MSIX Predictions for 2022 - What to expect
MSIX has been available for almost four years now, since Microsoft first announced it. Although 2021 did not deliver all of the advances I had hoped for, I was pleased to see MSIX adoption continue to expand on a regular basis.
With more software engineers using MSIX, Microsoft partners like Advanced Installer and other MSIX third-party solution providers will have more feedback to help improve and grow the platform.
What surprised me the most in 2021 was that, from what I noticed, the largest MSIX adoption came from the developers’ side, rather than the IT professional community– where Microsoft has mostly promoted it. Potentially with time, all those packages built by developers will eventually be deployed inside enterprise infrastructures, increasing its adoption among IT pros.
The Enterprise IT Glacier
Like glaciers, enterprise application management is constantly evolving and reshaping the landscape. Some melt, and others get formed. Let's not get tricked into thinking everything will stay the same.
Modern IT departments, even those that adopted the practice of repackaging every application as MSI in the past, now recognize how important it is to stay flexible when choosing how to handle their applications.
As we know, there is no single method that works for all of their applications. Instead, they pick and choose which applications require repackaging, which to customize with a wrapper or bolt-on configuration, and which to deploy as they are.
They deploy a mix of EXE setups, PowerShell (and other) scripts, registry files, and MSIs. They may perform some MSI repackaging, but mix in different packaging formats, for example, possibly including App-V, MSIX, and even some of the other third party packaging/runtime formats.
MSIX Adoption in Smaller Organizations
Smaller organizations typically settle on a minor subset of this list and perform fewer customizations from the vendor's package than larger organizations.What I mean is: "It's not that they aren't touching the apps, it's just that they understand better that not every pasta dish has the same sauce in it" – so, IT professionals in smaller companies don't necessarily apply the same practices as the ones from big companies just because their job title is the same.
Keeping up with MSIX Technology in Enterprise Environments
While I totally understand the desire to keep using the tech you already know, and I have never recommended any of our enterprise customers to start adopting MSIX for their critical applications, without prior experience. But in any enterprise environment, you will have a set of non-critical apps that you can package as MSIX and use them as a training playground for your team.
This is software – nothing lasts forever. If we refuse to evolve together with the ecosystem, we’ll eventually be filtered out of the ecosystem.
We will definitely continue to evolve and grow as new options and technologies come out to make the job of developers and IT Pros more seamless.
MSIX Challenges for Enterprises
MSIX in the enterprise comes with two main challenges:
- First, you need to learn how to properly create MSIX packages
- Second, you need to learn how to deploy them.
If you are interested in learning more about MSIX packaging, I wrote a book together with Tim Mangan and Kevin Kaminski: MSIX Packaging Fundamentals - It’s free and tool agnostic, so it will help you focus on learning MSIX Packaging. Kevin also covers what are your MSIX deployment options.
Getting used to MSIX packaging will take some time, especially if your team has only packaged MSIs so far. The MSIX container restrictions and defaults will be a big change for the packagers. The sooner you start learning about them, the easier it will be.
If you have experience with App-V or other virtualization technologies, learning MSIX will come naturally.
I recommend IT managers to provide engineers in their team with the time to learn and grow their skills. Even if it always feels like there are pull requests or bugs to fix – nothing is worth more than investing in the skills of your employees, and you will reap those benefits at a later time.
That being said, I think the biggest challenge for MSIX is sitting in Microsoft’s court. Until the community doesn’t get more MSIX packaged applications from Microsoft (yes, Office team, we are looking at you!), the adoption trend will probably not increase spectacularly.
Microsoft hasn’t announced anything yet, but they said they were working on it so I wouldn’t be surprised if they release an MSIX version of Office during one of their big events of 2022.
MSIX Limitations and Bugs
Office has one of the most complex installers from the Windows ecosystem. Packaging it right is critical, both from a reliability and a security standpoint.
We don’t want to see another instance of the ms-appinstaller issues. As with any software, there will be bugs and limitations, therefore it requires proper adoption, evaluation, and planning. You might not yet want to migrate a large application that you’ve been developing for over 10 years to MSIX, but it might make sense to adopt MSIX for a new application.
Running inside a container is a big limitation for many existing applications. This complicates inter-app communications, resource access, and deployment customization. It's not that these scenarios are not possible, they just require some updates to your application and new deployment standards to be learned and adopted.
As with any investment, the initial costs are higher than the immediate returns. But you’re in it for the long run and that’s when learning pays off.
As I said in the beginning of this article, I don’t expect MSIX to replace MSI, but I see a lot of momentum going into 2022 – both from the usage and tooling perspectives. This is also visible in the last report card from Tim Mangan.
In 2021, we got the public release of MSIX App Attach. For the moment, this is available only in Azure, but who knows, maybe Microsoft will give us an on-premise version?
MSIX has the potential to save us huge amounts of network bandwidth, and with the MSIX App Attach those savings can grow even more.
I can’t wait to see what Microsoft and other partners will build for the MSIX ecosystem in 2022.
What are you waiting for the most?
Thank you Tim Mangan for reviewing and contributing to this article.
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