Most application virtualization tools use Active Directory or LDAP to associate users with applications based on centrally administered policies. The imminent release of Windows 7 this year or in early 2010 will be a trigger to reconsider "business as usual" in desktop and application management. Using traditional desktop management tools, IT managers who make the transition to Windows 7 will need to create and manage Windows 7 images. Therefore, using application virtualization to decouple applications from operating system deployment and imaging is worth considering.
Application virtualization also is often a fundamental component of VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) projects. Application virtualization is usually the technology that enables the virtual desktop to be configured with the particular application needed by individual users. Experimenting with stand-alone application virtualization tools can provide IT staff members with a good understanding of how the operating system and applications are married together to aid end-user productivity without implementing a complex testbed. In most cases, application virtualization will be a component of any successful VDI solution.
Another factor to consider is that, along with VDI, application virtualization is a component of many so-called cloud computing initiatives. When application virtualization is successful, it encases the application in a bubble that is effectively separated from the local hardware. These bubbled applications can still interact with other applications and local resources, such as printers or USB drives. It is a relatively small step to then host these virtualized applications in remote data centers or as a so-called cloud resource.
This is a glimpse of what the future may hold for central application deployment.
Regarding the ability to quickly reprovision users, at the discretion of the IT department, users may be allowed to customize the application, or the application may be delivered with customizations depending on IT-created policies that take into account job function, physical machine location and the type of physical devices the user is logging in from.
Separating applications from an intimate connection to the Windows operating system is really something the operating system should do, and often tries to do. While the ".dll hell" of Windows 98 is largely a memory "bit rot," the interfering detritus that Windows applications tend to leave behind as versions are upgraded-or older versions are removed and new versions are installed-still impedes user productivity.
Application virtualization can significantly reduce this effect because the application is not installed on the end-user system. In fact, this ability to provide a centrally managed version of an application that is provided on demand to the end user may prove to be the saving grace of application virtualization.
However, in this current economic period, IT managers should very carefully evaluate application virtualization products from vendors large and small. If a pilot project does not reveal substantial desktop cost reductions, it is advisable to focus for now on making incremental improvements in existing desktop management tools.