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Windows 11: What Does It Mean For Modern Application Packaging

Transitioning to an agile, modern workplace is a challenge that many organizations face over the coming years. The emergence and adoption of new technology is now frequent and expected, as key tech players continue to introduce solutions to drive efficiencies, flexibility, and growth that today's organizations demand. Microsoft's launch of Windows 11 designed with enhanced capabilities to support hybrid work and the needs of today's commercial organizations, is the latest example of this technology evolution.

With Windows 11 comes the opportunity to review and evolve the processes and technology used in the application management space. But, what does Windows 11 mean for modern application packaging and how can we quickly adapt to provide future-proofed ways of working?

Modern Application Packaging Has Never Been More Important

Preparing and deploying new and updated software is more important than ever, with increasing demand on application teams to minimize any likelihood of a security breach whilst constantly updating and deploying applications quickly and seamlessly to the end-users. However, this can be complex and time-consuming when faced with the continued management of updates coupled with issues such as software sprawl or outdated software that can lead to security vulnerabilities.

It used to be all about Windows migrations when talking about packaging, but today it’s more about security update versions for all outdated or end of life software and portfolio rationalization. – Bob Kelly, Flexera via AppMangEvent 2021.

Windows 11 is a great opportunity for you to define a modern approach to your application packaging. Getting this approach right will be the key to a successful transition as the application readiness bottleneck remains the greatest risk for any OS upgrade or feature update.

Windows 11 marks a visual evolution of the Windows operating system and introduces new features that improve application fundamentals and user experience. Many of these features are enabled by default for applications, but desktop apps may require updates to fully work on the new OS. Rounded corners of top-level windows, snap layouts, and the updated context menu in File Explorer are just some of those cosmetic items that have changed with Windows 11.

Because Windows 11 was built on the Windows 10 code base, it is designed to be compatible with the software and solutions in use today. But that does not mean that we should simply 'lift and shift' our application estate. Windows 11 affords the opportunity to look at how we manage applications today, how we want to deliver them in the future, and how we will maintain them moving forwards with modern formats, compatibility testing and functional testing.

The goal should be to transition to Workplace Automation and processes with Windows 11, maturing the approach to modern application packaging and management and ensuring that the service provided ensures that end-users are secure and productive. This needs to be achieved alongside the drive to adopt the new OS as quickly as possible with application management fitting seamlessly into a wider deployment project.

Understanding Application Readiness For Windows 11

Organizational adoption of Windows 11 will vary. Many will continue to utilize Windows 10 and wait until the end of support approaches before evaluating and implementing a full Windows 11 rollout. For application packaging teams, this presents an opportunity to start assessing their readiness for Windows 11 while using the introduction of an updated OS as a catalyst for modernizing their current application management processes.

This modern packaging approach to assessing organizational readiness could significantly reduce many packaging teams' pressures. However, in reality, today's processes are still slow, costly, and highly time-consuming, from requesting a new package to coordinating UAT and change control prior to deployment. Complex applications are also a fact of life when managing any application estate. In many cases, issues may arise in converting these applications into new formats, not everything may convert easily first time and new application packaging skills may be required. We are seeing this with our customers, who are using the project to move to Modern Device Management with Intune or planning to adopt new platforms such as Azure Virtual Desktop. In both scenarios, there is a need to convert existing packages to new formats; .intunewin and MSIX.  

Understanding the organizational readiness for Windows 11 will drive a rethink surrounding the existing processes or tools and potentially bring into focus any outstanding application packaging and management issues that need addressing during the migration. It also creates an opportunity to assess and review any potential format upgrades and consider leveraging MSIX and .intunewin, as a planned upgrade project.

Juriba offers a Windows 11 Assessment Service (W11 AS), using our Workplace Automation platform, to help organizations understand the key challenges facing them when moving to Windows 11 and the fastest way to understand hardware and software compatibility within your organization.

The Opportunity Is There For The Taking

Windows 11, whilst not as disruptive as previous OS updates, will undoubtedly mean that application management and modern packaging is back on the top of the organization's agenda. Packaging teams can proactively embrace modern packaging formats for Windows 365/Azure Virtual Desktop and provide confidence that business-critical applications can be automatically tested for compatibility, new features, and security updates and work on Windows 10 and Windows 11.

Modern packaging techniques use automation and step away from the legacy of highly manual application packaging factories. They provide a better and faster experience for the end-user by involving the application owners and enabling them to do their packaging but still to corporate standards.

The opportunity to reduce costs, simplify the packaging process and free up resources and time for the packagers to better manage and deliver applications consistently in multiple ways.

Utilizing automation in modern packaging simplifies the application packaging process, and as a result, immediate savings are identified. Typically automation is 97% faster with a 40% reduction in project costs. This level of savings is achieved regardless of file format, version or location and when utilized in a Windows 11 readiness assessment can provide a clear ROI baseline." - David Cuffy, Application Lead at Juriba

New Technologies Will Supersede Windows 11

It’s clear that new technologies will continue to emerge.  

Modern packaging must be flexible, adaptable, and ready for whatever comes next. Maybe that is a future iteration of MSIX, a focus on browser-based applications, or acceleration of Azure Virtual Desktop requiring a further packaging formats. Achieving this without wasting time and resources on changing working processes is a highly desirably state in which to operate your application management service.

However, the release of Windows 11 has confirmed that we can be sure that the momentum of frequently needing to test, package, and update applications in ever-changing formats and environments are here to stay. Gartner Research Vice President Stephen Kleynhans recommends in Positioning Windows 11 and Preparing To Deploy just two immediate actions for business concerning Windows 11.

One is creation of a timeline for evaluation of and migration to Windows 11, with testing to start in the first half of 2022. The other is to conduct limited tests among folk in your IT and ops teams. 

So, where to start? Utilizing automation will be essential. Juriba's Workplace Automation Platform provides a single place to manage application testing, packaging, and application life cycle across every IT change program, helping organizations move to Windows 11 faster, test for compatibility, and automatically manage new Windows 11 features and security updates.

Watch Now: How To Test New Packages Are Compatible With Windows 11

Applications will also be automatically tested across multiple formats to keep pace with new technologies (MSI, AppV, MSIX, .intunewin, MSIX App Attach), and compatibility and functionality issues are identified before deployment to Windows 11, across any environment, build, or version. You can jump into our automated packaging tool, AppM Packager, to try it out yourself free for 30 days

Explore. Plan. Execute.

It's evident that while Windows 11 is new and current adoption (written March 2022) is relatively low, what Windows 11 represents for modern packaging is significant. Driven by end-users ultimately wanting a better experience, emerging tech will continue to rise and consequently increase the complexity and dynamics of the application landscape. As a result, modern packaging teams will need to be quick to adapt to the latest release, feature, update, or format and have flexibility in their application management accordingly. And whilst this initially can appear to be a daunting challenge, it is also an exciting opportunity to future-proof modern packaging processes and tools.

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