Unidesk 4 FAQ for Unidesk 2 and 3 Customers

1. What is Unidesk 4?

A: Unidesk 4 is the new, redesigned application packaging and image management solution from Unidesk that works for all end user computing solutions, hypervisors, and clouds. Unidesk 4 won Best of Citrix Synergy for bringing real-time application delivery to both Citrix XenApp published desktops and Citrix XenDesktop VDI, and for eliminating image management inefficiencies in Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop environments via integration with Citrix PVS and MCS. Unidesk 4 won Best of VMworld for bringing these same innovations to VMware Horizon VDI and RDSH via integration with VMware View Composer and Instant Clones. With Unidesk 4, you can package applications once and deliver them to any virtual or cloud infrastructure - Hyper-V, XenServer, vSphere/ESX, Azure, Nutanix AHV - for truly stateless end user computing, anywhere-anytime user access, and maximum IT agility.


2. How does Unidesk 4 work?

A: With Unidesk, IT can deliver or upgrade applications in virtual desktop and published desktop and application environments in seconds at any scale. Applications and Windows operating systems are captured and stored as read-only virtual disks with an ordinary installation. The virtual disk "layers" can then be instantly attached to groups of virtual desktops, published desktop/application servers, or individual published desktop sessions on a per user or group basis with just a few clicks. To end users, the applications look, act, and perform the same as if they were locally installed.


3. How is Unidesk 4 application packaging and delivery different from previous versions?

A: Unidesk 4 offers two methods of application delivery that are unmatched by any other solution:

  1. Unidesk Layered Images™ are automatically created by Unidesk and delivered through existing provisioning tools such as Citrix PVS/MCS or VMware Horizon View Composer/Instant Clones. IT can select an Operating System layer and any set of Application layers and instruct Unidesk to build a complete, standard image for any hypervisor or cloud. Unidesk's out-of-band, off-line image composition technology will merge the individual OS and application layers together into a single VHD or VMDK – the Layered Image – that can then be used to provision virtual desktops or XenApp/RDSH servers using our connectors for PVS, MCS, View Composer, Instant Clones, etc. Whenever an individual OS or app layer is patched, Unidesk will automatically regenerate the Layered Images with the updated layers and redeploy them through the connectors.
  2. Unidesk Elastic Layers™ provide dynamic, real-time application delivery into running virtual desktops and XenApp/RDSH (published desktop) sessions. Elastic Layers are mounted at login, enabling IT to customize non-persistent virtual desktops and shared hosted (published) desktops with unique applications and user personalization. Elastic Layers are custom for each user, and are added to the application layers that are delivered as part of a Layered Image.


4. Why does Unidesk 4 offer two different methods of application delivery?

A: The combination of Layered Images and Elastic Layers provides you with several unique advantages compared to competitive solutions:

  1. Greater application compatibility. Applications with early-start Windows services, deep Windows dependencies, and drivers cannot be delivered with in-guest, at-login technology. The only way to deliver the “last 30%” of applications such as Visual Studio, Internet Explorer, antivirus, Imprivata OneSign, and other applications that need to be running before users login is with pre-boot technology that starts before users login. Unidesk Layered Images enable all of these applications to be packaged independent of the Windows OS, but delivered as part of a pre-composited Layered Image that is available and ready to run before users login.
  2. Faster login times. Other layering technologies that only deliver applications at login will increase login times. All vendors use the same Windows API to mount a virtual disk. As more virtual disks are mounted, login times will increase. Only Unidesk has the ability to separate out large applications that are used by most users – Microsoft Office, antivirus, Epic EMR, ERP – and deliver them as part of Layered Images so they are loaded at machine boot. Then Unidesk Elastic Layering can be used to deliver only the one-off and departmental apps that are required by different users, minimizing the virtual disk mounts that are required at login and, in turn, minimizing login times.
  3. No more image management. Because other application virtualization and layering technologies cannot deliver all applications or the Windows OS itself, IT will still have to manage and patch multiple images, duplicating IT effort and increasing costs. Unidesk is the only solution that solves application management AND image management. Even though you may have multiple Layered Images, you won’t have to manage them. You’ll only patch the Windows OS and application layers once with Unidesk. Unidesk will automatically regenerate the Layered Images with the updated layers and redeploy them through your existing provisioning tools.


5. How does Unidesk Elastic Layering work?

A: Unidesk Elastic Layering™ is our innovation that delivers applications at user login - no reboot required! The virtual disks representing Elastic Layers are mounted when users login based on Active Directory user and group assignments. Unidesk’s patented file system and registry virtualization technology makes the apps appear locally installed even though their installation procedures were never run. Elastic Layers provide a custom application experience on top of non-persistent virtual desktops (VDI) and Citrix XenApp and RDSH sessions. You can now use fewer published desktop and application silos and fewer desktop pools to deliver custom user workspaces. For example, Joe can login to VMware Horizon Pool 1 and receive his 10 applications. Sally can then login into the same VMware Horizon pool and receive the same 10 applications as Joe but also Adobe Acrobat Pro. Likewise Tom can login to his Citrix XenApp published desktop from Silo 1 and receive 3 applications. Janet can then login to the exact same XenApp server in Silo 1 and receive the same 3 applications as Tom plus QuickBooks and Microsoft Project.


