I have seen the light! Why I now believe that non-persistent / shared images are doable for VDI

For the past five years or so, I've said again and again that I don't like non-persistent / shared / locked down images for VDI. In fact that was a core tenant of our 2012 book, The VDI Delusion.

For the past five years or so, I've said again and again that I don't like non-persistent / shared / locked down images for VDI. In fact that was a core tenant of our 2012 book, The VDI Delusion.

Why I didn't like persistent in the past

If you go way back to 2008, I was actually a fan of non-persistent / layered desktop images. I believed that the management, security, and headache savings of just delivering apps "on demand" into a shared base image was the way to go.

The main think that screwed up that plan was that the tools of 2008 which delivered those apps on demand (App-V, ThinApp, etc.) didn't have 100% app compatibility. There have been plenty of white papers and presentations over years about which of those tools was "best," but the reality is that none of them could do 100% of the apps. Unfortunately it only takes one application to "break" this whole non-persistent concept. If you can deliver 95 out of your 100 apps via app virtualization, what do you do with the other five? Do you build separate base images for each one? One about a user who needs 2 of the 5? Do they have their own base image?

As you can imagine, this got complex really quick, with the end result being that packaging up "all" your apps in 2008 just flat-out wasn't possible.

The other thing that these older-generation app virtualization products couldn't handle was user-installed apps (or UIAs), and there were plenty of organizations out there where that was a flat-out showstopper.

So taken together, these two limitations meant that the non-persistent / shared master image VDI vision didn't happen by 2010, and it's why I've been talking about how VDI for non-persistent isn't all it's cracked up to be.

What's changed today?

Obviously the whole point of this article is that I've changed my mind on the viability of using a non-persistent shared image for VDI today. So why is that? What's change? Two things:

1. App delivery with 100% application compatibility

First, today's application delivery tools are able to provide 100% compatibility for Windows apps. (When I say "today's application delivery tools," I'm talking about things like Unidesk, FSLogix, Liquidware, VMware AppVolumes, etc.) These products have all been designed in the past five years (i.e. after VDI was already a thing) with the specific goal of broad application compatibility.

Previous generation tools like App-V and ThinApp were designed ten years ago with the specific goal of running "problem" apps side-by-side. Then when the VDI world starting talking about non-persistent (which they did because the storage of 2008 couldn't support persistent), the existing App-V and ThinApp vendors of the world said, "Hey! We can use our products to deliver apps on demand! Buy us!" So we did, but we found that those products were being twisted to do something they weren't really designed to do.

But again, the modern app delivery products were designed with app compatibility and delivering apps to shared images in mind, and they work well.

2. Users aren't as pissed off about not being able to install their own apps

The second big change that makes non-persistent work well in today's world is that the need to support user-installed Windows apps isn't as big of a deal in 2014 as it was five or six years ago. There are two reasons for this:

First is that many (most?) of the apps that users want to use today are web based. In 2008 if you gave me a locked down desktop and told me that was all I had, I would have told you to piss off and walked out the door. But today, meh, as long as I have a browser, I'm fine. (And if I have a Windows app that I actually need for my job, I can make the request through the proper channels and get it added into our app delivery system.)

The second thing that makes locked down desktops more palatable in today's world is the fact that everyone has a smartphone and iPad in their bag. If my desktop is locked down, eh, so what? I still have my phone. I'm fine.

So now I think all VDI should be non-persistent?


To be clear, everything I've written about the ability to do persistent desktops in VDI at a cheap price via modern storage technologies still applies. If you want to do persistent VDI, you should do it. It's awesome! But on the other hand, if you also want to do non-persistent VDI, the realities of the modern world coupled with modern app delivery / layering / cloaking / whatever products mean that you can do that too and it's fine.

Yay for choice!

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Hi Brian,

Non-pesistent desktops with app virtualization has been a good model for a long time. Tools like Unidesk, AppSense, FSLogix really solve the app publishing and distribution problems nowadays (for the most part). Organizations may choose to use such tools if they have use case for that.

The sticking point however is related to PC Lifecycle Management.

I have been talking to very large enterprises and they have very large VDI deployments. They all use persistent desktops for the majority of the users, but they also use non-persietnt when warranted. When I ask them why they do persistent, they tell me 'It's because we didn't have to change our PCLM'.

Enterprises like to have a single method to manage all desktops, physical or virtual, across the organization.

I think non-persistent model with persistent app delivery and user layer only fits the bill for smaller organizations. Additionally, on boarding process and sales cycle is much easier with persistent desktops. That all counts towards the ROI of the solution.

