By: Chris Maher
In my last blog post, I discussed some of the many benefits of using Application Virtualization. In this post, I'll discuss some steps to help you prepare for an Application Virtualization rollout.
The first step in preparing for an Application Virtualization rollout is to determine the application virtualization technology that best suits the organization's needs. Oftentimes this decision is determined based on the relationship with the individual vendors. For instance, organizations that have widely adopted Microsoft technologies will likely use Microsoft App-V, while applications that have adopted VMware technologies may be inclined to use VMware ThinApp. Others yet may decide that Citrix XenApp is the way to go.
Once the underlying technology has been chosen, how to deliver the virtual applications to the endpoints needs to be decided. There are two main mechanisms for delivering virtual applications: 1) streaming; and 2) pushing the entire application to the endpoint. Users of App-V may decide to leverage their existing Configuration Manager architecture to deploy the entire application or implement streaming servers that will stream only the blocks of data that are necessary to run the application. ThinApp users may decide to use Streaming Execution Mode, which streams only the necessary parts of an application into memory at launch time. One of the advantages of this approach is that there is no footprint or storage necessary on the endpoint. However, this solution also requires that the application be streamed over the network every time it's launched. Streaming has the advantage of getting the application to end users quickly on first launch, but has the disadvantage of having to be connected and performing "out of sequence" requests for portions of an application that aren't a part of the first launch. This can cause some sluggishness while using advanced features of an application.
Another decision that needs to be made is how to determine which applications should be virtualized. It's important to run a compatibility test on the applications prior to virtualizing. Some applications aren't good candidates for virtualization either because they have components that can't be virtualized, or because they integrate with many other applications or parts of the Operating System. Understanding which applications can be virtualized can save a great deal of time. By the same token, it's also key to understand the licensing for applications. It may be easy to virtualize an application and provide access to it on a network share, but it's important to ensure that no license agreements are being broken in the process.
For consistency purposes, creating standards and best practices for the application virtualization process is very helpful. For instance, what is the naming convention for applications and shortcuts? Should shortcuts be delivered to the desktop? How will application updates be handled? What documentation is needed? How will User Acceptance Testing be conducted?
Once the applications to be virtualized are determined and the process for packaging and testing them has been designed, a migration plan can be created. This will typically include the resources necessary to virtualize, test, and deploy the applications. It will also include how to retire the existing locally installed applications that are being replaced by virtualized applications. This step is typically the longest in the rollout.
Leveraging automation techniques during the application virtualization migration process can drastically reduce the amount of time needed to rollout. It can also increase the likelihood of success by minimizing the amount of manual intervention needed to properly virtualize an application. Solutions such as the Flexera Software AdminStudio Application Virtualization Pack can assist with the process of testing applications for compatibility and converting applications to an application virtualization format. AdminStudio can also help enforce the standards that are defined as part of the process.
Preparing for an application virtualization rollout can seem like a daunting task. Oftentimes organizations wait for a compelling event such as an Operating System migration or a desktop transformation initiative to implement application virtualization. However, given the many benefits, it can make sense to implement application virtualization sooner rather than later.