Is this the end of Application Packaging?
Anyone who has ever been related to Application Packaging in the last couple of years, as an IT manager, packager, or administrator, has asked themselves these questions:
“What is happening with packaging? Will packaging become obsolete? Should we switch to other technologies? Could we build packages ourselves in the future? Should we outsource packaging to Service providers?”
Let me tell you what I’m envisioning for the upcoming future and what I believe will happen within the Application Packaging industry.
Application Packaging has always been an integral part of IT operations and OS migrations, and yet, finally, we see that one of those processes – OS migration is being more or less eliminated.
Within a new Microsoft Windows 10 concept, we may not require application packaging as much as before, because OS structure is not changing as dramatically this time around, so we won’t require OS to OS migrations. You all know Windows 10 changed to version updates, so you may not require to re-package all the applications from scratch. Yes, you still may need to re-test applications to make sure those are compatible with the new version or maybe apply some tweaks if needed as you re-test applications.
All of that means we still require IT operational Application Packaging.
To be honest, I don’t believe we will be able to get rid of IT operational Application Packaging in the nearest future. My conviction is based on the fact that we will always have to support our end-users and make sure we have a secured environment which means maintaining application updates and releases.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we are stuck with Application Packaging forever, in fact, there is a bright future I see already, and it’s called MSIX. This is a new packaging type that should bring a lot of changes and I wrote an article about MSI vs MSIX comparison and here you can read it (MSI vs MSIX)
As soon as the majority of the vendors will start delivering their applications in MSIX type, we will be one step further away from Application Packaging, but it all depends on each vendor individually. When that will happen, hard to say but my prediction is within the next 5 years.
So right now, I think for a while we might be ‘stuck’ in the middle between the two worlds: the old (MSI, App-V, ConfigMgr) and the new (MSIX, UWP, Appx, Intune). I’ve worked with companies that are further down the road with modern workspace but there is still a countless number of enterprises that are not even close to where they should be and with the existing pandemic, they are falling behind even more.
Let me bring up a couple of options on how you could reduce the effort while advancing with this transition or staying in ‘’the middle’’ for a while because changes are inevitably coming and bring a lot of uncertainty with them.
Firstly, you have to have someone (either on-site or outsourced) who is able to support your current environment, IT operations – referring to the old packages. Most likely you already have that person in place, but just in case you haven’t secured this task and would like to enquire about Application Packaging services done by UonCloud, please reach out.
Secondly, you will need to decide on your future application delivery strategy to your end-users, and I’m happy to share some options that I’ve seen companies following (the majority of them will require Application Packaging to some extent):
1. Intune – you publish applications to end-users through the Company Portal, a lot of companies are already exploring this as their first option.
- You can utilize existing application packages built for ConfigMgr that you already have and try to convert them into either MSIX or Win32 type or use LOB type. Not all applications will work in your chosen type, either you might need to tweak them a bit or create from scratch, or in the worst-case application is not compatible.
- If you don’t have Application Packages, then I would recommend that you build them first as MSI and then convert them into Win32 type, as I mentioned before if you require assistance, we @UonCloud will be happy to consult (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Why Win32 type? Because this is the most convenient approach with a lot of options to maintain and support your applications afterward.
2. Co-Management – you have both environments Intune and ConfigMgr, so end-users are installing applications either from Software Center or Company Portal, actually, most enterprises are having this structure in place, but even though it comes with a lot of options, it also creates quite a few headaches:
- You have all of the options at your fingertips “how to deliver” and “what application type to use”, and it is more important to remember that all applications will not fit the same type that you choose.
- If I would manage such an environment, the first step I would do is to categorize applications by business criticality and user count. Then I would look at each application individually and decide what would be the best scenario for my end-users and application functionality itself because some applications will give you a lot of trouble converting due to backend, integrations, and support. In that case, leave them as is and don’t try to change them just to fit the new type.
3. Windows virtual desktop – you provide users with a modern workspace, a remote desktop through which end-users are accessing applications (MSIX App Attach). Not many companies are going this path, yet.
- You build proper MSI packages first and then try to convert them into MSIX.
- If it doesn’t work as MSIX you still have an MSI package that you can publish in a different way.
4. SaaS – you must explore if you can replace current applications with SaaS software, there are a lot of options out there but you might be spending a lot of time to find the right replacement, and what about historic data?
- If you are a small or medium-size organization then you might have a chance to reduce the number of supported applications, but if you are an enterprise then I don’t see it as an option to replace existing applications.
Lastly, if you have an in-house Application Packager then you are a winner because you can utilize their skills to help you determine the right strategy. Most of these guys are experts and they should be able to tell you which applications would fit which scenario or type. Talk to them or reach out to UonCloud if seeking advice.
- Application Packaging is not going away – you will need packagers on ongoing IT operation, tweaks or fixes on applications accordingly. They are experts and they can help to determine the right approach and strategy.
- Try building and converting Application Packages yourself and if it doesn’t work, don’t spend time and energy – outsource to experts who know how to fix it, so that the application meets your needs.
I know for sure that some of you will have other ideas and I encourage you to share them, so we can all learn!
Please post your feedback and comments, so we can discuss and help others.
Written by: Martins Kurtiss