Dealing with the application explosion

Users deal with more apps across more devices than ever before. How to meet the management challenge? Citrix's Chandra Sekar and Kevin Strohmeyer offer an answer

The application landscape has changed forever. With fat local apps, Web apps, SaaS apps, and mobile apps, it's becoming harder to manage and secure the unprecedented diversity of applications that drive the enterprise. In this week's New Tech Forum, Chandra Sekar (senior director of product marketing for Citrix Mobile Platforms) and Kevin Strohmeyer (director of product marketing for Desktops and Apps) of Citrix take us through some of the challenges and potential solutions to deal with today's app explosion. -- Paul Venezia

It's all about the apps

For a generation or more, IT has thought about end-user computing in terms of a Microsoft Windows desktop. But today, when you ask people what really matters to them, they talk about the applications they rely on to get their work done. Inside and outside the enterprise, those apps are diversifying rapidly.

With not only Windows applications, but also Web, mobile, and SaaS apps, the desktop no longer stands alone in defining the user experience. For IT, the challenge now is to deliver the apps people need, where they need them, while maintaining security and control -- regardless of app type, device, or location.

The latest Citrix research paints a clear picture of the changing enterprise landscape. Our survey last year of 733 customers across the globe found:

  • 64 percent of the apps in their enterprises today are Windows-based
  • 20 percent are Web or HTML5
  • 10 percent as SaaS
  • 6 percent are currently mobile

When asked to anticipate what they'll be doing just a year from now, customers describe a changing mix:

  • The share of Windows apps is predicted to be at 54 percent
  • Web/HMTL5 apps rise to 23 percent
  • SaaS apps rise to 14 percent
  • Mobile rises to 9 percent

Windows will continue to be the dominant platform, but to focus too narrowly on the traditional desktop paradigm risks overlooking a fundamental change in the way people are using apps.

Increasingly, the new way of working is characterized by a mobile workspace that securely delivers apps, desktops, files, and services to users on any device from which they choose to work, over any network. In a multidevice mobile world, you need to support a heterogeneous computing environment while ensuring effective security, minimizing complexity, and controlling costs.

As IT strategy focuses on delivering apps to any device, three key challenges emerge.

1. Mobilizing your existing portfolio

No part of IT is more important than the application portfolio. Organizations likely rely on hundreds or thousands of apps to empower people to reach full productivity, generate business value, and move organizations forward. As new delivery models and emerging use cases transform mobile workstyles, companies need ways to continue to leverage their app portfolio investments while meeting a complex matrix of new requirements. How will they deliver existing Windows apps to mobile devices? Should they develop their own mobile apps -- or can they afford to wait until native mobile or SaaS versions of commercial Windows apps become available?

Windows application hosting plays a crucial role here. While desktop virtualization models like VDI have received more attention lately, application hosting continues to provide a simple way to mobilize Windows applications for nondesktop workspaces, like smartphones and tablets. Instead of incurring the vast amounts of time and expense required to develop new mobile versions of enterprise applications, solutions like Citrix XenApp deliver applications and data optimized for more native mobile experiences, without back-end recoding. Because virtualized apps continue to be delivered from the same centrally managed instance that supports VDI, enterprises can minimize overhead and make new updates available in every usage scenario simultaneously.

2. Delivering enterprise-ready mobile apps with consumerlike features

Mobility is one of the main drivers of shadow IT, as users bring consumer-grade apps into the enterprise to compensate for the lack of IT-issued, enterprise-ready mobile apps. Native mobile email clients and Web browsers, file sharing services like Dropbox, and mobile calendaring apps all serve important user needs, but they invite security breaches and complicate life for IT. Often, they also lack key enterprise features necessary for full productivity.

Whether through in-house development or a third-party vendor, IT needs to provide sanctioned, enterprise-ready alternatives to consumer-grade mobile apps. To succeed, these apps have to pass the toughest test of all: user acceptance. One way to do this is to provide business-oriented features beyond the scope of a consumer app or service, such as the ability to add an attachment to a meeting invitation or join a meeting right from the calendar request. Equally important, though, the app must offer the consumerlike experience users demand and maintain consistency with the look and feel of the iOS or Android apps they've been using.

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