6. Is there a User (Personalization) Layer in Unidesk 4?

A: Yes. The writable User layer, which captures local profile changes, user-installed apps and plug-ins, and locally saved data, is planned for our January 2017 update. It will initially be available as part of Unidesk Labs (our Early Access program) and then will become generally available in a subsequent update. The User layer will initially support Windows 7 only. Windows 10 support will be added in a follow-on update. With the release of the User layer, you’ll be able to deliver fully persistent Windows workspaces using non-persistent, pooled virtual desktops. Instead of having to allocate a virtual machine for every user who needs a persistent experience, you’ll be able to size your infrastructure based on the maximum number of concurrent users, significantly reducing server and storage costs.


7. What are the benefits of moving to Unidesk 4?

A: There are many IT, end user, and cost saving benefits of moving to Unidesk 4:

  1. Real-time application delivery. Unidesk Elastic Layering enables you to deliver applications to VDI and XenApp/RDSH published desktop and application users without having to reboot machines or reinstall software. Application delivery doesn't get any faster.
  2. Reduced infrastructure costs. Because Unidesk 4 provides the benefits of persistent desktops using non-persistent VDI pools or XenApp/RDSH published desktops, significant server and storage cost savings can be achieved.
  3. Faster, more robust deployments. Unidesk 4 seamlessly integrates with existing Citrix and VMware infrastructure, enabling you to take full advantage of native hypervisor and provisioning capabilities such as VMware vSAN, Storage vMotion, Linked Clones, Instant Clones, Citrix PVS, Citrix MCS, etc.
  4. Unlimited scalability. Unidesk 4 scales and performs as well as your underlying Citrix, Microsoft, or VMware infrastructures. Enterprise data center, heterogeneous end user computing, and hybrid cloud environments can all be managed from a single Unidesk Enterprise Layer Manager virtual appliance.
  5. Hypervisor portability. Unidesk 4 platform connectors enable the same Layered Images and Application Layers to be delivered to any hypervisor without costly re-packaging or re-imaging. Switching to Hyper-V, XenServer, or Nutanix AHV to reduce hypervisor costs can now be done with a few clicks.
  6. Path to the cloud. The same apps and images that can be delivered to different hypervisors using Unidesk 4 platform connectors can also be delivered to Azure and other public clouds without any additional IT effort. Hosting end user computing workloads in the cloud or using the cloud for "pay only if needed DR" can save $200,000 per year just for a 500-user environment, compared to building duplicate infrastructure at a secondary data center or co-location site.


8. Will I need any additional tools or infrastructure?

A: You will need to use a provisioning solution such as Citrix Provisioning Services (PVS), Citrix Machine Creation Services (MCS), VMware Horizon View Composer, or VMware Horizon Instant Clones to provision your virtual desktops and published desktop and application servers. These tools are included free with any Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop or VMware Horizon purchase. Unidesk now integrates with all of these tools to automate image management and application delivery. You will also need a high performance file share to store any Unidesk Elastic Layers.


9. Is Disaster Recovery better in Unidesk 4?

A: Yes. The new Unidesk 4 architecture eliminates CachePoint virtual appliances. Now, only a single Unidesk Enterprise Layer Manager (ELM) virtual appliance and a high performance file share to store Elastic Layers are needed. For DR, you simply backup the Unidesk ELM, including the storage where the layers are stored, using any standard VM backup solution. You can also backup any Layered Images that have been published into your environments. Remember, these are now just standard VHDs and VMDKs that can be copied with scripts or existing backup tools. Lastly, if you are using Elastic Layers, you will also have to back up the file share where the Elastic Layers are stored. The entire process is so simple that we now include backup and DR as part of our standard product demos, with Unidesk layers enabling the same personal workspaces to be delivered in minutes from another data center or even the Azure cloud.


10. Is there going to be further development of Unidesk 2.x and 3.x?

A: Yes. We will continue to release updates to Unidesk 2.x and 3.x as needed. For example, we recently announced Unidesk 2.10 with Windows 10 stability/reliability improvements. However, all new innovations will only be released on the Unidesk 4 platform.


11. How long will you be supporting Unidesk 2.x and 3.x?

A: We have no plans to end support for Unidesk 2.x and 3.x at this time because of the many customers who are still using these versions. At some point, we will make a determination on end-of-life for these older versions. However, we will provide at least 12 months of advance notice and we will develop a plan with you to move you to Unidesk 4 before support ends.


12. Can I move directly from Unidesk 2.x/3.x to 4.x?

A: We use Microsoft User State Migration Tool (USMT) to provide services and tools to migrate user persistent data such as profile and user state information to Unidesk 4. Application layers, however, will have to be recreated. Upgrading to Windows 10 will require that apps be re-packaged for the new operating system, so many customers are combining Unidesk 4 and Windows 10 migrations.


13. When should I move to Unidesk 4?

A: This will depend on your use cases and needs. Many customers are moving to Unidesk 4 at the same time they are about to significantly expand their VDI or published desktop or application environments. The best time to move to Unidesk 4 is when you plan to move to Windows 10, since application layers will need to be recreated for the new operating system anyway.


14. Does Unidesk 4 still rely upon Silverlight? Are you moving to HTML5?

A: We are incorporating more HTML5 into Unidesk 4 with every update and we will eventually phase out Silverlight completely.



15. Do you still offer a Beta program for upcoming releases?

A: The new Unidesk Labs eliminates the need for separate Beta releases. Read about our new SaaS-like method of providing early access to new features in our blog What is Unidesk Labs?


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