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Q&A: Interview with FSLogix CEO, Talking Application Delivery - Part One

This week, I talked to Kevin Goodman about his new project, FSLogix, which came out of stealth mode late last year at BriForum.  Kevin is a virtualization software industry veteran and former founder of RTOSoft.  His teams have developed products for Citrix, Microsoft and VMware workspace environments, and done OEM projects with companies like Wyse and Symantec to round out their virtualization offerings.  FSLogix was founded by several seasoned industry people, including Randy Cook, the inventor of SVS, an application virtualization solution acquired by Altiris, which later became the cornerstone of Symantec's Endpoint Virtualization Suite.  And their most recent management team addition is CMO Brad Rowland, an early adopter of server based computing, with marketing leadership roles at Wyse, AppStream and Symantec.

VMblog:  Who is FSLogix and what is the vision for your new company?

Kevin Goodman:  Our premise is simple: existing methodologies for delivering and deploying Windows applications are based upon outmoded ideas and outdated technology.  We believe there remains a need for a product that makes it simple for each user to have their Windows applications individually tailored for their device. When a user logs on they should see only the applications that they are licensed to use regardless of whether they are using cloud desktops, virtual desktops or traditional desktops. Users shouldn't have to wait for the application to be streamed down. Meanwhile an administrator should install that application the way the vendor intended it to be installed (e.g., via its .msi file).  We founded FSLogix to solve this need.

VMblog:  Tell us about your new product FSLogix Apps.

Goodman:  Apps is the first step in achieving this vision. Apps is a solution that streamlines image management and application delivery.  It's based on the premise that having fewer gold images is always better, and that it no longer makes sense to break everything down into smaller components and modules.  Apps basically lets administrators load up their gold images without having to worry about application conflicts, license management, or how to manage which user is able to see which application.

Apps is for any type of Windows infrastructure model, server based computing, VDI, traditional desktop, DaaS, any environment you can run Windows.  What it really comes down to is if you could just put everything into an image, and I mean everything, and the right user sees the right app at the right time on the right device, why would you want to make it any more complicated?

VMblog:  Are you saying that you can get any enterprise down to a single gold image?

Goodman:  That's definitely an aspirational goal for our dev team, but I can absolutely tell you that we've been able to help customers cut the number of images they support by 75%, substantially more than they were able to achieve with other tools.  We may not be able to do that for every enterprise today, but even if we can drop it by 50%, and eliminate other tools sets they're using for app delivery, the savings is enormous, both in dollars and administrative overhead.

VMblog:  So how exactly do you do this?

Goodman:  The current version of Apps has three distinct feature groups that work together.  

The first is what we call Dynamic Application Visibility, which is the automation that hides or reveals applications in the image based on a variety of settings.  It could be the user, the machine, the group; there is a wide range of settings we're rolling out, and we refer to these as the Current Context.  The user is only able to see the applications that are appropriate for their context.

VMblog:  But how ‘invisible' are they?  Can a technical user still find them?

Goodman:  No, that's part of our advanced filtering technology.  Even a technical user is not going to be able to find an app on the image unless their Context permits it.

VMblog:  And this is how you're controlling licensing then?

Goodman:  Exactly.  ISVs permit this approach as long as only licensed users can access the appropriate applications and are meeting the other terms of their EULAs.  This doesn't change anything else from that perspective, when an app is hidden from a user it's really as if the app doesn't even exist on the machine.

VMblog:  How quickly can an administrator ‘reveal' or make an app visible when they need to?

Goodman:  App visibility is instant, so is invisibility.  So aside from the primary benefit of managing apps for specific users, think about all the other use cases this enables.  How about something as basic as a new application rollout?  You can stage your rollout for whatever is best in your enterprise, maybe you need to push apps out in stages, and maybe you want to keep running jobs until 100% of the users have the new app installed.  The app is on all the machines but it's invisible.  Then at the right time you switch it on, instantly.  And in case there's an issue you can do literally an instant rollback.  That's the power of Dynamic Application Visibility.

The next feature is our way of doing application virtualization.  We call it lightweight app-virt. 

Back when the cost of disk space was prohibitive, legacy application virtualization vendors concocted a way to copy the application down to the local hard drive at runtime. However, applications that are delivered this way require that either the user has local administrative privileges or that the application doesn't write to any restricted areas such as HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE or the "Program Files" directory. Unfortunately, many applications do this. Consequently, this required that those applications to either be wrapped in a "bubble" or participate in some type of  "privileges elevation" scheme. This is the reason why application virtualization products need sequencing and packaging. Sequencing and packaging is the method used to create the bubble. However, not all applications can be sequenced or packaged using legacy application virtualization. We call our approach "lightweight" because we allow the application to be installed natively. The only virtualization that needs to be performed is on resources that conflict with each other after installation. By way of example, let's say you have an image that is going to be used by both Adobe Acrobat users and users who just need the Adobe Reader.  Isolating the file type associations is trivial compared to attempting to isolate and wrap a bubble around each application.

And since we're doing all of the application visibility, we believe we're in the best position to do the license management.

This model is why we believe we can achieve such a dramatic reduction in images, reduce server silos, help admins get 100% in app rollouts before they go live, and facilitate the transition to DaaS and non-persistent VDI.

VMblog:  Do you see this as a bit of a crowded space?  Aren't there already a lot of very mature products that do this?

Goodman:  We started FSLogix Apps with a clean slate, which is huge.  Technology has changed so much in the last 10 years we wanted a fresh approach that takes into account advances in software, like new ways to do filter technology and simple advances in hardware like large local hard drives.  A lot of the products in the market made sense 10 years ago, we worked on a lot of those products, and they did a great job with technology that was available at the time.  But trying to fix today's problems with technology that was mature before Facebook was founded just doesn't make sense.

There are also new infrastructure models in production today that weren't taken seriously until recently.  A lot of our customers are using multiple models to deploy Windows desktops, including VDI and client side hypervisors, and on top of that they're adding DaaS for remote offices or their offshore facilities.  Some of the most used tools were written before these models were out and have been adapted for them, but were not specifically written for them.

We built a team with some of the best developers in the app virtualization and server based computing space, who also have an extensive background in traditional desktop and server management systems, networking, and security.

When you look at the solutions for managing desktops and apps in the market today you still have limited success with a lot of products.  Even a good app-virt implementation might only have 85% success with packaging.  If you're trying to virtualize every app, what do you do with the other 15% of the apps?  Better yet, does it still make sense to try to repackage everything?  Which apps do you really need to virtualize?

Every IT administrator understands the overhead of having to repackage everything and having to do updates or repackaging every time your apps are rev'd.  What a nightmare.  With all the innovations in the last several years, isn't there a simpler way to do this?  We think there is, and that's why we're sure there's room for a new solution, and not just one tool per task, but a solution that addresses the most important parts of image management and app delivery.  The right solution for our customers shouldn't just address the problems that have today, it be able to help them prepare for what they're doing in the future.  It should help them make the most of their current investment, like having 100% success instead of 85%, and it should help them start to get rid of their aging infrastructure.

So much of what we do in IT is just cumulative and keeps growing and growing.  Wouldn't it be nice to be able to end of life some of the old stuff that isn't really serving it's purpose anymore?  Streamline your management environment and be able to focus on the next set of projects on the horizon?

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Stay tuned for part two of this eye opening interview with Kevin Goodman from FSLogix.

Published Tuesday, January 28, 2014 8:22 AM by David Marshall
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