Why application packaging? And what are the benefits of application packaging for software deployments?
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.