With the Arrival of Version 10.1, Where Is AppSense DesktopNow Going Now?

On January 11, 2017, AppSense announced the general availability of version 10.1 of its DesktopNow suite. Version 10.0 has been around since June of 2016, but the imminent arrival of Server 2016 led to a rapid movement toward 10.1, which is now viewed as the latest “stable” release. This seems to have been a one-off, in terms of the accelerated 10.1 release, and the schedule is now expected to revert back to the normal AppSense lifecycle. The standard lifecycle encompasses a major version release at the start of each calendar year (so the next major release would be in early 2018), with incremental minor updates and feature releases in between.

10.1 ticks a lot of boxes that were missing from earlier releases. Server 2016 and Windows 10 compatibility is present out of the box, along with the required Personalization Group settings to allow smooth roaming of the trickier Windows 10 and Server 2016 settings, such as the Start Menu database. Localization is (finally!) available, allowing French, Dutch, and German as native languages within the software, with other languages to follow. The handling of GPO ADMX Actions has finally been made easy to use, a bugbear that has dogged the software for several versions now. Additionally, Office 2016 is now fully supported (including Lockdown actions), the management support for Windows Store apps has been extended, and a particularly nasty bug concerning Windows 10 feature upgrades has been squashed.

It’s quite clear that AppSense is focused on getting its flagship product ready for compatibility with Windows 10, Server 2016, and Office 2016, as more and more enterprises start to look seriously at migration toward the latest versions of Microsoft’s leading products. It’s also clear that in view of its acquisition by LANDESK and the subsequent acquisition of LANDESK by Clearlake Capital, which is merging LANDESK with HEAT Software, the-company-soon-to-be-formerly-known-as-AppSense is now part of a wider suite of products that will come together under an (as yet unknown) new name.

LANDESK’s inventory covers a broad suite of products, including asset management, patch management, service desk, mobile management, and security software. HEAT Software is concerned primarily with security, patch management, mobile management, and service desk, so there is obviously a lot of overlap, which will necessitate some consolidation of products. The LANDESK and HEAT merger is obviously designed to launch competition against the other mid-range security-focused companies, like Symantec and McAfee, but where AppSense’s product portfolio fits in is a little less clear.

AppSense does have its own security product, Application Manager, which brings privilege management, application whitelisting, and licensing control to the table. From the perspective of security and asset management, Application Manager could easily be a big value-add for the LANDESK/HEAT product stack. Where the rest of the DesktopNow suite and the DataNow product fit in is not so easy to predict. It may be that AppSense is simply intended to continue with these products as part of a separate arm of the organization, concentrating on its core customers in the Citrix, VMware, RDSH, and VDI markets. On the other hand, it is also possible that the products that seem to be a less natural fit for the parent company’s strategy could be spun off or even scaled back. Alternatively, the new company could attempt to merge the various products together in a super-suite of device management, security, user virtualization, and other assorted pieces, but this I find unlikely, because it is missing the most vital component of any end-to-end suite: application virtualization or layering. This could always be added through a further acquisition (Cloudhouse? FSLogix? even Liquidware?) However, it seems a big ask, even if the application piece were provided, to try to knit such a broad spread of products together in a compelling way—especially given the other solutions out there.

Naturally, the final decision will lie with the strategists, but if they are to continue within their current market, the positioning of AppSense’s DesktopNow software has to be key, because this is an arena where the big players are adding more and more strings to their bows. Citrix has acquired Norskale for UEM capability and recently added Unidesk to provide application and OS layering, which, when combined with XenMobile and its partnership with Azure, gives it a compelling stack of products within the EUC space. VMware has moved in the same ways, adding CloudVolumes and Immidio for application and user virtualization, AirWatch for mobile, and a strategic partnership with AWS for cloud capability. And of course in the background lurks Microsoft, armed with Azure, App-V, UE-V, Intune, SCCM, and ESR. As the big companies position themselves for a race to the cloud, how does AppSense align itself to keep its DesktopNow software relevant?

Over the years, AppSense has stayed in the game by offering features that the bigger companies don’t, and making sure these bring enough of a value-add to keep the software relevant. DataNow migration capability, DesktopNow smooth roaming between disparate OS and profile versions, integrated profile rollback, native scripting engines, etc.—features like these can make the difference for enterprises that have these kinds of requirements. Many customers I deal with have based their entire infrastructure around the broad scope of possibilities afforded by the DesktopNow products. Recently I encountered a business that had managed to adapt it into a functional and reliable software deployment system, which I was very impressed by. However, the approaching Windows 10 migration projects often allow companies to review their entire estates, and at these times, there is sometimes spring cleaning to be done.

From the perspective of the parent company, security, patch management, and asset management are still very lucrative areas when dealing with EUC. Neither Citrix nor VMware has any products specifically in these areas. In fact, VMware is a previous owner of LANDESK’s patching product, Shavlik. However, while security-wise there is scope for growth, user environment management is becoming a crowded space. The prospect of Windows 10 “leveling the field” with regard to OS deployment and changing the way the delivery of the end user environment is done often encourages rethinking of strategy and approach, and this will put pressure on the developers to keep bringing extra value with each subsequent release.

DesktopNow has for a long time been a player in the EUC markets, and with 10.1, it’s reached a level of stability that is ideal for Windows 10 and Server 2016 deployments. As the EUC landscape continues to evolve, it is vital that it continues to offer further innovation—including, most vitally, cloud capability—to avoid being overtaken by the large suites available from the three dominant companies in the market. The security side of the suite may well be absorbed into the LANDESK/HEAT portfolio, but if the rest of the DesktopNow software is to continue to be a force in the EUC market under its own steam, it will need to adapt to fit into the changing market that Citrix and VMware appear poised to fight a battle over.

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James Rankin
James has worked in IT since 1995, spending nearly ten years as a server engineer and systems administrator before choosing to focus heavily on user and application virtualization in late 2004. He currently works for a boutique consultancy called HTG in the north-east of England, focusing mainly on EUC solutions and focusing on cloud, mobility and digital transformation. He is a current CTA (Citrix Technology Advocate) and AppSense Community Advisor (ACA)

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