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VMware App Volumes On-Demand Applications: How Does It Work?

  • March 17, 2022
  • 10 min read
Virtualization Architect. Alex is a certified VMware vExpert and the Founder of VMC, a company focused on virtualization, and the CEO of Nova Games, a mobile game publisher.
Virtualization Architect. Alex is a certified VMware vExpert and the Founder of VMC, a company focused on virtualization, and the CEO of Nova Games, a mobile game publisher.

A lot of you are familiar with the VMware App Volumes solution for the distribution of ready-to-use apps via connecting virtual disks to VMs.

In 2014, VMware bought this product together with CloudVolumes, a company which had at that moment a solution for distributing virtualized VMware ThinApp apps as VMDK disks that could be connected to the VMs, thereby offering its users access to the given app.

Since then, the product has been significantly improved, renamed to App Volumes, and became a part of the VMware Horizon product line. The latter is meant to bring desktops and apps to users of both virtual and bare-metal infrastructure.

Key features of App Volumes are as follows:

  • Decoupling package management and delivery – enables administrators to work freely with packages, separately organize their delivery, and swiftly react to user requests.
  • Manage the full lifecycle of an application – an admin can update the app by republishing packages as part of the configured workflow.
  • Packaging once and deploying everywhere – gives the means for both on-premises and cloud mass deployment of applications that require preparation only once, and thus can be freely used within any number of workstations within virtual desktop pools.

The lifecycle of App Volumes 4.x applications looks like this:

  • An admin creates an application of the required version and preserves metadata of the environment within which the package was created in the first place.
  • Within the App Volumes workflow, an admin makes sure that the given version works in different OSes and does not conflict with other apps.
  • Testing of the given version of the application is performed in the pilot environment for a limited number of test users.
  • If the testing was successful, the gradual (pilot->production) app publication is performed in the enterprise environment along with assigning permissions to users.
  • After the new updates are released, the gradual decommissioning of the old versions of the app is performed along with the delivery of the new version to users.

Lifecycle of App Volumes 4.x applications

That way, the package of the required version of the app has one of 4 states:

  • New – package is ready to test. Those subscribed to the test will be able to use the app.
  • Tested – the users have tested the package and it is ready for publishing.
  • Published – the package is assigned to the users and they can use it.
  • Retired – packages that aren’t used anymore and don’t receive any updates.

VMware App Volumes

In last year’s December, VMware released a new version of the Horizon 8 2111 platform, including App Volumes 2111. The most interesting feature of the product is the “Apps On Demand” option, which allows delivering apps to the virtual desktops on demand. It has been announced way back in 2019 and it wasn’t that long ago when it has become available in the production environment.

App Volumes Agent

On-Demand Applications technology allows not to mount VMDK with apps while starting the VM, but to leave the app icons on the desktop. By clicking on those icons you start the dynamic mounting of the volumes, building connections, and loading the app into the OS. Thanks to this, you won’t spend extra time on mounting disks while the VM is being started and fastening the logging in of a user.

Now the App Volumes package has two more options per each type of application delivery – Classic and On-demand:

Edit Package

After the app data is assigned to the user, we can see them in App Volumes Manager listed as On-Demand, which means that upon logging into the virtual desktop these apps won’t be installed by default:

App Volumes Manager listed as On-Demand

At the same time, we’ll see the icons of given apps on desktop and Start menu (also in the Search tab), although we won’t see them in the list of installed apps:

Start menu

After the user has started, for example, Firefox, it will be connected via App Volumes and installed on user’s VM, of which they can make sure in the list of installed apps:


It will work for the other apps exactly the same way. For example, if the user were to start Microsoft Word, Microsoft Office suite will be installed on demand.

The benefits of such approach are plain to see, since logging into virtual desktops becomes a bit faster, while the OS and registry aren’t getting stuffed with the unused apps. The latter wont consume system resources and the desktop can always be brought back to the default state (this, for example, can be performed when the user logs off the system). In this case, the VMDK disks with apps will be just mounted off the VM and it goes back to where it started.

That way, the apps delivered on demand are really On-Demand, because the user won’t have to visit a corporate app catalog or website to get and install them. They are available for use right after the user clicks on their desktop icons. Yes, it does take some time because you need to mount disks to the VM and connect them to the OS, but you have to do it just once. After this is done, the app is now installed locally and fully ready for use!

Hey! Found Alex’s insights useful? Looking for a cost-effective, high-performance, and easy-to-use hyperconverged platform?
Taras Shved
Taras Shved StarWind HCI Appliance Product Manager
Look no further! StarWind HCI Appliance (HCA) is a plug-and-play solution that combines compute, storage, networking, and virtualization software into a single easy-to-use hyperconverged platform. It's designed to significantly trim your IT costs and save valuable time. Interested in learning more? Book your StarWind HCA demo now to see it in action!