What exactly is an "enterprise app store?" (No seriously... what is it?)

There's a lot of talk about "enterprise app stores." I'm not sure what the exact definition of an enterprise app store is, but the analogy most used is something like "imagine Apple's iPhone App Store, except for corporate IT apps instead of consumer iPhone apps.

There's a lot of talk about "enterprise app stores." I'm not sure what the exact definition of an enterprise app store is, but the analogy most used is something like "imagine Apple's iPhone App Store, except for corporate IT apps instead of consumer iPhone apps."

Proponents of enterprise app stores list several benefits, including:

  • Users can provision their own apps, so instead of entering a helpdesk ticket and waiting weeks for a new app, they can just click the icon in the app store and start using the new app immediately.
  • Apps in an enterprise app store are delivered via some form of app virtualization, so they can be used immediately without having to be "installed" and without the worry of them conflicting with existing apps.

There are several enterprise app stores on the market now:

In general I like the concept of user-provisioned IT and applications. But I have a problem with the concept of the enterprise app store: I don't understand how these app stores are different than existing app delivery products. How is an enterprise app store different than Citrix XenApp, for example?

With XenApp, I can build a web interface that links to icons for my applications. I can deliver locally streamed apps (via XenApp Streaming or App-V). seamless remote-hosted Apps (hosted on single-user VMs or as Terminal Server sessions), and web apps (via links to URLs). I can put them into groups and folders. There's a search functionality for users to find new apps.It seems to me that Citrix XenApp with a web interface is an enterprise app store. (And it seems like it has been since 1998.) So what's all the fuss about now?

It seems that in the future, these enterprise app stores will integrate with various workflow engines so that they can automate the approval and requisition process for new apps too. (So a user clicks on an app, it sends an email to his or her boss for approval. Once approved, it assigns a license and makes the app available to the user.) Of course products like this have existed for years in the traditional desktop space, but they (and the new enterprise app stores that offer this capability) suffer from the fact that automated workflows are something that sound great in theory but that require a lot of work in the real-world and overall have a lukewarm reception.

Some of these enterprise app store products integrate traditional apps too (MSI, etc.), so I guess maybe that's the overall value? And enterprise app store isn't much really—just a single common aggregation point for all corporate apps that a user might want to access? Am I missing anything?

It's not that I think the concept of the enterprise app store is bad per se. I'm more approaching this like, "Um, hello? We've been doing this since 1998. It's called Web Interface." But I guess now that the Apple App Store is popular we're seeing the rebranding and growth in the enterprise? (Much like how in 2007 Citrix decided that they'd been doing app virtualization since 1996.)

So is that it with the enterprise app store, or am I missing something. Do you use them (or plan to) in your company? If so, what's the specific value you get out of an enterprise app store that you can't get with something like XenApp web interface?

 

Join the conversation

27 comments

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

For me, the main difference with Dazzle and Web Interface is that with Dazzle, the apps will appear on my start menu like any other app (plus I don’t have to open a browser).  I know you can do that with Web Interface if you use what was called Program Neighborhood Agent, but with PNA you got everything on your start menu. Everything that was assigned to you, you saw, which might make for a very big start menu full of applications you will never use. At least with Dazzle, I get to pick and choose the few applications I need from IT.  


I think the future for AppStores is that it will continue to incorporate more application flavors besides the hosted/streamed that we have now.  Let’s include SaaS apps.  Let’s include MSI packages.  Let’s have one single place for us to get every application we need regardless of how it is being delivered.  Timing is everything when I comes to these things.  


Cancel

Centrix Software (www.centrixsoftware.com) has WorkSpace Universal which allows aggregation of apps, info, data etc whether hosted, virtual, local or web - a bit like WI on steriods :-)  Also, doesn't salesforce.com have a app store?


Cancel

I agree with Brian - there is not much "new" here as far as the underlying technology goes.  But there is still value - in that these existing technologies were never really designed from the start as fully capable, user-friendly self service tools.  When I think of XenApp, for example, the keystrokes for getting the app to the user belong to the admin/support desk.  These "stores" simply put a nicer interface, some (optional) logic, nicer corporate branding, and if done right a little less manual intervention.


Cancel

Agreed, nothing really new here.


The backend is essentially the same as existing techologies. An Enterprise App store is really about a GUI in which people request something and have an influence on what and how it appears in their working environment


Cancel

The concept is certainly not brand new.


AppStream (now Symantec Workspace Streaming) has been doing it for several years.


As others have pointed out, the key difference between these and the web interfaces of the past, is the emphasis on user-self service.


There is less IT involvement with routine tasks and more flexibility for end-users. This is a common thread we are seeing for things like helpdesk/service desk types of functions as well.


