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.
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.