The Euro-Invasion (of User Environment Management companies)

Walking around MMS, I see that both RES and AppSense are represented here, and while it isn't unusual to see them at shows, I was a little surprised to see them at a show that's more about server management than user experience.

Walking around MMS, I see that both RES and AppSense are represented here, and while it isn't unusual to see them at shows, I was a little surprised to see them at a show that's more about server management than user experience (although, I've heard that's all about to change with the Wednesday morning keynote, but I'm writing this Tuesday night).

We know the stories of each company: both are very popular in Europe, and especially the UK, where AppSense is said to be installed in 40% Citrix environments. Both companies focus on managing the user environment and have been trading blows feature-wise for many years. Here in the US, however, the install base is significantly lower, and while we may know about RES and AppSense, a much smaller percentage of organizations actually use their products.

Both companies think that's about to change.

Both RES and AppSense have recently moved a significant amount of their company operations to the US (AppSense's HQ is actually in New York, now), establishing beachheads here in order to make inroads into a relatively untapped market. Sure, there are other players here, Immidio (Netherlands), triCerat (US), Scense (Netherlands), and Liquidware Labs' (US) ProfileUnity, but the commitment to the US market that RES and AppSense are showing by actually moving here is impressive.

How can something have so much success in Europe and not in the US? Maybe it's simply the fact that most of the companies in that space aren't based in the US? If so, way to go guys - this move is a guaranteed winner. But what if it's more philosophical? I can't imagine what that would be, other than some sort of "forget the user" mentality, but I hope for their sake that they find it and change it.

I don't think all companies need exactly what RES, AppSense, and others are offering. Some environments get along just fine with plain old Flex Profiles (although even that isn't available for free anymore), group policies, scripts, or even homemade solutions, but there's certainly a large number that could use a streamlined management system for their user environments.

So, here's to the new "Euro-Invasion". What do you think…will it work?

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Gabe,


Several years ago, when System Center was being announced, Microsoft talked about how SCCM (aka Configuration Manager, the successor to SMS) and SCOM (Operations Manager, formerly known as MOM) were being re-designed from a database perspective, with a goal of eventually combining into a single database, eliminating  duplication of information that exists in two separate  "here is what I want out there" and "here is what I have going on out there" databases.  


I mess with SCCM from time to time, and have tried to work with SCOM, and it seems silly to me to have two separate databases with the basics of inventory. Can you ping the Microsoft folks and determine if they still plan to combine, or is that now just silly.


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I feel the adoption of desktop virtualization will be the tipping point that pushes US companies to begin considering personalization a requirement rather than a nice-to-have.


 In my experience with Fortune 500 companies and State Agencies, a user's profile lives in the unsupported no-man's land between PC Support and the Windows Server team.  For both workstations and SBC environments, the most common approach has been to ignore the profile unless it gives a problem -- then delete it.  When migrating from one O/S or workstation to the next, users are commonly told they would have to manually move or recreate their settings.


 As workstations become virtualized and more tightly coupled into an SBC backend, companies will be forced to deal with personalization or risk rejection of the entire architecture.  Users don't care where they're running Outlook -- they just want their signature to show up every time.  It will be a hard sell to move these users into the new paradigm if they are losing key functionality which they strongly identify with.


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Europe rocks!! Except for the fact than we aren't able to fly, because Iceland have there mass destruction volcano :-)


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I assume that's why Scense isn't here, even though there is a booth.


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Upfront disclaimer:  I represent Liquidware Labs the maker of ProfileUnity - a Flexible Workspace and Migration solution.


I agree with you Gabe, these solutions have been successful on their home turf.  But both have actually had significant offices here since 2003 and 2004 respectively so I suggest there are other factors at play when gauging their acceptance.


Being in this space now for 6 years, I have seen first-hand that USA companies generally want to be more dynamic and keep the user data in Windows own native format. I have heard this directly from system admins and C-Level execs on many occasions.  


ProfileUnity accomplishs the same feat as these solutions but keeps the data in Windows own native format. This method is recognized as far more flexible by many system admins here.  We do this while supporting both V1(XP/2000) and V2(Vista/Win7) profiles, this method allows for true Windows native migrations of user data, documents and application-level settings vs. only migrating the proprietary user shell and/or database contents of users for other solutions. Once your user data is in the solutions you mention there is no easy way out.  Some companies do buy into this shell approach and centralized user database but scaleability issues and price can also be factors as well.