Cancel

Hey, let's not rush to judgement! First off, the enterprise end-user wouldn't be the consumer in this model. We're not downloading music and videos here. Rather, the ultimate consumers would be department heads, IT, procurement agencies, etc. This app store model would be more than a mere "web interface" for delivering apps. It's a marketplace that brings all the players into a unified ecosystem in which consumers can browse an organized directory for what they want, compare one product to other competing products, assess potential incompatibilities, separate the good from the bad, get feedback from others who have had a good/bad experience with a particular product, etc.


Also, imagine the implications of this model on how apps are procured and licensed, etc. And the developers community's role as an active participant can't be ruled out in this model either.


In my opinion, this model would have to be one of the cornerstones of Cloud Computing. The "Web Interface" as we know it is the last-mile delivery mechanism, not the marketplace. Such app store would have open APIs allowing traditional web interfaces to evolve into app aggregation systems. This would allow organizations to procure apps from multiple app stores and deliver them side by side to the end-user, alongside in-house applications.


This is just the tip of the iceberg. Gotta go back to work.


Edgie


Cancel

Here's a question for some of you to ponder: will the app store favor the use of local disks or SANs?


Cancel

I somewhat, to some degree, understand this “enterprise app store” thing. I guess there have been many terms of this over the years. As the article notes WI/Nfuse (aka “Project Charlotte”) was introduced in 1998, roughly at the same time that CA introduced their “Catalog Shopping” based on their Software Delivery Option. There were others, then and later, of course.


I see the point of self-service, the agility and the point of moving mundane IT –services towards the user - a lot like gas stations or the recent BYO thing. Yet again, I wonder what’s the whole hoola baloola of all this? Is it the freedom thing or making ease with a guilty conscience? Trying to appease the imbalance?


In some statements I have claimed that PC is king in the enterprise for years to come. Whilst I do, and continue to claim, I do acknowledge that virtualization in various forms is becoming an integral part of the equation – In what way or in what manner is yet to see. Is “Catalog Shopping” to gain a momentum within the next 3 years or so when it failed for the past 10 or so? IMHO, I don’t think so


Cancel

End-users don't have a need to browse an app catalog. They're usually given access to a finite set of applications based on their organizational role.


I think most people here are failing to distinguish between an iTunes-like, consumer-oriented app store and an enterprise app store.


Cancel

I agree with edgeseeker.


Something like iTunes App Store or Steam are brilliant examples of consumer based app stores.


But most users expect the applications they need to fulfill their job roles to be integrated into their desktop. Having another layer just adds another layer of crap they have to deal with.


But what about BYO(device)? Yeah some gimmicky value to enterprise app stores but surely a universal web portal makes more sense? IT admin doesn't have to worry about compatibility, etc, etc.


Streaming apps to non-managed devices assumes the user has Windows!


In all - I see very small % of users can benefit from an enterprise (non web based) app store.


Cancel

Oh and Citrix's mistake was calling theirs Dazzle!


Just need to add the word Razzle to the beginning :)


Cancel

Plenty of time for them to rename it to XenStore in the next round of name changes! :)


Cancel

Well, i always aske myself: if a new employee starts his work in a new company, how will he know, which applications he needs for his daily business.


Isnt it more effektive if he starts and has all the necessary Tools for his needs ready to go (like the traditionell way with Webinterface) instead of spending lots of time searching from big Application Lists what apps he might need or not for his work.


I think the traditional companys wont follow the way: hey user, look we have plenty of apps, just take want you want.


cheers,


Marco


Cancel

An "Enterprise App Store" makes sense when organizations wish to make business-to-employee apps available. This could include "in house" apps (not available to the public) or productivity apps such as expense reporting, time tracking, etc., that might be available from third parties.


A system to ensure that only "authorized" employees can access these apps, and that protects corporate data, is critical. Ideally the option to authenticate against corporate databases (e.g., Active Directory or LDAP) should be part of the system.


Creating apps in this environment can be done either with "native" apps, or "sandbox" approach where a single master app runs restricted code. In the "native" case, a supplemental SDK (library) for development (e.g., Xcode for IOS4 on iPhone and iPad) is made available. "Sandbox" approaches have a development environment with the ability to run cross-platform, but with less functionality for each device.


But however this is handled, the concept should include support for the entire process of creating, and then managing the apps.


Apperian has just released EASE (Enterprise App Services Environment) which provides enterprises with the ability for enterprises to distribute, update, manage, and provision in-house apps to an entire organization.


EASE is currently in beta, so anyone interested in trying it out can do so at http://www.apperian.com/ease.


