by Randy Littleson
According to Gartner, application virtualization is an application packaging and deployment technology that isolates applications from each other and limits the degree to which they interact with the underlying OS. Application virtualization provides an alternative to traditional packaging and installation technologies.
Application virtualization has the potential to decrease the time it takes to deploy applications by reducing application packaging complexity and scope for application conflicts typically experienced when using traditional packaging approaches (e.g., MSI). Cost savings comprise the main benefit of application virtualization in the form of faster application packaging, less regression testing, reduced help desk calls and increased standardization.
Given that application virtualization represents an alternative approach to application packaging and deployment, it stands to reason that you would benefit from integrating this into your existing application packaging process. Specifically, such a process should include steps to:
- Identify—the first step requires obtaining an accurate view of the applications that are deployed across the organization. This is a good time to look at the application inventory and take stock of what is actually being used, as opposed to what is deployed. When organizations undertake a major migration like Windows 7 or 8 - every app they port to that new environment requires time and effort - and therefore costs the company. Likewise, the same applies to application virtualization. Reducing the number of applications that must be migrated, and the cost per migrated application is an important goal. So, companies are wise to inventory their applications and understand their use.
- Rationalize—once inventory is complete, IT should verify the need to continue to support the applications or to consolidate applications to a reduced number of products and versions, excluding from the migration process those that are not used. This will not only save time and cost around the migration, but it will enable the company to reduce wasted IT spend on application licenses that are not being used.
- Assess Compatibility—an essential step in any migration is an assessment of application suitability, as not all applications owned will work in the desired new environment. Without automation, it’s difficult to quickly know which applications will have compatibility issues, and thus which will require additional time to migrate. If you’re virtualizing applications and considering rolling out Windows 7 or 8 applications as part of a larger VDI initiative, compatibility assessment must extend past simple application compatibility. It must also include an assessment of end user-compatibility. IT must have a high level of confidence that the user will have a good experience with the virtualized Windows app in the new operating system; otherwise the virtualized deployment will fail. To do so, organizations must collect in-depth information on each user’s application usage such as CPU performance, online/offline access, input/output and memory utilization, to reveal virtualization suitability and the complexity of virtualizing that application. From there, IT should generate a suitability assessment, ranking devices and users based on virtualization suitability into low-, medium- and high-complexity groups based on usage patterns and environmental conditions. Only those users assessed to have a high level of suitability should be deployed on the virtualized Windows 7 or 8 applications.
- Plan - the work completed in the Rationalize and Assess Compatibility phases arms IT management with a list of rationalized applications and the details of compatibility issues that need to be addressed. With this information IT will have a clear view of the magnitude of the project enabling them to accurately calculate costs and duration timeframes.
- Fix and package - as organizations prepare to deploy in the new environments they will need to convert applications to the required format. Application fixing and format conversion can be a time-consuming, manual process, so utilizing technology to automate this and leverage investment in packaged applications can yield considerable savings, and ensure a consistent approach to Application Readiness.
- Deploy - now IT can hand off the packaged virtualized applications to the deployment system for delivery to end users. To further cut costs, create efficiencies and deliver a better user experience, more organizations are looking to create App Portals for self-service - giving users an iTunes-like enterprise App Store to access approved applications. If the App Portal is linked to an Application Readiness solution, the process for populating the storefront with packaged applications, and making them available to users with requisite access rights can be simple. Moreover, if the App Portal is tied on the back end to an Enterprise License Optimization system, IT can create a seamless App Store experience for end users while still maintaining continual software compliance, financial accountability and control.
Note that this is the same process used to support traditional MSI applications. While application virtualization introduces a new way to package and deploy, there are significant synergies to be realized—ease of training, process consistency, accuracy of results, etc.—from putting all applications through a standard application readiness process, regardless of the end format into which they will be packaged. Process consistency ensures that every application goes through the same rigor and steps to prepare it for successful deployment.
What continues to impede widespread adoption is that application virtualization cannot be used for 100% of applications, and may never work with many legacy applications, especially those developed in-house. The key is figuring out which ones can and can’t be virtualized. This reality places a premium on a standardized process that assesses each application for suitability to be virtualized and then implements an appropriate packaging strategy based on that assessment.
Application virtualization is not a panacea. But, with the right application readiness process supported by the right tools, organizations can leverage application virtualization to efficiently deliver applications and reduce help desk calls.
For additional information, read the white paper “Six Steps to Continuous Application Readiness.”