The flexibility of keeping the data in Windows native format while providing user workspace management is what we have seen USA companies, and increasingly Europe companies, look for in a user environment solution.  It is the same reason that even standard Microsoft's roaming profiles are still being used.  Flexibility is key when managing Windows.  For instance, our solution is so flexible that if the customer later chooses to use Citrix UPM or VMware's RTO solution, they can do this with absolutely no data/user environment customization loss. If a customer wants, they can actually use us to migrate to Windows then rely on another solution such as UPM to manage the user data going fwd.  Companies want to be dynamic and be able to change user environment or profile solution solution if necessary based on needs and budget, especially in these budget minded times.  When your user data is locked up in a database or shell environment you cannot do this easily. This may be the fundamental reason that the solutions you mention have been more successful in Europe to date, that and there were no other alternatives until a couple of years ago.


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Gabe,


This is Pete Rawlinson from AppSense – one of the AppSense ‘relocators’!  I just wanted to quickly comment on your post.  As you said,  AppSense are part of around 40% of all UK Citrix infrastructures, with similar numbers across Europe, but I’d push back on the “limited success in the US” – for both AppSense and RES. While it is true that some of our UK VP’s have moved to the US to help build on our success here and drive expansion, AppSense have been active and successful in the US for several years now.  It’s actually our most successful region today in terms of revenue and is expanding by over 150% annually.  Our focus on the US builds on our European success, but we’re not ‘moving’ to the US, we’re expanding our US operations in response to demand for user virtualization.  That’s why we’ve increased our US headcount 100% over the past year, will increase by another 100% this year, including the opening of offices in Palo Alto, Seattle, Texas, Atlanta and Chicago.  So now we’re headquartered in NYC, but  we still have over 150 people in Europe and are growing that business too.  


I’m saying all this just to highlight that we’re seeing tremendous demand for user virtualization in both virtual and physical desktop projects, and our expansion to the US (and also RES’s US presence) demonstrates this.  We’re looking forward to the next few years – if this trend continues, things will get very interesting!


Pete


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Disclaimer: I represent Immidio, the maker of Flex Profiles


I agree with Pete, the US market is a lot more significant when looking at user profile management than Gabe's article indicates. In 2007 and 2008, the total number of around 5,500 corporations and public administrations around the world registered for actively using Flex Profile Kit, the free predecessor of Immidio Flex Profiles. With a 27% share the US were the biggest market, ahead of all European countries and despite the fact that the product manufacturer was based in Europe. With today's Immidio Flex Profiles Advanced Edition we see the same trend. US customer base and US partner channel is growing fast.


Benny Tritsch, CTO Immidio


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Hello, I would like to put in my two cents here. I work for RES Software as their senior consulting engineer.


Gabe, you refer to User Environment Management. Others deal in Desktop Management or even profile management. RES Software is all about User Workspace Management. RES Software coined the phrase “User Workspace Management” many years ago and now we are happy to see the phrase is sneaking in to both MS and Citrix's consoles. It seems well on the way to becoming a buzzword that everybody is either trying to affiliate themselves with or come to terms with. This is the same deal as with Virtualization a couple of years back. The fact that this comes out of Europe is IMHO simply a question of timing. If someone over here hadn't thought of doing things this way almost 11 years ago, someone over your side of the pond would have. Believe me, American IT management challenges do not differ that much from European ones :-)


So - You ask the very valid questions: Do people need this? Will it work?


Let me share my personal experience with you in an effort to to answer this. Mind you, this is based on my tenure *before* working for RES Software. When I started consulting in the SBC business back in the Winview days, moving on through win- and metaframe, again and again I came across customer Windows environments, centralized or not, which needed fixing.


Many of these systems were held together by gum and shoestring, or more to the point a  collection of bat/kix/vbs/etc.scripts, gpo's and a bunch of point solution utilities thrown in there for good measure!  But hey, there's no use moping over it - those were the cards we were dealt back then.


Where things changed for me personally, was where I came across a product which enabled me to put all the configuration items into one single management console. Even better yet, as a consultant I could re-use the stuff I'd already created, thereby saving implementation time, making better margins on my projects, being more competitive etc. My customers found out that they didn't have to depend on me to come and FIX the system all the time, but rather call me when they wanted to EXPAND or build something NEW. Did it work? Yes, it put bread on my table for 7 years in a row before I joined RES Software.


This way of thinking may scare the living daylights out of some, while it makes others giddy like it's Xmas. Reason is, then as well as now, there are still two major schools of thought on how you run your consulting or systemadmin business. Either:


A) You are in the game for building rigid solutions which can stand by themselves so you can do more with less and/or address more customers, OR


B) You are in it for the billable hours and/or the perceived job security, creating highly complex and obfuscated solutions in an attempt to bind your customer/employer to you.


So, to answer your question Gabe. Do all companies need what we and others do? I completely agree: Absolutely not - it depends on if you are an A or B company.


With best regards,


Max Ranzau


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