One day, perhaps, all applications may be delivered within a web browser with back end services offered in the Cloud. One day, perhaps, there will a single web standard that each and every web browser adheres to. One day, perhaps, a web browser platform will offer the rich user interface and controls that a more traditional desktop OS can provide without a raft of add-ons and controls. However, as we mentioned in our article on The Rise of Application Operations and the Role for Next Generation APM Solutions the reality is that custom developed applications have been developed in countless different ways ranging from FoxPro and dBase, to Visual Basic, C, C++, MFC, COM+.
This causes an issue for ISVs who have products developed using such technologies. How can they meet their customers’ demands to deliver the application to a wider range of devices; to charged for the application using a Software-as-a-Service model; indeed, to reduce the complexity and lead time for application delivery that is often associated with a traditional application that has to be installed locally within a client operating system. Moreover, is it possible to provide support and delivery of applications that require specific operating environment components as customers move to Windows 7 and beyond?
To attempt to resolve these requirements, Ericom Software have announced Ericom AccessCloud – a new initiative aimed at facilitating the adoption of Cloud-hosted services, including Software as a Service (SaaS), multi-tenancy, and billing and automatic provisioning solutions, by ISVs and cloud-hosting companies.
Ericom AccessCloud is intended to provide a comprehensive solution for ISVs who want to both SaaS-enable their single tenant Windows client / server applications, and support their customers’ migration of their IT services to a Cloud infrastructure without undertaking time-taking major code rewrites.
ISVs could look at using application virtualisation solutions such as those from Spoon or Endeavours Technologies. However – while application virtualisation offers a delivery mechanism – having a solution built around desktop virtualisation provides access to a range of devices and crucially allows the ISV the option of providing an entire service – not just the application, but the data storage and management.
AccessCloud provides a quick and easy means to web-enable Windows applications and offer a SaaS-enablement . With Ericom AccessCloud, Cloud hosting companies can undertake a new revenue option to grow their business, by offering services to ISVs who have Windows client/server applications to get to the Cloud and provide their applications on a SaaS model.
Ericom AccessCloud benefits for ISVs include:
- Shorter deployment times – ISVs can offer their applications as a full SaaS offering within a much shorter timescale compared to the extensive time (and risk) it would take to re-develop or port the applications to pure web technologies.
- Complete control – optimizes the IT infrastructure for an application’s SaaS-specific requirements
- Global availability – functionality that is available from anywhere on the Internet increasing the market opportunities available.
- Wider Device Access – applications become accessible from a range of end-point device, including PCs, laptops, Macs, Chromebooks, iPad / iPhone, Android, RIM Blackberry / Playbook, etc.
Ericom Software are able to deliver this initiative by utilising the Ericom AccessNow HTML5 RDP Client which also has a version for VMware View. Back in July we reviewed an earlier release, which has since been updated. There could also be an option for the hosting provider to utilise Ericom’s PowerTerm WebConnect connection broker.
Effectively, Ericom are providing a framework that can be used by Cloud Hosting providers to allow ISVs to utilise Cloud Hosting companies’ infrastructure to host virtualised desktops to deliver the application and associated infrastructure.
It is true to say similar services could be offered utilising technologies from the likes of Citrix, Quest and VMware’s desktop virtualisation technologies. However, each of these vendors’ solutions requires that end users install specific client components, targeted at specific devices. Citrix’s Receiver for example, is available on a variety of platforms – for Windows, for Mac, for Blackberry, Android, iOS etc. Yet, while it is free to download and install the Receiver itself has a deployment infrastructure that needs to be managed and maintained.
Ericom believe that the simplicity of and ease of access offered by HTML5 offers ISVs customers an easy route to the service, with the focus being on the management of the application being delivered, not the delivery mechanism.
It will, however, be interesting to see how the application’s user experience is managed. There is the very relavant issue of managing and maintaining the application performance but also, how does the end device’s browser support HTML5, and does the HTML5 client offer the same functions as a locally delivered application? What is the impact of different form factors? While it is possible to deliver applications using desktop virtualisation across a range of devices – the screen real estate available can differ, and there can be subtle (sometimes irritating) differences between keyboard/gesture/mouse use.
Other desktop virtualisation vendors are looking to resolve this issue. Citrix have been developing the XenApp Mobile Application SDK. That SDK is also targeted at enterprise developers, System Integrators, and ISVs to create new mobile-friendly applications to be hosted on Citrix’s XenApp. The SDK includes APIs to allow developers to create touch enabled UI’s for new and existing enterprise applications. With these new APIs the applications can leverage the unique capabilities of smartphones and tablets, allowing full access to device sensors and capabilities such as GPS, camera, and accelerometer.
Yet, such new functionality (once it is complete) requires new development, and new development needs use cases and will have a cycle of development time. Ericom’s AccessCloud initiative is targeted as a solution that ISVs could utilise to offer a service to their customers in a far shorter timescale.