Cloudhouse is an application virtualization product that has started to gain a lot of attention. I first looked into it just over two years ago and they have made many changes since then, one which will be of particular interest to anybody currently using Microsoft's App-V! (Which I'll get to later..TEASER!)
What is Cloudhouse Applications Anywhere?
Cloudhouse is like your traditional application virtualization product, be that App-V, ThinApp or whatever you use today but there's something extra at play here. Cloudhouse provides a very powerful redirection engine. Well, what the hell is that!? You can redirect a file or folder as you wish, for example if you have an application that requires a file on the root of C:\ but you'd like each user to have the file on their home drive for a non-persistent system you can do that with a simple redirection using Cloudhouse.
Not only can you redirect at the file, folder and registry level but you can also redirect at the network level. For example if you have an application that insists on using a port which is already in use in your environment, you can provide a different port and just redirect the port it's looking for to the port you that is available and that you CAN provide. The app thinks it's running on the port it wants but really it's running on some other available port you redirected to. Pretty cool, eh?
It's like a shim but on crack! It's all the best parts of application virtualization together with some elements of application containers and with some of the configuration simplicity of products like ThinApp and FSLogix.
How Does It Work?
If you are reading this you most likely know how to perform an installation capture with products like InstallShield Repackager, App-V Sequencer, ThinApp, TurboStudio etc.
Creating a Cloudhouse virtual application is really no different. Just launch the wizard and click Start Capture. When ready click Next and install your application.
Cloudhouse seems pretty good at ignoring junk but it can still pick up on files or registry you don't want in the package. It's a good idea to follow parts of my App-V Sequencing guide when prepping a virtual machine for doing your Cloudhouse captures.
Upon completing the install and the capture, you get prompted to launch the detected shortcut(s). If you have used products such as App-V or CloudPaging, this will be familiar. It's like launching to capture that feature block or pre-fetch. Though, there's a difference here!
The analysis will detect files requested by the application at runtime. This is very cool and different because you can simply right click and choose to include these folders\files into your package.
What's great about a product that allows you to run your application isolated and to easily detect and include any and all files, including system files and registry into the package is that those pesky apps that plague you during OS migrations become a lot easier. Simply capture them on the OS of choice, allow Cloudhouse to detect what's required at runtime and then include everything it needs into the package.
The outputted package contains several configuration files. It's in these files that you can get a lot of the benefits of the redirection engine. In the above screenshot you can see there's a rule to match a filepath and re-direct to a different path. You can do this with registry, folders and also networking.
You also get the flexibility of scripting. You can include your own pre-scripts in bat, PowerShell or whatever your preference is.
After the capture completes and you have chosen what to include in your package. You will be prompted on if you'd like to upload the application to the Cloudhouse portal. This will upload the contents of your package, which you can then access via the web at any time and update as you wish.
You can manage your application entitlements, change the display name, change the icon (in my example, I left the default Cloudhouse icon because I'm lazy.) If you are an SMB you could setup multiple customers on your site and provide applications as you see fit. As an SMB or just in-house IT for enterprise you can also use DRM control capabilities for your applications in Cloudhouse to keep them and your data secure.
When a user launches an application that has been assigned to them.
An .exe is downloaded, the package is extracted and the app launches. During the extraction\unpack shortcuts, file type associations and shell extensions are created, where applicable.
If you work with container products like Turbo and Docker, the web scale delivery and hosted platform here is somewhat similar.
What Does This Have To Do With App-V?
I mentioned App-V a little earlier...what if you could deliver App-V applications as a portable .exe? Have you tried that with other products? Probably didn't work, right? Wouldn't it be cool to push your App-v application to the cloud?
With Cloudhouse all of my App-V packages that I have tested have worked. I can take all of my sequenced apps, host them on Cloudhouse and access from an App-V client anywhere in the world. Moving my legacy apps, my existing App-V apps and all of my other apps to the cloud!
Cloudhouse happens to address a lot of nagging problems left in the environments I work in. Those issues that never got fully addressed during OS migration projects or a move to a new management system.
Cloudhouse helps to move those stubborn old XP and Server 2003 applications forward into the current day. While application shims ironically have problems handling legacy application with certain file path references, Cloudhouse works more often that not and with very little manual effort.
It helps deliver a locked down browser AND helps with migration efforts to IE 11 (which could be a post in itself and actually soon it might be!).
There's integration with on-prem deployment tools like SCCM and LANDesk too.
Cloudhouse has a simplified packaging wizard that requires no real expertise to use. It's when you want to configure redirection, do some pre-scripting or handle things like applications with DCOM that you need to dive into the text files but that should be relatively simple for most IT folks thanks to the many examples they have in the comments os said config files.
I hope in future the packaging tool becomes even more intelligent and offers redirection, handling of DCOM etc. without a need to configure the text files manually.
I love the fact the wizard shows what's being referenced at runtime. That's the kind of intelligence I wish all appvirt products had. Hell I run tools like InstallRite and SpyStudio to do just that and then have to go try to one by one gather these files and registry keys. Not with Cloudhouse, it's all done for me!
The ability to run scripts shouldn't be played down. I have worked with multiple application virtualization products that had convoluted pre-scripting. Cloudhouse is very straight forward. It's one of my favorite App-V features and the Cloudhouse feature for scripting is similar.
I recently had somebody reach out to me who was using XenApp Profiling and had become reliant on the ability to redirect some database files to a user's home drive. Other application virtualization products don't offer that redirection, Cloudhouse does and it's very simple. It's not like the pain in the ass of setting up CorrectFilePaths (which don't work much of the time due to how many app reference the file paths) or Symbolic hard links. It's much more straight forward.
The ability to manage the network level on a per app basis is also something most appvirt products does not provide. I have been very impressed with Cloudhouse. There's still room for improvement in making the capture process more intuitive but they offer a unique solution to problems common for all in enterprise IT!