For years we've been talking about how IT is really just about the applications, and how today's business world is about Windows applications. Of course now that's changing. We're not moving to the web/cloud/SaaS overnight, but we're definitely seeing real companies use web and SaaS apps in real ways. The emergence of these new app architectures means that IT organizations are stuck between two worlds—they must deliver and support both Windows and web apps. Windows apps are easy—we have Terminal Server, XenApp, streaming, and VDI to take care of that for us. But how do we manage web apps? Do we publish remote web browsers? Do we put links in our web portals? Do we integrate Citrix XenApp with SharePoint?
Clearly VMware is involved in this struggle too. On the one hand they have View, ThinApp, and a lot of marketing around how to deliver Windows apps and desktops. On the other hand they have the cloud, SaaS, Zimbra, and SpringSource. One represents the "old," and the other represents the "new." While VMware would probably love to forget the old (since the old is Microsoft and the old is View), they can't just turn their backs on it.
If only there were some way to combine the "old" and "new" ways of enterprise application delivery...
VMware looks to solve that with something known as "Origami," which I assume they'll announce at the VMworld conference in San Francisco next week.
The origins of Origami
I had several interesting conversations about VMware's long-term application strategy at BriForum this past June. Several people mentioned something called "Origami," but I couldn't really find anything about it other than a job posting on vmware.com for an "Origami UI/App Integration Job" back in July. Honestly I kind of forgot about it until today, when I started writing my preview article for VMworld.
I decided to do a Google search for [vmware origami] to see whether I could learn anything else about it. On the first page of results I found a presentation from an event called "Virtual Days" in Florence last month. (The presentation, called "Virtualization: Leading the Journey to Cloud Computing," by VMware Solution Architect Stefano Sella is available as a PDF or in HTML mode from the Google cache.) The title page says "confidential," but since I found it via a public Google search I think it's okay to talk about it here.
Digging in to VMware Origami
Once the presentation moves beyond the standard View / ThinApp stuff, at Slide 48 it starts talking about "Origami Administration." We see a web-based admin console with a user account, policies, and a list of "entitled applications." What's interesting about the entitled apps is that we see server apps (Zimbra, file shares), desktop apps (Office, Firefox, Acrobat), and SaaS apps (Salesforce, QuickenOnline, Workday). So the Origami Administrator finally bridges the gap to connect users to desktop, server, and web apps—all in a single place. It even looks like the Origami interface can be used to perform most (or all?) user admin tasks, like creating new users, adding roles, etc.
The presentation goes on to show the end-user interface via an what VMware's calling an "application catalog." In a lot of ways this looks similar to any web portal / dashboard / Citrix Web Interface, with lists of apps that are presented from all three (server, desktop, and SaaS) sources, as well as capabilities for users to request new apps.
I assume that the Origami product will hook into AD, View, ThinApp, Zimbra, and all of the other application systems that VMware has to deliver this unified portal to users. It will be interesting to see how it integrates into the web apps, like whether it can hook into an single sign-on or user provisioning, or whether it just delivers URLs to users (which has been possible with Citrix Web Interface, Microsoft SharePoint, and just about any other web portal for years).
What do you think about Origami? Will this take some of the pressure off VMware to release a kick-ass View update? What will Origami need to have to really take off? Is this somewhere where VMware can succeed?