What Is VMware App Volumes?

Faster delivery, lower costs

VMware App Volumes™ is an application packaging solution that provides real-time application delivery and life-cycle management for digital workspaces. App Volumes provides faster application delivery and simplified and unified management of apps and users, while at the same time reducing IT costs. App Volumes does this by abstracting Windows applications from the base operating system and delivering those applications through virtual disks. This is a different way of doing things, which enables you to clean up your golden desktop image and manage it separately from the applications that are installed.

Digital workspaces includes VMware Horizon®, Horizon Cloud Service on Microsoft Azure, Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, and Remote Desktop Service Hosts (RDSH). The App Volumes architecture is different for each integration. This document focuses on one of the possible integrations: vSphere-based VMware Horizon environments.

This introductory demo shows what VMware App Volumes can do for you and your organization:

 

 

Now that you have an idea of what App Volumes is about, read on to find out how it does what it does, and some of its key features.

A different way of doing things

With VMware App Volumes, we’re changing the application delivery process. App Volumes delivers applications to desktops through virtual disks. So, instead of installing an application on hundreds and hundreds of desktops, you install it once, capture that in an image, and apply the image to hundreds and hundreds of desktops. App Volumes attaches containers called “packages” with applications to your virtual machine, and those applications are displayed live to the end user.

Applications are delivered by attaching a standard VMware Virtual Machine Disk File (VMDK) or Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) file to a virtual machine. You can centrally manage the applications, and there’s no need to modify the desktops or individual applications.

All Application Programs are packaged as fully installed, and delivered in real-time to the user's session. To end users, the applications that App Volumes delivers look and feel like natively installed applications.

Key features

Traditionally, desktop components such as applications, user data, and custom settings were tightly coupled with the operating system. App Volumes decouples that arrangement, untangling the OS, applications, and user personalization. App Volumes separates the applications into packages, which you can define. App Volumes uses an entirely different package for persisting user changes between sessions.

Graphical user interface, application

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Figure 1: Basic App Volumes architecture on a vSphere-based platform

As an IT admin, this makes it easier for you to apply updates, and to make small changes to individual applications quickly. It means you can update or modify these elements without creating a whole new desktop image, and make these updates or modifications available to your end users that much faster. App Volumes reconstitutes each element on-demand when your end users need it. You can deliver just-in-time desktops and applications across any infrastructure topology, and to any device.

Provides powerful and streamlined app and user management

Whether your virtual desktop and RDSH/published application environments are powered by Horizon or by Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, App Volumes simplifies management of both applications and users.

  • App Volumes supports enterprise-scale capabilities such as streamlined updates and assignments, quick and easy rollbacks, and application lifecycle management.
  • App Volumes make it easier to deliver applications, update applications, assign applications, and manage the lifecycle of applications – and users – across virtual desktop (VDI) and published application environments.
  • You can apply context-aware user policies and profile management through App Volumes, which provides secure and personalized access to desktops and applications.

Lowers costs without sacrificing user experience

App Volumes can lower costs while continuing to deliver a customizable and persistent user experience across desktop sessions.

  • App Volumes reduces management costs by efficiently delivering applications from one virtual disk to many desktops or published application servers.
  • App Volumes delivers zero-downtime updates, and one-to-many provisioning which lowers storage and operational costs.
  • App Volumes supports a stateless desktop that does not sacrifice user experience for lower cost.
  • You can manage applications in volumes, which reduces storage capacity requirements without impacting network and compute resources.
  • You can decouple OS images and applications, which helps reduce the number of images to manage.

Offers a reliability platform for cloud-based environments

App Volumes provides reliability, consistency, and extensibility.

  • App Volumes provisions applications faster, delivers context-aware user policies, and isolates applications as needed for a personalized, reliable, and consistent user experience.
  • Application delivery and user management services are built on an extensible platform for cloud-based technologies.
  • App Volumes includes out-of-the-box integrated services, such as app delivery, user management, and monitoring for cloud-based environments.
  • App Volumes also includes built-in integrations into Horizon and Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure which enable you to utilize both from the same UI.

Supports Horizon, Citrix, and RDSH environments

Supported environments for App Volumes include VMware Horizon, Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, and RDS-hosted environments.