-Andre Leibovici


Nice take Brian.  This sums up the brave new world of application delivery nicely.  We’ve been delivering FlexApp for about three years and we’ve seen good adoption in that time.  We continue to get more and more of our enterprise customers adopting the technology and it is scaling nicely but we’re already about to launch our technologies that will fuel a second generation of FlexApp and a new era in User Environment Management as a whole.  We’ll soon be launching FlexDisk, a technology that will scale without bounds and with a management messaging fabric that will lay the groundwork for many User Environment Management dashboard features in versions of ProfileUnity to come. We’re also pressing forward with “LightSwitch” (True Non-persistent App layering) technology that will offer the same benefits to persistent, Non-persistent, and physical desktops! We’re planning on delivering this as soon as Q1.  We’re obviously excited about it and our roadmap matches up with what you’re seeing. I just posted a blog giving readers a Sneak Peek of what can be expected. www.liquidwarelabsblogs.com


I believe non-persistent has to be where things need to go. I see more and more demand for it to reduce operational overhead. I think that can't be thought about as a VDI or SHVD desktop solutions. It has to be across physical and cloud as well.

It's going to be very complex to get there, but it's certainly wbere we need to go.


"many (most?) of the apps that users want to use today are web based" - in which case, you have to ask yourself: why am I delivering Windows desktops, VDI or otherwise, persistant or non-persistant, in the first place?

Add to that "the fact that everyone has a smartphone and iPad in their bag" and you see the beginning of the end of Windows, even in the Enterprise.

And if there is some Windows app that your users still positively have to have, why don't you just publish that specific app?


I am a fan of persistent desktops as well, but everything I see points to a day where non-persistent desktops will be the norm and not a use case, and it's products like App Volumes that are going to get us there.


Users don't give a F about Web Apps or Windows apps. These are moot debates had by geeks who can't find girlfriends. Windows and Windows apps are/is/will continue to be the majority use case for the enterprise for many many years. New apps will come, but so will new Windows style apps. The Web is not a silver bullet model, nothing ever is. There is just too much power in devices not to exploit local apps on mobile and desktop. So the notion of some Windows apps so just publish them, is just not enterprise reality. Those apps are not being re-written, more are being written this second and the shift to new ones is a decade plus shift.

Hence better ways to deal with enterprise use cases as Windows 10 comes to the world is a natural evolution vs. a binary switch to a new app model. The pie is getting bigger not smaller...


"Users don't give a F about Web Apps or Windows apps"

Exactly my point: since users don't give a F, why limit your target market to just Windows, and pay the Microsoft development and management tax?

"New apps will come, but so will new Windows style apps"

Actually, I'm seeing the development of new Windows apps literally falling off a cliff. Everywhere I look I see software companies making mobile apps or web apps, not Windows apps. In fact, I'm not familiar with anybody making a New UI (Metro / tile world) Windows app.

"There is just too much power in devices not to exploit local apps on mobile and desktop"

First, iOS and Android apps are currently much more successful at exploiting mobile devices than Windows is. Second, HTML5 can exploit local device power as well, certainly to a sufficient extent for most Enterprise apps.

"the shift to new ones is a decade plus shift."

A decade ago we didn't have iPhone. Four years ago we didn't have iPads. Yet you are certain that Windows will rule a decade from now. Good luck with that ...


@dan not arguing don't do mobile apps. Saying that the majority of the work apps will remain as they for a long time. Investments made for new apps will take time to tip the balance, a long time.

I see new apps being built for Windows every single day, it's the core business on top of the core platform at the endpoint which is my a huge majority Windows.

You can't compare consumer shifts to the enterprise. Different ball game. Apple MACs just as sexy as phones and they are still a huge minority. In reality, big screen apps still easier to work with for real work. Rest IMHO is an add on/new work flows, not replacements. Building mobile apps for work in house will take years to tip the balance if every. Humans works on bigger screen for most things. The rest are all transactions, so they complement vs. replace.


I agree with everything you wrote, except the time-scales: I think you'll see these changes happening much faster than you expect, even in the Enterprise. I guess time will tell.


Gents, I think you are all correct, to a degree.

Windows will be around for a long time to come. After all, almost 40% of the Windows installed base is running on XP and that is close to 15 years old now.

The mainframe and Cobol was pronounced as "Dead" by many, including Gartner, in 1990. Of course, that may not be a fair example. They also projected VDI would be a $63 billion business by 2013! Well, not so fast fellas. Have you used a credit card lately, or made a mortgage payment? Mainframe and Cobol, still going strong.

