Why Application Packaging?

In order to understand why organisations adopt application packaging, we must first understand what application packaging is before we delve into the benefits of using it.

What is Application Packaging?

Application Packaging is the process of wrapping up an application/piece of software, its associated binaries and configurations, into a format which can be consistently delivered to specific endpoints.

Before Application Packaging

In the early days of networking, many IT users would install software themselves using floppy disks and CD-ROMs.  Of course, this in turn meant that these users were probably local administrators and could install anything they wanted!  And with the prevalence of the internet, this became a dangerous practise.

It also meant that these users would often be required to configure the application themselves – whether this be editing the registry, creating an ODBC entry or otherwise.  And having multiple users going through the same time-consuming process of manually installing and configuring the application was an inefficient and inconsistent process.

Behold the IT administrator

IT administrators understood that allowing everybody to install whatever they wanted whenever they wanted posed a huge security risk.  So they began to lock-down each desktop.  This meant that users could no longer install applications by themselves, and instead software could only be installed by authorised administrators.

Whilst this was great from a security perspective, it also meant that IT technicians would be running around the building with half a dozen floppy disks and CD-ROMs, installing applications on multiple endpoints for multiple users.  Not only was this time consuming and inefficient, but once again the configurations across every single endpoint were inconsistent and conflict prevention measures (DLL hell) were non-existent.

When enterprises expanded into huge networks of thousands of users and devices, this approach became unfeasible and maintaining licensing compliance was a huge challenge due to the un-managed nature of manual software installations.

Automated Software Deployment

Enterprises began to deploy software over the network (using Group Policy, SMS and other tools) to multiple endpoints concurrently at the click of a button.  This saved huge amounts of time, cost and created a much more agile workplace.

But software couldn’t be deployed in its native format.  Application binaries couldn’t just be ‘dumped’ onto an endpoint because installations are more complex than that.  COM assemblies require registration, ODBC entries require setting up, environment variables creating, services configuring, registry entries tweaking and much more.  Users couldn’t be expected to do this and they generally wouldn’t have permissions to do this at a machine-level either.

Users also couldn’t be expected to manually click ‘Next’, ‘Next’, ‘Finish’.  It all needed to be automated and perhaps even silent/hidden, so that you could guarantee that your target endpoints had successfully received the software configured in exactly the same way.

Why Application Packaging?

Application packaging enables us to automate the installation and configuration of applications/software on an endpoint.  This means that end-users rarely have to do anything other than request access to the applications, and then every user that receives the ‘packaged’ application adopts the exact same configurations and consistent look and feel.

Not only are these application packages tested in isolation, but (where applicable) they are conflict tested with other ‘managed’ application packages to ensure that the endpoint they are installed on remains stable at all times.

Think about how much time this saves IT administrators from manually installing software?  The reduction in support calls for misconfigured applications and incorrectly installed/conflicting applications?  The reduction in waiting times for end-users?  And the increased business continuity as a result?

Application packages come in a myriad of formats nowadays.  The MSI (Microsoft Windows Installer) format is commonly used to install software locally on an endpoint.  But with the advent of virtual environments there are other packaging formats that utilise streaming technology such as Microsoft App-V.  And even containerised formats such as Docker and Chocolatey.

Does Your Organisation Require Application Packaging Services?

If your organisation requires an expert application packaging service, please get in touch using the details on our contact page.

Application Packaging Service for the NHS

NHSAlkane Solutions have been successfully providing a specialist application packaging service to the NHS for several years. We have extensive experience of packaging and configuring clinical applications.

NHS Application Packaging Specialists

Providing an IT service to the NHS has introduced us to a variety of interesting applications; single sign-on applications, terminal emulation software, clinical hardware drivers, bespoke clinical software, dictation software and a whole host of others.

We’ve packaged applications in multiple formats including App-V, ThinApp, MSI (Windows Installer) and even scripted installations using PowerShell.

We’ve delivered applications to standard desktop environments using SCCM and to non-persistent virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) using the full App-V infrastructure.

Clinical Application Experience

Some applications we’ve encountered are old and ‘officially’ unsupported on the target platform.  Others have been poorly written by software vendors and contain hard-coded paths and unsigned drivers. Then there are specialist clinical applications that may require bespoke configurations across multiple departments, sites and even Trusts.

All of these aspects provide challenges throughout the application packaging process. And having experience of packaging such applications provides a distinct advantage since previous research can be reused and applied to new environments at a fraction of the time (and cost) it would normally take.

NHS Web Applications

Migrating web applications that were designed for Internet Explorer 8 and earlier requires an understanding of browser emulation and compatibility modes.  Coupled with this, it’s also advantageous to have knowledge of how web applications are rendered in the browser.  Alkane Solutions have expert knowledge of both.