  • Horizon – App Volumes is included in VMware Horizon Enterprise. If you have Horizon, you have App Volumes and the real-time application delivery, application isolation, and user management features that App Volumes provides.
  • Citrix – You can optimize your Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop, XenApp, or XenDesktop environment with App Volumes. App Volumes allows real-time application delivery, application isolation, and user management, which can enhance your investment in XenApp and XenDesktop.
  • RDSH – You can enhance your RDS-hosted environment with App Volumes to achieve real-time application delivery, application isolation, and user management.

Provides secure, personalized access via desktop, cloud, or physical

Your end users can access from any device and any location. Even though you are constructing non-persistent desktops dynamically, your end users are getting a personalized and persistent experience every time they log in.

  • On the backend, App Volumes separates the OS image from the app images, enabling you to apply updates or even small changes to individual applications quickly and make that available to your end users. To the end user, that means access to the most up-to-date applications without waiting.
  • Because of the OS image-app image separation, you can use App Volumes to install and display an app to a single individual, even if that individual is the only one who needs that app. To the end user, that means they get the applications they need to get their job done, even if their need is unique.
  • On the backend, you can apply context-aware user policies and profile management through App Volumes. To the end user, that means secure and personalized access to desktops and applications.

For more details, see the App Volumes product page.

Basic vSphere-based architecture

A typical App Volumes environment consists of a few key components that interact with each other, and with an external infrastructure. That external infrastructure can be one of a number of supported platforms such as VMware solutions like VMware Horizon, VMware Horizon Cloud on Microsoft AzureVMware ThinApp, and VMware User Environment Manager, or third-party solutions such as Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, Citrix XenApp, Citrix XenDesktop, and Microsoft Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH) environments. Support for additional infrastructures is continually being added.

Note that App Volumes is architected differently on each different infrastructure. We don’t go into detail about all possible infrastructures here. Instead, we describe the basic architecture for vSphere-based Horizon environments. To find out about some of the other supported integrations of App Volumes, the Reference Architecture is a great resource:

App Volumes components

For a vSphere-based environment, App Volumes uses management servers that connect to deployed virtual desktops that run an App Volumes Agent. As the IT administrator, you would work with the following components:

Diagram

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Figure 2: Basic App Volumes architecture on a vSphere-based platform

Note: Remember that the above diagram depicts a vSphere-based environment, which would look quite different for another platform. If your environment is SaaS, for example, the architecture is much simpler because most of these components are in the cloud.

  • App Volumes Agent – The agents are installed on VDI or server farm images where Application Packages and Writable Volumes are delivered.
  • Application – Applications can include the collection of versions of a program that can be assigned to and used by users, groups, computers, or organizational units (OUs).
  • Packages – As an IT administrator, you assign groups of applications (packages) located on shared storage to individual users, groups of users, and virtual machines (VMs). For example, you can assign core applications to everyone, departmental applications to specific user groups, and individual applications for one-off user assignments of specialized applications. Each package stores one or more programs required for an application to run. A single package can be delivered to multiple computers and to one or many users.
  • Writable Volume – As well as the packages of applications, you can also deliver writable volumes, which are empty VMDK or VHD files that contain personalized data such as the user profile, licensing, configuration, user-installed applications, and other settings. You can assign a writable volume to a specific user, which is then available to that user from any device upon login.
  • Storage Group – You can configure Storage Groups to automatically replicate Application Packages or distribute Writable Volumes across multiple datastores. You can also use them to define a group of datastores that should all contain the same Application Packages, such as when using departmental applications.
  • App Volumes Manager – This is the web-based interface integrated with Active Directory (AD) and vSphere, which consists of services that orchestrate application delivery and interface with the vSphere environment. You can use App Volumes Manager to manage assignments of volumes to users, groups, and target computers, collect Application Packages and Writable Volumes usage information, maintain a history of administrative actions, and automate assignment of applications and Writable Volumes for agents during desktop startup and user login.
  • SQL Server – The App Volumes database is a Microsoft SQL or SQL Server Express database that contains configuration information for Application Packages, Writable Volumes, and end users.
  • Active Directory – App Volumes uses the Active Directory (AD) database which contains critical data about your environment and resources, and your end users and which entitlements are granted to each.
  • vCenter Server – App Volumes uses vCenter Server to connect to resources within the vSphere environment.
  • vSphere Hosts – These are the data storage devices on which the ESX or ESXi hypervisor has been installed, each of which can create multiple VMs.

For details, see Introduction to VMware App Volumes.

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