Depending on the size and type of your organisation you’ve probably got hundreds or even thousands of off the shelf and bespoke applications running every day. Managing them wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that the underlying IT landscape is always moving:
- Changes or upgrades to applications or operating systems
- Changing desktop delivery methods e.g. VDI and server-based computing
- Changes to application delivery methods e.g. application streaming
These changes have direct repercussions for application management in general – and particularly for application sequencing and application packaging which are high on the agenda for a number reasons:
- The introduction of Windows 7/8/8.1 coupled with end to support for Windows XP, is placing a growing load on the packaging pipeline
- Increasing interest in virtualized models demands reliable and industrialised application sequencing
- Compliance and licensing issues are increasing pressure to achieve enterprise-level control over all application assets
Holding out for a hero
The skill needed to sequence applications for virtualization is quite specialised and as with any skill, the higher the demand the more expensive it becomes to acquire. Everybody needs to keep costs in check but when you can’t compromise on the service you deliver to your users you inevitably end up having to loosen the belt on your budget.
With internal IT resources being squeezed to deliver extra value, more and more organisations look at outsourcing some or all of their essential application sequencing.
So what criteria should you use to see if a potential service provider is right for you?
To gain true value from using a third party you have to be confident that they’ve delivered application sequencing in highly dynamic and complex environments. What’s more, they need to work to your internal standards and processes because you may choose to bring the project back in house at some point in the future. And on that point, you should look for someone who works with you to look at the bigger picture and make recommendations on how to improve the way you do things.
In order to make it easier for you (if they’re not doing this, why are you hiring them?), a good provider will be keen to take end-to-end responsibility. Ideally, their scope of responsibility should include:
- Initial research and analysis
- Giving you a choice of onsite or offsite engineering resource
- Rationalisation and compatibility testing
- Very fast application conversion (300+ a day)
- Facilitation of user-acceptance testing
- Ongoing distribution and control
You should be able to pick and choose from the list above depending on much help you need.
Industrialised application sequencing
If you have a large volume of applications to convert there are two main ways your service provider can help you achieve this – throw more bodies at the problem or automate application sequencing using the latest software tools.
Application sequencing has until recently been seen an “art” so if your service provider is still using sequencing ‘artists’ then you’ll not only pay much more for a labour intensive approach, you’ll also be waiting weeks, if not months for the results. Even then the rate of return for remedial work can be as high as 30%.
‘Lift and shift’ is the ideal in application sequencing, but the ideal can all too often remain elusive. A full blown migration to Windows 10 for example is not without its challenges. Manual or semi-automated packaging might just about suffice for small projects, but once a major migration is on the horizon, manual operations struggle under time and volume pressures, introducing delays and additional costs.
To add additional resource from third parties to either help on specific projects or even contract out some or all sequencing needs you need to take a number of practical steps before deciding on a policy.
- Keep in-house, supplement skills or contract-out fully?
Decide what works best for you. If you keep this capability in-house, you must be prepared to maintain dedicated resources and to ensure that they stay up to date. Ad hoc resource may be able to provide insight to latest tools and processes
- Reject artisan practice ruthlessly
Your proposed partner must demonstrate the highest degree of automation
- Look for the value-add
If your application packaging service provider is offering an end-to-end service, ensure that you gain in terms of application-usage intelligence and compliance
- Start small
Get the provider to demonstrate their abilities in a controlled test environment
- Compare costs and service levels
Cost and service models for application sequencing services are not always easy to compare, but do make sure that total costs are transparent and that service levels are clearly defined and understood
Adopting these simple practical steps can mean the difference between putting off a project because of a lack of skill and jump-starting the way you manage applications in your organisation.