to the ground. That doesn’t mean that one is better then the other, because naturally there are advantages and disadvantages to each approach.

ChangeBASE works in big chunks—they have had projects that scanned as many as 4000 applications in a day—and large batches of applications can be remediated at once. These groups of applications that are altered are followed up with retesting to see what still doesn’t work and needs another pass. There’s a complete log of all the changes that are made, so if any more advanced work needs to be done, engineers will know exactly what went on. A large set of rules, built up from past experience on ChangeBASE’s part and customizable by the customer, is utilized for these automated remediation tasks.

AppDNA’s approach is algorithm-based, and allows specific OS images to be plugged in as an alternative to testing for more general compatibility. AppDNA doesn’t seem to be as much about automatic remediation as it is about zeroing in on where exactly the problems are. You may have to touch more of your applications individually, and that could take longer, but the end result is that you’ve zeroed in on the exact issue, specific to your OS build.

Again, for some environments looking closely at individual problems will be appropriate, and for others, taking a broad swipe at a problem and then re-testing and redoing a few parts may be preferred.

Beyond 2014

The big question from us at first was how much play each of these companies will have beyond the Windows 7 migration hurdle, and one of the main answers lies in application virtualization. ChangeBASE can package apps on the fly to work with Symantec, VMware, App-V, and soon XenApp virtual applications, and AppDNA works with XenApp and App-V. Add to that application updates, refreshes, Windows 8, and the long tail of Windows apps in general, XP to 7 migrations become one just one part of a wide variety of use cases for these guys. 

For AppDNA, the AppTitude name will be disappearing, and the product will now just be AppDNA. For Citrix, AppDNA is going to be about more than just adding an extra feature to XenDesktop. While they couldn’t tell us about specific plans, there naturally will be integration with other Citrix products. We’ve already talked a few times (article | video [9:20]) about how Citrix’s new Virtual Desktop Assessment Tool will integrate with AppDNA to help automate the application discovery and assessment processes.

ChangeBASE will be able take advantage of Quest’s sales network, and Quest, with over 200 software products, wants to do more than just desktop virtualization with it. ChangeBASE can stand on its own, and companies need to get to Windows 7 no matter what their environment look like. With that in mind, Quest has organized a group of solutions that encompasses ChangeBASE, vWorkspace, Scriptlogic, and RemoteScan into a User Workspace Management group that is focused on getting users to Windows 7, virtual or not.

 

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One of the challenges irrespective of tool is how well your apps are tested. In a large enterprise with lot's of apps, one of the big problems is many people have no idea who the app owners are. They may have left the firm, forgot, app was bought by a department that has morphed etc.


A lot of the real app problems will only be found when the full/rich set  of functionality is exercised. Even if you find the app owner, it's not always easy to get them to test properly. They'll probably say yeah it looks ok having only seen it install and clicked on 1-2 items. They are busy with their day jobs and this is just a distraction. So there is a risk you don't really find anything until the end user starts to use the product.


Even if you get that far and get through your migration. Will you continue to use the tool and make it part of your process? If not, was it worth it? Would brut force have been just as effective and cheaper just like previous desktop migrations?  


Tools are great, but I'd suggest strongly that you review your application management practice in parallel. A simple example in large firms. Is there a central registry of all apps? Are apps packaged as they are licensed?  If not, how do you plan to keep up and not create duplicates all over the planet.


There's a lot more to application management than a tool.... All part of the shift to IT as a service.


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AppDNA and ChangeBase are essentially the same technology. A consulting database from a packaging vendor and split into two companies. AppDNA just has prettier reports. I can't believe Citrix paid $100M plus for a database of app conflicts. I hear ChangeBase was a third of that. Nothing more than a free feature and tool hype pretending to solve app compat. @harry agree not an app management practice.


My prediction, this will just go the way of other Citrix technology, get lost as a feature and incrementally improve and only focus on rip and replace VDI. Quest has more DNA as mentioned above to do more and integrate this with a number of their other assets and focus on all desktop.


I actually think Quest has more potential to hurt XenDesktop than VMware, but their problem is their crappy management tools fight with Microsoft. So they are the *** step child in the company.


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Both ChangeBASE and AppDNA attempt to address the critical application compatibility problem in slightly different ways. Both have their uses and their respective audiences. The ChangeBASE approach is probably a little more engineering focussed on the technical aspects of identifying compatibility, suitability and just as importantly quality  issues for customer’s application portfolios. AppDNA appears to focus more on the reporting side of things and helps project managers with their assessment of the situation. Following this “engineering” approach, the ChangeBASE solution both identifies and remediates most of the technical aspects of getting your applications ready for deployment to your target platform. Whether that platform is new hardware (64-bit), virtual (App-V or otherwise) and a browser based solution, both solutions will help, but my firm belief is that the ChangeBASE will get you further in your project, with consistently better outcomes. That’s we have been doing for the past few years and even with the acquisition of ChangeBASE by Quest, we are still committed to doing ONE thing: Get our customers applications to work.


One of the most important things to remember is that we can now offer Quest’s solutions as part of the ChangeBASE compatibility offering. With Scriptlogic’s Asset Manager, we can now collect inventory data and feed that right into ChangeBASE. This delivers a great answer to the “what is out there?” question but also answers “what is required to get these applications to my next platform?” The two solutions combined from Quest make a powerful solution for anyone considering a migration to Windows 7 or Virtualization platforms.


I am sure that Brian’s team will comment further on our 2 technologies and approaches (hey, this is just the beginning – the fun starts now!) and I look forward to our next interview and technical deep-dive. Maybe we can talk about our automated assessment for IE9 and the forthcoming Mozilla compatibility checker?


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Flexera AdminStudio Compatibility Pack is powered by AOK (ChangeBase).


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Harry's right that App Compat is indeed a lifecycle problem: change is constant, so the apps will need to be tested for compatibility over and over. The apps themselves will also change, of course, as will the user base and their demands...


To expand on Greg's comments, I see this space as being about making sure that users have access to their apps. This means many things, including reducing the cost, time, risk of platform migrations as well as ongoing management of the apps and of user access to those apps.


So it’s wider than the strict terms of Jack’s review.


Here’s how Quest can help you with some other parts of the process (this is not a complete list – but all these help answer a question like “How do I get to Windows 7?”):


- Application discovery: what’s out there?


- Application consolidation: who’s using it? Is anyone? When? How often?


- Resource utilisation assessment: what resources does the app consume? Can we put it in the datacenter? If so, is TS better or VDI?


- Application Compatibility (with ChangeBASE): will it work on the target platform? If not, why not?


- Fixing an issues, using ChangeBASE’s auto-fixing/virtualizing tech.


- If an app really can't be fixed, then vWorkspace can give you access to the apps that can’t make the journey to the new platform.


- Make sure the apps perform well on the new platform.


Change isn't going to slow down, so the more you can automate this stuff, the better off you'll be.


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