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In the previous blog post, we introduced the concept of ‘always up-to-date’ applications at SAP to improve end-user productivity. This is the first of a series of posts, in which I would like to spend some time on the foundation of ‘always up-to-date’ applications: Your Application Virtualization strategy and how we developed ours at SAP IT.

Where do I find relevant information and where should I start?

Most of the information that is available on Application Virtualization technology refers to specific products and their implementation. Various tools on the market attempt to help IT assess the suitability of applications for virtualization. However, approaches to understand and to communicate easily are sparse and IT is left with little concrete information on how to develop a strategy around Application Virtualization technologies in their environment that works.

In order to bridge that gap, we applied a basic framework to categorize applications and derive common deployment scenarios and use cases[1]. That has allowed SAP IT to strategically pursue the use of Application Virtualization and focus on the areas that matter, getting the most out of the investment in this technology.
 
 
Six parameters to build your use cases

When preparing software packages for automated deployment within the corporate IT environment, you can evaluate six common parameters to determine if an application is a well-suited candidate for virtualization.
 
If a large number of Users in the environment will use the software product, it serves as a multiplier for the following considerations and costs associated with the management of the application’s lifecycle (packaging, deployment, update, etc.). If the application is intended for a relatively small group of users, traditional software packaging might be over-engineering. By using Application Virtualization technology, IT can lower the thresholds for creating a managed software package and deliver it even to a smaller target group.

Software vendors release updates to their products to introduce new features and to mitigate Security Risks. By providing virtualized applications to our end-users, SAP IT can deliver software updates faster and more seamlessly by only transferring files that have changed to the computer. In addition to that, virtualized applications run in an isolated environment and the risks of malicious files spreading to the operating system are limited. Given the high Update
Frequency of certain applications, the IT organization is tasked with deploying updates to the end-user’s computer in shorter intervals. By leveraging Application Virtualization, we are able to reduce the time to provision and test application updates by 50-70% of the time for provisioning classic software packages.

Besides these factors, Vendor Support for virtualizing a candidate application needs to be assessed on an individual basis. For virtualization support of SAP GUI, see SAP Note 66971. Depending upon the planned Usage Duration of a given software product, Application Virtualization can be used for fast delivery and easy removal of the software in scenarios of temporary installations. Software packages vary in Size and complexity. Although only a relatively small group of users in your environment might need a certain application, it can still be a good candidate for virtualization if multiple manual configuration steps have to be followed to set it up or if the package is large in size.

The potential to provide application updates to our end-users faster, to lower security risks by reducing the time-to-deploy while realizing cost- and time-savings both on the end-user’s and on IT’s side is tremendous!

 

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In the next post, we will highlight a few scenarios based on this framework in which Application Virtualization has helped us at SAP IT to build an effective strategy around the provisioning and management of applications.

 
 


[1] Andreas Welsch – Applikationsvirtualisierung – Untersuchung geeigneter Einsatzbereiche als Ergänzung oder Alternative bestehender Softwareverteilungs- und -installationsverfahren sowie prototypische Umsetzung (“Application Virtualization – Evaluation of potential usage scenarios as an addition or alternative to existing software deployment and installation procedures, and prototypical implementation”) – August 2010

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