But, change is coming. Fast. Let's not forget recent history. In 1975, GM had approximately 58% global market share. And got clobbered by Toyota, Honda and others. And it takes a lot more capital, and a lot more time to develop automobile factories and cars than it does to build paradigm shifting software. Don't forget: Google was started by two guys with $250k from Andy Becholstein.

To Dan's point, mobile will take the bulk of application development resources gong forward. Why? Simple answer: mobile first is the new mantra. And the vendors driving mobile: Apple, Samsung, Google and now IBM with Apple, have a lot more resources, leverage and capital than Page and Brin did when they launched Google.

And to propose that browser based apps are not important, I someone should have a look at the latest ERP, CRM, BI apps etc that drive business today. All browser based, without exception. Even the anchor product for Windows is now available as a browser based web app. Office365 anyone?

Sorry, but Macs are no longer a minority, in certain segments. Have a look at what senior execs and business leaders, sales types etc use. Today, almost always a Mac. Look at Cisco, Google, Linkedin, VMware, Citrix, NASA and others. lots of Macs. Do they get found in the hands of data entry clerks. Of course not.

Re the pace of change, I agree with Dan. The high tech market moves faster than any other industry. Google is 13 years old, and is synonymous with the web. Amazon, the "new" Apple, Samsung; all companies that had no place in enterprise discussions just a few years ago.

And what happened to Blackberry can happen to anyone.

And finally, re: this comment "Users don't give a F about Web Apps or Windows apps. These are moot debates had by geeks who can't find girlfriends.". The irony of this comment is probably lost on AppD. :)


Excellent comment Derek!

I also used to use the Mainframe analogy to Windows, but now I think it's much less relevant. Mainframes were a back-end technology, while Windows is primarily a front-end technology. As such, Windows is much more impacted by the Consumerization of IT.

We saw what Mobility has done to the Windows monopoly during the previous decade. Just think what the next consumer tech disruption - that is sure to happen during the upcoming decade - will do.

Oh, and I don't need to find a girlfriend - I have a hot wife :D



WRT to your comments-it’s wishful thinking. There is an underlying assumption in our industry by vendors that consumerization is going to change everything. IMO reality is one click deeper. It starts with enterprise IT budgets. The rule is very simple. Do less with more every year. That means there will be a continued focus on cost reduction of status quo systems, and new money will be poured only into things that enable the business or protect it like security. Those new things may or may not be mobile related; the rate of growth in these areas, I agree will result in broader adoption of newer architectures. However that trend I expect to be gradual and opportunistic as from my own experience there is finite bandwidth to think about the new, let alone implement the future. This tension between running the plant now vs. taking it forward will remain. The pressure to move faster will grow, which will result in even more cost optimization increasing the pace of new architectures gradually. Some will adopt a new plant altogether for specific use cases and that’s where I suspect the fastest changes to happen, AKA SaaS, IaaS. The majority of the enterprise will I bet in 2020 (only 5.2 years away) be largely the same and we will all be upgrading to Windows 10 in 2020. Post 2020, i.e. the third decade this century, I have a lot more hope for your argument in the enterprise.

The spending dollars in the enterprise can’t be compared to personal spend. iPhone is a personal consumption device funded primarily by personal dollars. The purse strings there are much looser and based on emotion for niche use cases like DropBox. The bulk of the enterprise is a very different. It’s a slow moving beast with different constraints. It’s why I think Apple sticking to consumer and letting time and the eco system heal the wows is genius. They know enterprise is screwed up and cheap, so why leave all the consumer money on the table when people are willing to overpay for sweatshop labor from China!



"Do less with more every year" - this or the other way around :-)

Either way, this post, in fact this whole site, is about changing existing architectures. Replacing local workstations with VDI, even persistent, but certainly non-persistent, is a big change, even if it's done with the purpose of preserving existing Windows desktops.

If staying put with the existing Windows infrastructure is good enough for your org then good on you. But then, why are you considering VDI? If you are thinking about changing your architecture, all I'm saying is that you should at least consider ditching Windows management and delivery all together in favor of alternative solutions.


@Dan, yes the other way round. :-) Agree on considering, problem is rate of change. I still bet beers 2020 is Windows 10 upgrade cycle for the vast majority of enterprise.


Amen brother Brian!!! Glad you have seen the light and finally turned your back on that Devil in the Data Center!!!