There are many approaches to offering computing services to mobile staff today. One approach is providing everyone with their own laptop, their own portfolio of applications and making them become their own system manager, security manager and operations manager. Although that is still a very reasonable approach for mobile staff who have strong computing skills, another approach, application streaming, might seem better if the needs of mobile staff who see computers as a necessary evil. What is application streaming?
Several different suppliers have developed ways to encapsulate an application and then deliver it to a staff-members system over the network. Suppliers in this category include AppStream, Endeavors Technology, Softricity (Now part of Microsoft) and a few others.
I've spoken with executives of most of the suppliers mentioned above and what becomes clear is that Windows applications, for the most part, have become so feature rich that very few people use all any given application's features.
Furthermore, it is very likely that these people are only aware of the features they use and aren't even aware of the other features offered by the software. If asked, they would just point out that many of the applications they use are bloated, slow and make it difficult to get things accomplished. The challenge suppliers face is that even though no one uses all of the features of most applications, all of the features are used by someone. It is not at all clear who will come to love and use what features.
Wouldn't it be nice if only the features a person needs were on the system and other features would live up on a server somewhere on the network? That way, seldom used features (for that specific staff member) could be made to come down the network as needed.
Bingo! That's the concept behind application streaming technology.
Here's how Endeavors Technology would describe their technology (and their description is quite similar to that offered by others).
Application streaming is an alternative to installing applications locally on individual PC's.
As an alternative to completely installing a Windows® program on a PC, it is streamed from a central server where only the parts of the application required by the user are installed for immediate use. As additional functionality is required by the user it is streamed on demand. When the user has finished with the application and chooses to do so, all components are completely removed - as if the application was never there.
Depending upon which supplier one speaks with, somewhere between 10% and 20% of any given Windows application needs to reside on a staff member's system most of the time. Some vendors work on streaming individual applications and others would stream virtual machines containing an operating system and an application.
If a staff member's system is connected to that "application streaming" server using a broadband network, going from zero to application in use could require only a few seconds of time.
When that staff members doesn't need the application it could either 1) stay around for the next use or 2) be removed from their system and go back into the organization's license pool.
Why Should Your Organization Care?
There are many reasons that this technology should be of interest to most organizations. Some of these are:
- The cost of installation is sharply reduced. Each staff member's requirements can be noted and the system set up to deliver what's needed when the staff member logs into the network.
- The cost of upgrading software is also reduced. When the organization decided to move to a new version of a software product, it's a simple matter to tell the application streaming software to deliver the new version when the user logs in.
- The cost of software licenses and license administration can be reduced. The organization only needs to acquire enough licenses to handle what's being done now, not enough for everyone to have a license. This means that organizations having worldwide operations should be able purchase much fewer licenses. Systems not in use don't need to be a "license prison."
Does your organization use this technology? Does it live up to the suppliers' claims?