The AppSense Bigot turns three – is WEM the future of UEM?

By James Rankin | 7th February 2015

It’s three short years today since I started up this blog…so I thought today we might have a bit less technical discussion, and more of the sort of thing I normally do in my capacity over at The Virtualization Practice – which is occasionally speculate idly on the future of our industry.

Interesting to note that when VMware acquired UEM solution vendor Immidio last week, one of the points that ex-AppSense big cheese Harry Labana – who was heavily involved in VMware’s acquisition of CloudVolumes – made was the idea of Workspace Environment Management. Whilst on the surface this appears to be another attempt to foist a new three-letter-acronym on us, or initiate a new buzzword, it does seem to have some valid points around it.

So is Workspace Environment Management the designated successor to User Environment Management? The original UEM definition that I go by (courtesy of those Smackdown enthusiasts over at PQR) would appear to suggest that this is not so, and that WEM is nothing but another buzzword…

User Environment Management delivers and maintains the User Workspace in a clear, visible, predictable and profound way independent of the Application and Desktop Delivery concept and understands the context of the user Access Scenario. Having a clear view of the access scenarios, also known as personas, is essential and crucial for a complete Application and Desktop Delivery solution.

So – nothing to see here, move on?

One thing that has been common to UEM (so far!) is that it has always dealt specifically with Windows-based applications and desktops. This is to be expected – the great mass of applications and workspaces in the world are, at the moment, predominantly Windows-based. But do VMware smell a sea-change coming? One of the key words they use is “flexibility”, and they put the focus firmly on delivery of the user virtualization piece across “physical, virtual and cloud-based desktops”. This of course ties in nicely with the whole end-to-end idea of VMware’s cloud services offering.

So, are VMware alluding to Workspace Environment Management as the ability to manage all of your workspaces and applications, not just the Windows-based ones? Or is there another meaning behind the new WEM buzzphrase – that you can include “application delivery” and monitoring as part of the UEM offering, therefore giving you the full WEM experience, which VMware can do by tying Immidio’s Flex+ offering up with AppVolumes (formerly CloudVolumes) or ThinApp?

With regards to managing non-Windows workspaces, the only way to reliably achieve this currently is if you’re using something like XenApp or RDS to host Windows applications, and then deliver the applications to your non-Windows client (via the Citrix Receiver, for instance) with the UEM already baked-in. If you’re using a native application, then there won’t be any UEM there. This is a problem that is probably going to become more prevalent – think, for example, of DropBox. It can run on Windows, iOS, OSX, Linux, Android, even Blackberry, Kindle and Windows Phone. Being able to persist contextually-aware settings between these platforms would be awesome! If this is what VMware are driving at with WEM – sign me up!

If it’s the concept that the delivery of applications and monitoring is integrated with the user environment management – effectively merging your app virtualization together with the user virtualization – then this is less of a winner. Whilst still good – this reduces your reliance on third-party solutions – it’s only really compelling if you’ve already got a solid investment in VMware technology (although to be fair, a lot of people have). There are many other app virtualization and layering solutions out there, some of which are better than others in terms of features or compatibility. Monitoring-wise, again, everyone tends to already have a solution in place – monitoring is by no means restricted to the end-user arena – but if it brings something extra to the table, such as monitoring the VDI session in greater detail, then maybe it could be of interest.

So what could the likes of AppSense do in response to VMware’s play towards this new, WEM solution? AppSense have done a good job of “back to basics” over the last year, given that the DesktopNow product, their most popular one, was showing signs of being slightly neglected in favour of their mobile push. I’m currently beta testing the latest version – and they’ve gone a long way to making the difficult things, like profile migrations, vastly simpler. The focus back on existing customers has been good – but does VMware’s entry into this market signify that they will have to shift back to forward development once more?

In my own personal opinion, VMware’s acquisition of Immidio had to happen. Their existing profile management piece, View Persona Management, was simply too limited to be even considered as a UEM solution, paling badly even when put up against “lite” contenders such as Citrix Profile Management or Microsoft’s UE-V. The acquisition of Immidio gives them a proven solution, lightweight and easily-deployed, which offers much more to the end-user than Persona Management ever did. They’ve got the pieces of the jigsaw now to produce something compelling on the UEM end – and the budget, and the staff (such as Shawn Bass) to make it so. How should the traditional UEM vendors respond?

Some of you may remember a rumour about something coming out of AppSense (circa 2012) called Project Acorn, which so far I’ve heard no further mention of. This was intended to be UEM for OSX, allowing Environment Manager to extend onto Apple desktops. If VMware are starting to make noises about a possible flexible, platform-agnostic solution to application and user virtualization, then AppSense could do no worse than reinvoke Project Acorn and extend their solution onto the Apple workspaces in the enterprise. Microsoft are opening up and pushing their solutions more broadly into other non-Windows corners of the market, and becoming less disliked by doing so – maybe it’s time for other companies to follow suit? Imagine AppSense EM and AM running natively on company-owned tablets, mobiles, Linux desktops, all the devices out there? It would be a cool management solution. In fact, given that they have experience of multi-homing their solutions with DataNow and MobileNow (although MobileNow seems to be disappearing), I’m hoping this won’t prove to be too much of a jump. Please, make it so!

All in all, kudos to VMware for having the foresight to try and shake up the UEM market a bit. It will be interesting to see exactly what their vision for WEM is, and how they go about putting it together. I’d love to see a single solution that can deliver client-side application and user settings across multiple platforms, and I think AppSense are particularly well positioned to make a fist of competing on this level. Of course, when Microsoft get their way and every application in the world runs as SaaS from an Azure datacenter, we will be able to do away with the WEM/UEM solution entirely and keep all our settings on the server end. As long as your internet connection never, ever goes down 🙂

**** Thanks to everyone for listening to my ramblings for the last three years! If you have a subject you’d like me to cover on this blog, please feel free to post it in the comments section or drop me an email at james [at] htguk [dot] com ***

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