StrataApps by AppSense is a very interesting application virtualization technology. It’s focus is not really to ‘deliver’ your end users your enterprise applications as a virtual application. The concept here is actually to enable your users to be able to create their own virtual applications. AppSense have made the process so simple that your typical non-technical end user could do it with little to no training. The beauty of this, is that you provide a more user-centric desktop experience. I’m sure we’ve all heard IT referred to as the department of NO. Well, with this solution IT folk can rest a little easier at the thought of those damn end users downloading an installing their own software. That’s because the software will be virtualized and isolated as a result. It should have no impact on the security of the users machine. So, that’s one less security headache and possible help desk call. With StrataApps, the users won’t need Administrator rights to install the apps either. And as you might expect with AppSense, the apps will follow users around from machine to machine. Sounds cool, right?
The Setup of the tool is very simple. In an Enterprise environment you’re going to want to obviously package and deploy this tool to your users to enable them to be able to create their own virtual apps. Let’s take a look.
Click Install Now
Accept the License terms and click next
I let this install to the default location. If you want to install somewhere else, more Power to you. Enter the location you want and Click Next
Depending on your environment, you may want to ensure you disable the feature for Anonymous Reporting, this feeds information back to the AppSense mother ship in order to report any errors for their own knowledge and in an effort to address said errors to improve the tool. I left it enabled, because I’m such a swell guy! Click Next.
Click Finish and your setup is complete.
Installing Applications\Creating Virtual Applications
On first launch of the product you will need to select the location where your applications are stored. I believe this should be a user location as shown in the above. Click Let’s Begin! to continue
StrataApps service will start up and then you’re good to go.
To capture an application, it’s as simple as downloading the Installer and dragging it onto the Windows as shown in the helpful diagram and letting it run. You can see there’s some settings you can choose from to change the cosmetics and some of the behavior of the product. Nothing too confusing though, as you may expect, since users will be the audience for this.
StrataApps should process and launch the installation wizard.
You should now be able to proceed through the installation of the app. You can see there’s a pretty green border around the window, which is one of those cosmetics you can change in the settings. This is just an indicator that the install is not actually installing the app but rather capturing it as a virtual StrataApp.
When the installation and processing is complete you should see your application shortcut. Launch the app and it should launch. That’s it!
If you want to look under the hood a little you can see the mimic of the file system which is used by the virtual applications. It’s pretty similar to most other application virtualization tools in that regard.
Shell extensions do seem to work 🙂 It’s not too suprising as AppSense claim applications function just like locally installed applications. The Applications are cached to the local machine, so you would also expect that some of the functionality which may not be possible in some other App Virtualization technologies, would be possible here. You can see some of the information is stored in text files in an XML format. I did not get very deep into the tool to be honest and information is not currently readily available. I’ll explain why I did not get deep into the tool in my Conclusion.
In this screenshot you can see a full explanation of the UI. I won’t spell it out because if you click on the screenshot you should see all you need to know. Just know that it looks great and is very simple and user friendly.
Like the lady chef on TV use to say. Here’s one I made earlier. You can see I threw a few applications at the tool. This gives you an idea of what the end user might see within the UI. You can see there’s also a search capability. The applications themselves look and act just like they are natively installed. The users shouldn’t need StrataApps to function. Though, you should note. If the service fails or the application breaks. The user won’t see the applications readily on their system.
As you can see when running the application, the window also had a border around it which also can be modified in the settings.
The reason I didn’t get as deep into this tool as I possibly wanted was because I had all kinds of problems when trying to Virtualize applications with .EXE installers and 64-bit apps. I reached out to AppSense for help but unfortunately, you only get support if you pay for it. I’m currently not a customer. Luckily though, AppSense hire some really cool people and I got some tips online from them. I guess even the versioning v 1.0 (FR8) of the app may have suggested this, but StrataApps is currently in it’s infancy. It’s still got a lot issues. If it was up to me, I would not be deploying this today in my Enterprise environment as a solution for users to be able to download and install their own applications. I believe if the product failed to work for them when trying to install an application, you would start receiving Help Desk calls to say it won’t work and I’m not so sure if you reach out to AppSense support right now, that fixes for every issue that may pop up are readily available as the tech is so new. I’m sure it will improve but it would be a big risk to take. Maybe it’s viable to provide it to some of your more Tech Savvy users and explain to them that it’s a work in progress so if it doesn’t work, please report it but be patient and don’t expect a fix or work around right away. AppSense have a lot of innovative and cool tools. So this is bound to improve and I look forward to trying it out in the future. Also Kudos to whoever design the software over there, it always looks very pretty!