When it comes to modern app management, a lot has changed in the last few years with the release of Windows 10 and the proliferation of cloud services. With the rapid pace of updates from Microsoft, app testing and deployment has never been more important to keep an enterprise running smoothly. Without keeping your apps up to date, you risk running an insecure IT environment, leaving the door wide open to cyber attacks. On the flip side, if you rush updates to mitigate security issues, you risk having line of business apps suddenly stop working properly, causing major delays and inefficiencies in your organization.
Below are the key terms that you need to know.
Types Of Packages
MSI refers to the filename extension (.msi), or an MSI package, used by Windows Installer (originally called Microsoft Installer, hence MSI) for a package that contains one or more applications. Originally released in 1999, for the past two decades MSI packages have been the standard for the installation, maintenance, and removal of application(s) for third-party software vendors.
MSI files can contain not only executable files, but elements such as registry settings, custom actions to be executed, installation order procedure, etc. Since MSIs are so versatile and customizable, enterprises quickly adopted them to install software in their organization.
MSIX, released in late 2018, is Microsoft’s newest Windows app packaging format for modern packaging that significantly improves on MSI technology. MSIX preserves the functionality of existing app packages while allowing modern packaging and deployment features, and ensuring that applications are always up to date.
MSIX technology can be used to package existing Windows apps or MSI packages, as well as new apps, faster and more efficiently than ever before. MSIX is also more versatile with the open source MSIX SDK, allowing it to be platform independent. To learn more about MSIX, see Microsoft’s overview page and our on-demand webinar on MSIX.
App attach, or more accurately, MSIX app attach, was originally created for Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) and is a way to deliver MSIX applications to physical and virtual machines. Using MSIX app attach, you can create a master image of an app that is independent of the operating system, user, and other apps. This allows applications in a Windows Virtual Desktop environment to be loaded extremely fast, resulting in a smooth and efficient user sign in process.
Using app attach eliminates the need for repackaging when delivering apps dynamically, and reduces the infrastructure needed and associated costs. To learn more about app attach, please see our posts on how to enable MSIX app attach and a video tutorial of how to create an MSIX app attach using our tool, Capture, and Microsoft’s overview page.
The file format VHD, and its successor filename extension of VHDX, stands for Virtual Hard Disk. Microsoft’s definition is as follows:
The Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) format is a publicly-available image format specification that specifies a virtual hard disk encapsulated in a single file, capable of hosting native file systems while supporting standard disk and file operations.
To elaborate, a VHD is a container of other apps. For example, a VHD can be a whole Windows 10 core image, one app, or multiple apps. To complicate things further, the VHD of MSIX apps are called an app attach.
The advantage of using an app attach VHD is that, since it is in the same area of your Windows Virtual Desktop, it can be side-loaded onto a device instead of having to be delivered via Intune or SCCM, making the process almost instantaneous.
App-V, which stands for Microsoft Application Virtualization, has been around for over two decades to create virtual applications, removing the need to have a local installed copy on a device. Like MSI, MSIX, and app attach, it is a virtual package to be delivered to end users’ devices. For more on App-V, please see the Microsoft article.
Intune, which is part of Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS) suite, is a distribution mechanism for natively delivering MSIX packages, and is a mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM) cloud service. This allows for greater control over devices and applications, i.e., device configuration with your security and health standards, apps with default settings enabled, usage tracking, etc.
For more information on Intune, please see Microsoft’s article and one of our integrations using our tool Capture.
For organizations that have apps in MSI form and aren’t able or ready to repackage them into MSIX format, Intune Win32 is the delivery mechanism they would use to deliver MSIs onto a modern desktop. This is extremely useful for being able to deliver apps to remote workers and companies that have heavily-invested apps in MSI form.
Intune Win32 is similar in delivery to how SCCM works, essentially being a wrapper around an existing SCCM MSI distribution. For more info, see Microsoft’s Win32 overview.
Universal Windows Platform (UWP)
Universal Windows Platform, or UWP, was first introduced with Windows 10, with the purpose of allowing developers to create an app that can run on multiple Microsoft products such as Windows 10, HoloLens, Xbox, Windows 10 mobile, etc., without having to be rewritten for each one. This has the added benefit of allowing the app to be responsive based on the device used, rather than the OS it is on.
UWP apps can be made available to all devices (or specific devices) from the Microsoft Store. UWP apps must disclose which device resources they access and use, creating a more secure app. UWP apps use WinRT APIs, allowing the apps to have an advanced UI and asynchronous features. For more on UWPs, please see Microsoft’s overview.
According to Microsoft, FSLogix is a set of solutions that enhance, enable, and simplify non-persistent Windows computing environments. What that means is that by using containers, a user profile is separated from the apps and device, allowing the user to sign into any virtual machine and retain all of the user’s settings. In more technical terms, signing in and having user context in non-persistent environments is simplified and more efficient.
For more on FSLogix, see Microsoft’s documentation, our post on how it is utilized along with MSIX app attach in an enterprise environment, and our post about Microsoft’s acquisition of FSLogix.
Numecent, formed in 2012, is a cloud technology company with the goal of enabling enterprises, ISVs, OEMs, MSPs, etc., to deliver, deploy, and provision software from on-premise, cloud technology, or server farms in a faster and more efficient way.
Numecent’s product, Cloudpaging, utilizes container and VMMU (Virtual Memory Management Unit) technology to deliver software into a cloud environment (without having to upgrade the software version) using a fraction of the traditional bandwidth.
The VMMU uses a pre-virtualized image and instructions placed in a container to start an application, using an average of 1/20th of the size of the application on startup. As the application is running, other necessary instructions are delivered before the CPU needs to execute them.
Using Cloudpaging technology, the end user is delivered applications quickly with no lag, creating a positive UX, and saves network bandwith. For more on their technology, please see their cloud offering page.
While this list is not an all-inclusive list of every App Management term you need to know, these are the ones that will be the most useful in the day-to-day operation of a modern enterprise. What are your thoughts on these terms? Are there any that you think should be included? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.