Cimarron Buser, Apperian


Cancel

@cimarronb


If this EASE thing is your idea of an app store, I can easily name a couple dozen other products that would qualify as app stores too.


Cancel

Long time reader, first time poster, apologies if I don't make sense.


An enterprise app store, and in particular I'm referring to Dazzle here (being a lowly Citrix admin), helps our team with a hands off approach. Because we have a number of internal applications delivered through Citrix, of which most of them have their own username and passwords, it's easier on our admin team to publish all the applications to an enterprise level store and let people subscribe to whatever they want.


Access to the individual apps is still restricted, but it's immediately removed the extra step of administration by having admins enable access to the individual apps, then passing the job to another app specific admin to enable a username and password for the app itself.


It also helps with our department mobile workforce, if someone needs to shift roles, all the (Citrix) apps for their new job are already there, a few mouse clicks in Dazzle gives them the apps and they simply log a job for app access only.


It will address the question of "Where are my apps" for us, and enables the admins to focus more on development work rather than having to ride the enable/disable app access treadmill.


Cancel

hey,


you can remove that extra step of administration by using Citrix Workflow Studio. With a workflow you can fully give the creating new user task to non IT Personal Stuff as well as other daily administrative tasks. Just for information ...


cheers,


Marco


Cancel

@LMcEachran


thanks for your post, and a good first one.  You nailed it. Let the users decide what they need eases administration, and I have a feeling Admins already have enough to do besides managing application/user assignments.


Cancel

I have been showing my hatred for 'dazzle' (specifically) since it was released in 2008.  I have had many discussions about how the whole workflow process of provisioning the app is an excellent idea and really should have more dev work put into it to make it seamless for all involved.  That being said the whole dazzle product is a waste of dev time.  Web Interface is a universal (Windows, OSx, Linux) portal to get a list of your applications.  The only code base difference is in the client itself.  


I think Citrix in particular needs to take a step back and put more dev effort into bringing the back end processes to enterprise level and integrate those into Web Interface which is, in my opinion, the best possible location for this stuff.  I don't want to install another client just to see apps I can already see on WI just so I can have a flashy iTunes clone (why this is the model for a good app still confuses me).


Ask Doug Brown about my opinion on this one, he may chuckle ;)


Cancel

@Nick


100% agree


Cancel

I don't understand why people are so married to Web Interface. It is a really poor piece of technology that is clumsy and scales really poorly. The fact that it enumerates every single object in a farm before it presents a result set makes it very inflexible. I agree having a browser is nice to do this stuff, but I don't agree with WI. Perhaps Dazzle needs a web version with the right workflows built in. I agree with the other posters that user self service is a all good stuff, reducing transactions and the concept of the appstore for the enterprise is a way to connect many disparate resources. This kind of technology could give me a lot of visibility into what users want, do etc. WI as is today, is a legacy technology that is not fit for this purpose, and a drug that too many old school Citrix admins need to get off!


Cancel

Brian,


In JackBe's case, the App Store is merely one part of the conversation and perhaps not even the most important part.  Yes, in our App Store you find, use, and share Apps, much like most Stores.  What's different?  What the Apps are made from and who makes them isn't likely to compare to other Apps in other App Stores.


As you said early in your blog: 'Users can provision their own apps, so instead of entering a helpdesk ticket and waiting weeks for a new app, they can just click the icon in the app store and start using the new app immediately.'  This is similar in concept to JackBe's App Store solution, but it misses a couple of important elements, I think.


Most important, JackBe lets organizations create Apps that are made by mashing together disparate information and adding a portable web-widget interface.  (We've spent years refining solutions that make enterprise-grade mashups and widgets easy and secure).  In other words these aren't simply provisioned from existing applications.  These Apps are entirely new, both in content and function.


Second, the Apps are made not made by the IT folks but by people we often refer to as 'power users'.  The IT folks establish a safe, secure App-making environment (like configure security and register complex mashable data sources) and then give the slick GUI tools to the end-users so they can solve their own questions by doing their own mashing and interface-making.


Does this make the Apps in our App Store comparable to others?  I am definitely not an expert on Dazzle or the other products you mentioned.  But I know what my customers tell me: most App Store solutions are only the store, where the Apps are developed/provisioned using usual IT-centric development/provisioning/virtualization techniques.  There's a place for solutions like these but it's not the kind of Apps we empower enterprises to make.


As you might expect, we have a lot more information and a live cloud-based version of our App Store on our website.  We'd love to have you take a closer look!


Chris Warner


JackBe


Cancel

Appdetective,


  I'm not married to WI because WI is so grand.  I am married to it because I think the platform is the better solution.  I have been advocating putting a ton more dev work into Web Interface, not only to make it faster, more scalable but also to add elements that make it easier to customize.


