Earlier this week VMware released App Volumes, the new name for the CloudVolumes product they bought in August.
If you're not familiar with App Volumes, it's essentially a read-only VMDK disk that's mounted into a desktop (virtual / VDI, RDSH, or physical) which is then merged into the existing desktop's disk image. Any apps in the volume (with they call an "AppStack") look like native apps, and they can use contain per-user data and settings for the apps in each specific volume.
The key is that App Volumes does not do isolation of "problem" apps—for that you'd still use ThinApp. Instead App Volumes is one of the "new style" app delivery products (along with others from vendors like FSLogix, Liquidware Labs, and Unidesk) that I wrote about back in October which offer darn near 100% application compatibility and allow non-persistent / shared images to be a reality today.
App Volumes is not without its limitations. VMware recommends that no more than 15 individual volumes be used per virtual desktop, so enterprises with hundreds of apps will still have to get smart about grouping related apps together into individual volumes (AppStacks) and/or put some apps in the base image. So it's not like you can just blindly use this for every app in your enterprise. Also any AppStacks you assign to users won't actually be loaded until the user logs in, so there are some thing that won't work (like services, though you can get around this by assigning the AppStack to a machine or virtual desktop rather than to a user).
VMware posted a 20-page deployment guide (PDF link) on App Volumes which has more detailed information about how App Volumes and AppStacks work. Reading through it you'll notice that App Volumes has its own web-based management console which is most definitely *not* the same console you use to manage Horizon View. It's funny that VMware used to make fun of Citrix for having so many different solutions and management consoles while VMware had one. But of course it's easy to only have one console when you only have one product.
Now in the desktop personality and app management department, VMware has App Volumes, ThinApp, Horizon View published apps, Mirage, and Persona. The Venn Diagram of these overlapping features looks like the Olympic rings. It will be interesting to see which of these products VMware kills off, which they integrate, and how they will position each of them.
For example, we're already seeing them say things like "AppVolumes can be leveraged for non-virtual (i.e. physical) desktops, but the focus is on VDI use cases." WTF?!? So... should we use it for physical or not? VMware also says that App Volumes is for "dynamically delivered apps" while Mirage is for "image management to physical PCs through static image composition." But I thought Mirage worked with View now? And if I want App Volumes to work with all apps (like those with services), then I need to assign them to machines rather than users, which means it's "static, right?" So which do I use when?
And then of course the App Volumes' AppStacks are not compatible with Mirage images which are not compatible with Horizon images... so yeah, it's still kind of a mess. (To be clear, I'm not saying that App Volumes is bad. I'm just pointing out that it's funny how VMware was all high and mighty about having a simple EUC environment with a single console, but now that they've bought a few different products we find that's suddenly not the case. Welcome to the EUC big leagues!)
Will any Citrix customers use App Volumes?
VMware App Volumes is now included as part of Horizon 6 Enterprise (for no extra cost), which is great. What's interesting is that it's also available in a standalone version for non-Horizon (i.e. "Citrix") customers.
VMware specifically calls out Citrix XenDesktop and XenApp as use cases and targets for App Volumes. I wonder what the story is behind this? I mean publicly of course they're going to say, "We want to support everyone, we believe in rainbows, etc." but privately they've got to be annoyed that they have this technology which will be sold into their biggest competitor's environment. Maybe they view this as a wedge that can show existing Citrix customers how awesome VMware is with the hopes that they switch over to Horizon View? Maybe CloudVolumes had Citrix customers before VMware bought them and they have to honor those support agreements?
If you were a Citrix customer, would you actually go out and buy an app delivery product from VMware versus just using FSLogix or Liquidware Labs or Unidesk?
Overall I'm a big fan of these new-style app delivery products—App Volumes included. And it's great that VMware was able to re-brand the product in three months and get it bundled into Horizon View. But man, there's still a long road ahead for VMware to cull their app and profile products and to get the real integration done.