Now, this isn’t a question of how many times can I get now in the title in some sort of unusual Now Bingo game. In January, AppSense, quietly went about re-branding its Management Suite (consisting of Management Center, Application Manager, Environment Manager and Performance Manager) as  AppSense DesktopNow although it’s all official now.

Now, the reasoning was straightforward: while AppSense has a history in helping organisations manage the user workspace, they’ve also been working hard to broaden horizons. AppSense now has two other significant offerings, DataNow and MobileNow.

Now, eschewing suggestions from Interflora, rather than say it with flowers AppSense celebrated Valentines Day by announcing a number of enhancements to DesktopNow, including new enterprise features and capabilities. What are these? Are they more than just some in-play re-branding and how important are these changes in a world that, some say, no longer needs the PC?


How Can the Desktop be Now if the PC is Dead?

Now, while a common theme is understandable from a marketing perspective, DesktopNow almost sells the Management Suite short.  The AppSense Management Suite doesn’t only virtualize the desktop. Application lock-down and control, licensing control, user rights management, performance optimizations, reporting and monitoring are all features. The whole suite was capable of delivering more than one thing.

Now arguably, “now” is a trifle keen as well. While user virtualization and performance management improves the user experience, the process of configuration and deployment of the full suite in a medium-to-large enterprise can often be complex. If there was a key new feature for such technologies, it would be in automating the assessment and configuration of the tools as much as possible. That said, one saving grace of the new title is that it focuses the exec mind on what all that time, cost and effort is for.

Now, it is is fair to say that the tablet and smart phone are attacking the dominance of the desktop and laptop estate. But, in a corporate environment desktops, laptops; physical and virtual workspaces are still here and will be for some time. Windows 7 environments will still need to be managed, profiles will still need to be maintained and environment will still need to be secured, supported, managed and maintained. The PC is not dead.

 

Whats New in DesktopNow?

Now, while DesktopNow maintains the components of the AppSense Management suite, the recent announcements highlight feature release changes in those: all be it minor point rather than major. It is still the case that although AppSense would highlight the advantages of the suite as a while, components of that suite can still be purchased separately.

DesktopNow Components

  • AppSense Application Manager  – Version 8, Feature Release 6  has configuration options for Enterprises to allow multiple teams to configure options and those options be merged at the client, or to only send delta changes to the end point  and those options to be merged at the client; Powershell support for scripted rules; better patching;  enhanced URL redirection by client IP address; simplified interface for User Rights Management and a cleaner console layout. 
  • AppSense Environment Manager – Version 8, Feature Release 4 has the same improvements as App Manager in terms of agile policy configuration and deployment, Systems Centre integration, easier installation, improved patching and support for Microsoft SQL 2012.Is the time now for Windows 8 support? Not quite.”Broadly compatible” from 8.3.192 but there is still work to do.
  • AppSense Performance Manager – Version 8, Feature Release 1, erm – this bit hasn’t really changed: even the document branding is old school – so data housekeeping updates and timed stats collection.. anyhoo..
  • AppSense Management Center – Version 8, Feature Release 4 SP1 had APIs to facilitate direct control of the of the Management Server using scripts, patching support and an easier install process. Note the default SQL Express install has been updated to 2008R2 and .NET 4 is now a pre-requisite.

 

Application Manager – User Rights Management Edition

Now, it is a good security practice to remove local administrative privileges and admin rights. Gartner found that organizations could save up to $653 per system per year when removing administrator rights: although interestingly, those savings come about about more from productivity for the user (who spends less time self administering) than IT.  As an aside, give the book Preventing Good People From Doing Bad Things: Implementing Least Privilege a read.

Now, AppSense Application Manager User Rights Management Edition is designed to provide key user rights management features to enable customers to rapidly embrace least privilege management. A focus on Contextual control of rights management and invocation  and control of dialogue boxes and child-processes. Handily, it does have an upgrade path to the full AppSense Application Manager product which provides additional functionality to dynamically control application access entitlement, End-point analysis and application usage scans, network access control and cost management features such as per device license enforcement to name but a few.

Now, if you would like a full feature comparison by all means check out the Application Management URM Edition product page. An interesting play against other URM vendors such as Avetco, or Arellia. Will Environment Manager follow a  similar trend where it is possible to pair down functionality – targeting issues, reducing cost and time to roll-out. We will see.

Growing Beyond Desktop Virtualization

Now, it might be about desktops now, but it won’t always be so. DataNow offers user file syncronisation across a range of devices including Android and iOS while  MobileNow gives secure mobile application and device management with a secure native email client for iOS and Android.

Now, Appsense are not alone in broadening their portfolio. RES Software for example, as well as Workspace Manager have Automation Manager, Hyperdrive and Desktop Analyzer. Liquidware have products to compliment ProfileUnity. The interesting thing here both AppSense and RES Software , two significant players in the user virtualization space are moving beyond pure user virtualization/persona management. Although the PC isn’t dead, enterprises are no longer just concerned about a workspace delivery to desktop/laptop devices. The tablet and smartphone experience doesn’t readily benefit from having a remoted desktop. Applications and data, and revenue opportunities, are going beyond the desktop and desktop virtualization.

Now, while that is true there is significant interest generated towards AppSense from deploying desktop virtualization products from likes of Citrix (XenApp/XenDesktop), and VMware (View) – both of those vendors have a number of similar offerings in the same space. Not only in profile management, but in mobile app/device management and data delivery. Obviously, for AppSense maintaining their customer base,  there are benefits in delivering new features. But there is a question – can (and will) AppSense maintain their partner eco-system when those partners are also offering Citrix/VMware products that increasingly overlap? While DesktopNow is far ahead in user virtualization and workspace management features, DataNow is currently far less feature rich than (say) Citrix’s ShareFile or Syncplicity. More importantly, mobile is where it is currently at. While there is a market advantage in having a wide range of competition to driving innovation up and cost down, will relying on “if we build it they will come” work?  

Now, in the year 2000 Moloko sang “The time is Now”: if this post had an accompanying theme tune, I could have used that.  The availability of AppRightsManagementLiteNow (might need some work on that title) is interesting. The new features of DesktopNow components, while not monumental are significant and continue to justify AppSense as a leader in user virtualization  But beyond feature releases,  it will be interesting to see how AppSense leverage their expertise in enterprise engagement to use MobileNow and DataNow and whatevercomesnext now to extend their influence in the enterprise in a beyond-PC era.

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Andrew Wood (144 Posts)

Andrew is a Director of Gilwood CS Ltd, based in the North East of England, which specialises in delivering and optimising server and application virtualisation solutions. With 12 years of experience in developing architectures that deliver server based computing implementations from small-medium size business to global enterprise solutions, his role involves examining emerging technology trends, vendor strategies, development and integration issues, and management best practices.

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