Java in the browser also presents an issue from a functionality perspective and a security perspective.  Alkane Solutions can target web applications to run with specific versions of Java, whilst maintaining a locked down and secure environment.

Do You Require Application Packaging for the NHS?

If you think your Trust can benefit from a specialist application packaging service for the NHS, please contact us now and we’ll respond within 2 business hours.

Windows 10 Migration Specialists

Alkane Solutions provide end-to-end application portfolio management and are Windows 10 migration specialists.

Windows 10 Migration and your Application Portfolio

We’ve seen it all before; IT administrators performing manual installations because they don’t have the time or the skill to package the application, multiple applications in the estate that provide duplicate functionality, lack of licensing compliance, unsupported applications, old versions of applications and much more.

Before you know it, your application estate has grown legs and you no longer have visibility or control over which applications are available and which aren’t.

Migrating to Windows 10 provides a fantastic opportunity to regain control of your application portfolio.

Windows 10 Software Auditing

Although not critical, understanding the usage statistics of your applications (whether managed or not!) provides invaluable insight when embarking on a migration project.

Auditing can give organisations awareness of applications being used that IT administrators weren’t aware of – typically manual installations.  An audit also enables organisations to see how many users are using a specific application and at what frequency – this provides an opportunity to verify licensing compliance, and the potential to save on costs.

Windows 10 Application Rationalisation

At this point we have a raw list of all applications used in our estate.  Packaging all of these would clearly be inefficient from a cost perspective and a functional perspective, so the rationalisation process provides an opportunity to reduce this list down to a master list by selecting only the applications that are required.

Unfortunately, application rationalisation is a manual and rather cumbersome process.  Analysing off-the-shelf applications is trivial, but most businesses have bespoke applications design specifically to suit business needs whether they be clinical applications, financial applications, mechanical and engineering applications or otherwise.

By excluding functional duplicates, old versions, unsupported applications, unused applications

Windows 10 Application Compatibility

Some application packaging services recommend performing application compatibility testing before application rationalisation! But we disagree.  Most software compatibility tool sets charge organisations on a per-application basis.  So, it makes sense to identify the applications that you need before you assess them for compatibility.  You could save thousands of pounds using this approach.

The application compatibility process aims to identify whether applications are compatible with a specific platform or technology, whether this be Windows 10 or Microsoft App-V 5.

If an application isn’t compatible, a business decision needs to be made to ether replace the application with a functional equivalent or retire the application.

Windows 10 Web Applications

Don’t forget your web applications!  We see a lot of old crumby web applications designed for Internet Explorer 6/7/8.  And web standards and technologies have changed massively since those days – especially when considering migrating to a modern browser such as Microsoft Edge.

We can assist you with all your web application compatibility requirements.  Not only do we specialise in Application Packaging, but we have a background in web application design. And as such can assist in debugging front-end compatibility issues such as incorrect style sheet rendering, ActiveX issues and a plethora of back-end issues.

Do You Require Windows 10 Migration Specialists?

If you think your organisation can benefit from a specialist Windows 10 migration service, please contact us now and we’ll respond within 2 business hours.

Application Packaging as a Service (APaaS)

Application Packaging as a Service (APaaS) forms part of our service offering and enables clients to save on the costs associated with client site visits.

Sometimes applications require back-end connectivity to network databases and file shares during installation and/or at run time.  Packaging such applications will often require a site visit if remote access via a virtual private network (VPN) or similar isn’t available.

When requesting an Application Packaging service to carry out such packaging activities, these site visits usually incur additional costs such as hotels, mileage and evening meals which are usually passed on to the end client.

Fortunately, most applications can be installed and run in isolation without the requirement for back-end connectivity.  And these applications are prime candidates for an APaaS service model.

How Does Application Packaging as a Service (APaaS)  work?

APaaS essentially works like an application packaging factory, operating at a fixed cost per application package.  Applications come in to the factory, are packaged against a specific build and configuration, and fully optimised packages are then released via a secure file transfer platform back to the end client.

Since the application packaging work is carried out as a service, the packaging ‘factory’  (our premises!) is typically located in a remote location to the end client – often referred to as the ‘cloud’.

Automated Application Packaging

When operating an automated application packaging as a service, we can drive down the operational costs of creating each package and pass these savings on to our clients.

Alkane Solutions are experts in automation – you only have to trawl through our blog too see tools such as Virtualisr, CubMakr, ValMakr to understand how we operate the most streamlined and optimised application packaging service in our industry.

With these automation tools we reduce human error by scanning each package for unnecessary content, validating against our packaging standards, optimising each package for delivery, documenting the packaging process and releasing the package into the target environment.

Do You Require Application Packaging as a Service?

If you require application packaging as a service from the most experienced application packaging team in the industry, please drop us a message and we’ll be in contact within 2 business hours.