I just read Alessandro’s article asking “Is there any real need for application virtualization?”  I say most definitely YES, especially when talking about desktop virtualization!  When I talk about application delivery in conjunction with desktop virtualization, I always refer to three ways of integrating applications into the desktop:

  • Install
  • Host
  • Stream

Streaming is what Alessandro means when he talks application virtualization.  Is application virtualization required in every virtual desktop implementation? No.  Have I seen customer successfully use application virtualization for their applications? Yes.  When is it best to use application virtualization?  Not a simple yes or no question, but here is when I typically recommend and don’t recommend its use.

Scenario 1: Almost all of an organization’s applications, to be delivered in a virtual desktop, are used by 100% of the users.  There are only a few applications that are specific to certain user groups.  In this instance I typically recommend forgoing the use of application virtualization.  If I created a virtual desktop image for each unique configuration, I would end up with a fairly small number of desktop images due to the similarities between all groups.  It would probably end up creating more work to setup an application virtualization solution for this type of environment.

Scenario 2: There is a wide disparity of applications between different groups of users.  Creating desktop images based on these differences would result in 25+ images, each of which must be maintained individually, which will take quite a bit of time.  I would be better off separating out the unique applications and finding another way of delivering them to the virtual desktop either via streaming or hosting on XenApp. 

Scenario 3: Users who travel with laptops need to have locally available applications.  Are these users computer savvy and able to install and maintain their own applications?  Maybe, maybe not.  If they are not, you really don’t want them to install their own line-of-business applications. You want those applications delivered to them. And because they are mobile users, they need to have these in an offline fashion.  This is a place where I would suggest using application virtualization. In fact, if you have an environment with mobile users and virtual desktop users, you can use the same application profile, which simplifies maintenance even more.

I’ve seen quite a bit of success with application virtualization. In fact, I know of a few customers who are streaming large application like SAP.  To be honest, I am also receiving most of my apps to my laptop as virtualized applications via Dazzle

Unfortunately, the application virtualization solution is not an end-all-be-all solution yet. In fact, because of technological limitations in the current versions, you will be hindered by the types of applications you can virtualize (services, ODBC configurations, etc). 

The main thing to remember is that you must have flexibility if you are going to do your desktop virtualization designs correctly.  Forcing every user into the same environment without the ability to customize is not something I would accept, and neither would other users.

The big question you have to ask yourself is for typical organizations that have thousands of applications, how would you deliver a virtual desktop and applications to the users? Hundreds of desktop images or one desktop image with one application package per application? 


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