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Application Deployment is Getting More Complex. The Virtues of Simplifying.

By: Randy Littleson

If you’re responsible for application deployment within a company, your life is getting more complex. In a small company, you may still travel around to computers to deploy applications – personally ensuring consistency and standardization that makes help desk support reasonable. Of course, in larger companies, this is not an option, so you need to centralize application deployment. The traditional approach has been to have IT staff install an application and then repackage it to conform to corporate standards. Then a system management tool like Microsoft Systems Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) is used to push the application package out to the many Windows desktops throughout the company.

Over the last couple of years, this seemingly straightforward application deployment process has grown much more complex. To start with, as much as 30% of an enterprises’ applications change each year, requiring a new deployment to be done each time and making this a full-time job function. Best-in-class companies have developed and automated Application Readiness processes that manage this entire workflow. The steps in a typical process include:

  • Identify: identify deployed and used applications
  • Rationalize: eliminate duplicate applications from the inventory
  • Access Compatibility: determine suitability for migration/upgrade
  • Plan: plan the migration or upgrade in line with business objectives
  • Fix & Package: convert applications to required format and standardize configuration
  • Deploy: deploy the packaged applications

The other major contributor to increasing complexity is the growing diversity in application deployment options. Historically, applications were deployed as on-premise applications – installed on the local desktop or server within your enterprise. And, the format was also pretty standardized – most applications were in the Microsoft MSI format. But, today, application deployment options and formats have evolved to give enterprises more options to optimize costs, management, security, performance and other factors. Today, options exist to utilize SaaS/on-demand and cloud applications, application virtualization and even to virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) itself. This growing diversity has the potential to overwhelm the IT organization with help desk requests if not properly managed.

One of the best ways to simplify application deployment while taking advantage of the latest deployment options is to integrate support for them into your Application Readiness process. The exact same steps should be utilized to manage applications regardless of end destination. Standardizing the processes helps ensure consistency, accuracy and results.

In order to do this, you need to make sure that the underlying tools that automate and manage your Application Readiness process support all of the options you want to consider. For instance, your application compatibility capabilities need to support assessing whether an application is going to work on Windows 7 or 8 and/or whether or not application virtualization is an option. Assessing this requires that you support all of the major virtualization vendors – from Microsoft to VMware and Citrix – since our experience has been that few companies standardize just on one and/or may use compatibility assessment as a factor in determining which vendor to go with. Likewise, your fix & package capabilities need to equally support the ability to work on MSI or a virtual application package. You want to be able to train your staff to know how to address all of the variables your organization wishes to leverage and this is simplified if you have a common toolset for managing all of the desired options.

Another dimension to consider is how applications are deployed. While centrally managing and “pushing” applications to desktops will still be the default option for bulk operations, increasingly, companies are seeking ways to embrace the consumerization of IT via enterprise app stores. An enterprise app store lets your users request the applications that they need to do their jobs, while IT ensures that pre-packaged and compatible applications are available in the app store. They also provide governance and control by managing the approval workflows to ensure that people are only requesting applications approved by their management. Handling software requests through an enterprise app store can save a lot of money by reducing help desk costs.

The arrival of new deployment options can be a great asset to IT – helping them deliver more value to the business while increasing security, performance and application management. But, the only way to realize these benefits in a cost effective way is to simplify via a consistent Application Readiness process across all application and deployment types. The ability to package once, deploy anywhere enables IT to really embrace these new options to their advantage.

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