Considerations for Application Virtualization

By Dave Harding (Profile)
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Thursday, November 15th 2012
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In this article, Dave Harding, Product Manager at IT efficiency company 1E, discusses why organizations need to have visibility of their virtualized applications and how they can achieve this. Increasingly organizations are using application virtualization technologies that “sandbox” an application so that it doesn’t leave the same imprint that traditional software install does. This makes it a real challenge to monitor application usage, which can be a key component of identifying opportunities to reduce license costs or ensuring compliance for an impending vendor audit.

Technology evolves fast. Virtualization has already spread way beyond the data center. Today, application virtualization, user-centric deployment models and terminal server technologies are transforming delivery of applications to improve user experience and reduce overhead management costs. However, as organizations deploy these virtualized applications, many aren’t properly accounting for their software licenses. In fact, software vendors have been slow to update their licensing models to reflect this trend.

Software licensing represents a major cost and administrative burden and is a hidden license liability for organizations – often, it consumes far more of the IT budget than necessary. In fact, recent research found that there is $12.3bn of preventable and ongoing costs associated with unused software and shelfware within organizations in the Unites States alone. Every organization needs a single and comprehensive view of software licenses and usage to manage this issue.

Application Virtualization Defined

Before examining the impact of increasing application virtualization on software licensing, it is important to understand what application virtualization means in this context.

There are a number of competing and complementary technologies in the application virtualization space – with the biggest driver probably being Microsoft App-V technology. App-V can work in different modes, but essentially App-V allows the sandboxing of an application within a virtualized environment on a PC. An application is then “sequenced” to run within this sandbox. The purpose of this is two-fold – first, the environment within which the application runs is standardized, and second, very little “footprint” is left on the PC from the App-V application.

Many large enterprises are currently attempting to standardize on App-V as a distribution (or packaging) technology. Some organizations that are in the process of deploying Windows 7 and are having to go through an exercise of re-packaging all applications have decided to sequence them as App-V packages where possible. However, most organizations are finding that they are only able to use App-V for 60-70 percent of existing apps for various reasons.

Drilling a bit deeper, App-V can be used in several modes – including live streaming from application servers. However, App-V can also be deployed so that the App-V client can run the application independent of the server. Other virtualization technologies such as Citrix XenApp or VMware ThinApp typically use a streaming mechanism.  App-V is the only commonly used technology that enables standalone use without requiring a network connection to a shared application server.