App Volumes Components and Architecture

The App Volumes just-in-time application model separates IT-managed applications and application suites into administrator-defined application containers and introduces an entirely different container used for persisting user changes between sessions.

VMware App Volumes is a real-time application delivery system that IT can use to dynamically deliver and manage applications. You do not need to modify desktops or RDS servers to work with App Volumes because applications act as if they were natively installed. The App Volumes solution can be scaled out easily and cost-effectively, without compromising end-user experience. Applications are centrally managed and delivered to desktops through virtual disks.

Introduction to Horizon with App Volumes

App Volumes streamlines delivery and lifecycle management of applications.

  1. Apps are abstracted from the OS, and stored in read-only disks called AppStacks. These AppStacks may contain one or many applications. Because of this layer of abstraction, base images used to provision desktop pools need little more than an operating system.
  2. AppStacks are attached to VMs during boot or user login, making applications instantly available. A core set of applications can be delivered to desktops during provisioning. As users login, additional AppStacks containing departmental or user specific apps may be attached.
  3. AppStacks can be assigned to Active Directory OUs containing computer objects for RDS Hosts. As the hosts are provisioned and powered on, AppStacks are attached and the apps are available for publishing. As the farm grows, applications are automatically delivered to the new hosts.

Summary of App Volumes Benefits

With App Volumes, applications become objects that can be moved easily across data centers or to the cloud and shared with thousands of virtual machines. In a virtual desktop environment, App Volumes provides the following benefits:

Real-time, dynamic application delivery in virtualized environments  

  • Delivers and updates applications and data by using a one-to-many shared delivery model.  
  • Applications delivered through App Volumes behave as natively installed applications.

Persistent end-user experience in non-persistent environments  

  • Supports fully customizable desktops, allowing end users to install their own applications on writable volumes.  
  • Invisibly attaches applications to virtual machines, undetected by end users.  
  • Creates a persistent user experience with the cost savings of a non-persistent architecture.
  • Integrates seamlessly with VMware User Environment Manager for even greater control over user persistence.

Application life-cycle management  

  • Manages the application life cycle, from provisioning, delivery, and maintenance, to retirement.  
  • Speeds up application updates or upgrades and supports easy application replacement.

Reduced VDI infrastructure costs and improved efficiency  

  • Can drive down compute, network, and storage costs by leveraging on-demand delivery of applications in a non-persistent desktop architecture.  
  • Can be implemented in any supported VMware vSphere datastore.  
  • Works with existing infrastructure for flexible delivery to users, groups, or devices.  
  • Enables IT to use the most appropriate storage, including fast storage with high read IOPS, such as VMware vSAN.
  • Allows IT administrators to deliver and manage applications in virtual desktops using less storage capacity than they would with Horizon 7 alone.

App Volumes Components

App Volumes Manager

  • Console for management of App Volumes, including configuration, creation of AppStacks, and assignment of AppStacks and writable volumes
  • Broker for App Volumes Agent for the assignment of applications and writable volumes

App Volumes Agent

  • Virtual desktops or RDSH servers running the App Volumes Agent
  • File system and registry abstraction layer running on the target system
  • Virtualizes file system writes as appropriate (when used with an optional writable volume)

AppStack Volumes

  • Read-only volume containing applications
  • One or more AppStacks per user or machine
  • Deploys apps to VDI or RDSH

Writable Volume

  • Read-write volume that persists changes written in the session, including user-installed applications and user profile
  • One writable volume per user
  • Only available with user or group assignments
  • User writable volumes are not applicable to RDSH


  • A Microsoft SQL database that contains configuration information for AppStacks, writable volumes, and user entitlements
  • Should be highly available

Active Directory

  • Environment used to assign and entitle users to AppStacks and writable volumes

VMware vCenter Server

  • App Volumes uses vCenter Server to connect to resources within the VMware vSphere environment
  • Manages vSphere hosts for attaching and detaching AppStacks and writable volumes to target VMs

Provisioning VMs

  • Clean Windows VM with App Volumes Agent
  • Provisions and updates applications into an AppStack

Storage Group

  • Group of datastores used to replicate AppStacks and distribute writable volumes


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