Evaluating Application Virtualization in Windows Environments

By Cameron Sturdevant  |  Posted 2009-02-20 Print this article Print

Tech Analysis: With vendors such as Microsoft, Novell, VMware, Symantec and Citrix rolling out application virtualization components to their offerings, enterprise IT administrators need to take a look at the technology. The promise of reducing expenses through application virtualization is there, but eWEEK Labs points out that more work needs to be done on the technology to justify the costs and achieve real ROI.

Virtualization has proven its worth in the data center, essentially giving enterprises a tool that enables them to reduce overall costs while increasing their computing capacity.

In recent years, virtualization has spread beyond servers into such areas as storage, desktops and applications. However, at the application level, work still remains before real ROI can be achieved. As a technology, application virtualization is steadily advancing in sophistication. But my work with most of the application virtualization tools available today shows that they do not provide the hardware, deployment or maintenance savings found in server virtualization.

However, major players are moving into the application virtualization space. Microsoft, Citrix Systems, VMware and Symantec have all added application virtualization components to their lineups, mostly through acquisitions of the technology over the past 18 months.

Click here to read a review of the InstallFree app virtualization tool.

Virtualization, when applied to applications, does two things that make it worth testing in a pilot program. First, it isolates applications from the underlying end-user Windows operating system. It also streams a clean copy of the applications from a central repository to the end-user system. The ability to rapidly reprovision users can significantly lower desktop management costs in the case of user misconfiguration or malware infection.

Right now, application virtualization is primarily a technology for Windows environments, thanks to the prevalence of the operating system. Application virtualization is meant to smooth software testing, deployment and patching across large numbers of managed desktops, and such desktops-almost without exception-run Windows.

There are several reasons to pay careful attention to application virtualization technology, and one of them may be cost reduction. Many application virtualization tools enable some kind of "just in time" delivery of centrally stored and managed applications to end-user systems at startup. This technique could significantly reduce the number of images and the amount of time needed to provision new workers.

Cameron Sturdevant Cameron Sturdevant is the executive editor of Enterprise Networking Planet. Prior to ENP, Cameron was technical analyst at PCWeek Labs, starting in 1997. Cameron finished up as the eWEEK Labs Technical Director in 2012. Before his extensive labs tenure Cameron paid his IT dues working in technical support and sales engineering at a software publishing firm . Cameron also spent two years with a database development firm, integrating applications with mainframe legacy programs. Cameron's areas of expertise include virtual and physical IT infrastructure, cloud computing, enterprise networking and mobility. In addition to reviews, Cameron has covered monolithic enterprise management systems throughout their lifecycles, providing the eWEEK reader with all-important history and context. Cameron takes special care in cultivating his IT manager contacts, to ensure that his analysis is grounded in real-world concern. Follow Cameron on Twitter at csturdevant, or reach him by email at cameron.sturdevant@quinstreet.com.

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