It needs to become template-able (word?) much like a CMS (Joomla/Mambo).  The whole system needs to be modularized.  


I don't discount the current work devs have put into dazzle. It is flashy, works (...) and I can see my apps.  My disdain may come from the fact they used iTunes as the model for it.  iTunes is the most worthless POS.


There really needs to be a bigger push from Citrix to either bring all of the clients under a single roof (Receiver is the goal there I know) and make it completely seamless for a user to get their apps through 'dazzle' from inside and outside of the company or they need to beef up WI.


Cancel

@Nick Holmquist I think we are in violent agreement here. WI as it stands today is not the architecture to take us forward.


I also agree with you that symmetry of the user experience between internal and external is a worthy goal. Whether Citrix call that WI, or Dazzle or whatever the F they call it next, the plumbing of the current WI really has to be ripped out and rethought. Without this the baggage of the old junk they have today they will never to able to build new capabilities to move forward. That's what I mean when I say too many people are married to WI. They are married to the architecture of today, when for tomorrow we need something designed from the ground up to.


Cancel

I think enterprise app stores have a lot of benefits for end users and enterprises, but the perception is that it's too much trouble or will start software costs spiraling out of control. As several of the posters above have commented, the "business-to-employee" applications really depend on how user enforcement, licensing, payment, and reporting are integrated with the app store. In my experience, IT admins like the idea, but are very worried about the loss of control--or how long it will take to set up the rules to prevent employees from, for instance, buying the $800 Photoshop app to change the background on their vacation photos. (And many of those same IT admins don't bother to do research to see how these issues are addressed.)


I think this is a case where the perception of this--where I believe the negatives are overstated--is really the biggest barrier to wider adoption.


Cancel

What is AppStore?  It IS self service provisioning.  A concept that has been around since 1996 with companies such as Marimba (acquired by BMC software in 2004).  


I will admit to being biased as the original product manager for the formal Self Service components and having implemented the solution to millions of endpoints (over 15 million with Music Match alone - original iTunes) from ISV to large Enterprises.


The adoption is actually quite significant already and many of the tools support Application Virtualization and can be leveraged with VDI/Hyper V.


What do customers require in this area? Flexible UI (Web, GUI, or System Tray Pop Up - yes Marimba - now BMC Bladelogic for Client Automation) has had all 3 for over a decade now), delivery over WAN/LAN (Cloud - since 1996), Definitive Media Library (Application Catalog, also known as Definitive Software Library) that ties into your Asset Management System with Policy Enforcement to ensure Compliance (License, Regulatory, Business), and work flow to request applications that are out of band via trouble ticket or portal.  Note whether applications are forced in the start menu or there is a pop up to select depends on IT based on user sophistication and business rules- those features have been around for a decade...  


The real news around AppStores is for the SMB market - Self Service has been a hot area for well over a decade for the Enterprise.  Many large customers I have worked with over the years will find this is not new news - however - the ease of deploying over the Cloud to the masses is what is really appealing and having the tie in to virtualization will provide compelling opportunity for procurement.  


Some of VMware's new announcements to enable security across the Private and Public Clouds will be even more compelling as companies look to derive more value from existing implementations through extending them throughout the value chain.


This is truly the IT as a Service - reducing the work flows that hinder overall performance and enabling end users to pick and choose what makes sense within the confines of requirements of the business.  


The question is will companies throw out solutions they have invested millions in to adopt the virtual flavor of the month or will they opt to evolve their current self service portals to include virtualization?  I believe it will be the later for the large enterprise but have seen a bigger appetite for SMB for out of the box Self Service.  The compare and shop caters well to that market - most Enterprises have pretty sophisticated procurement processes so those bells and whistles may not be as appealing.


Proactive Supply Chain management is already in play with partners for larger Self Service vendors like BMC that enable their customers to enable an application store for their partners and affiliates. Will the smaller vendors "Dazzle" them with marketing - perhaps - only time will tell.  


The bigger play though will be those that can leverage virtual applications, desktops, etc to reduce regulatory burden and ensure license compliance for verticals such as Healthcare and Education.


AppStore is just a new twist on a very old concept that ties in newer technologies - similar to Cloud Computing.


Cancel

Brian, you should have an updated blog on this one. The theme is catching on, just had Leo@HP talk about this a couple of weeks back, though I guess his definition of an Enterprise AppStore is very different than what you've written or the comments to your post.


Cancel

-ADS BY GOOGLE

SearchVirtualDesktop

SearchEnterpriseDesktop

SearchServerVirtualization

SearchVMware

Close