Within the Client Technology branch of Infrastructure Services IT, there are several tasks that the teams need to perform in order to manage client systems like laptops and desktops as well as virtual environments. In larger enterprises, the existence of an established Client Management infrastructure can be assumed, to help deploy new systems and maintain existing ones. Thinking about introducing Application Virtualization into the mix brings up an important question: What can you actually use it for?
Software Installation and Maintenance, Update of Operating System components (Patch Management), Driver Installation, and changes to User Configuration are among the major tasks that a Client Management infrastructure is used for. The area of Software Maintenance usually sees the most frequent changes, new applications, and updates to be rolled out to your clients – and it is the area that Application Virtualization is predestined for, helping IT save time and costs.
Although you won’t be able to use virtualization in all the usage scenarios where natively installed packages or scripts can be used, Application Virtualization can be used in addition or as an alternative to traditional Software Deployment mechanisms, covering the majority of use cases.
To virtualize or not to virtualize…
There’s a plethora of tools available on the market that help you determine if an application is a good candidate for virtualization. These products usually perform an in-depth analysis of the application installer and provide a recommendation at the end of the process. Whether you’ve already licensed such a product or not, it is helpful to understand what kinds of applications can be virtualized in general to look for the right candidates as you take inventory of the software in your environment.
At SAP IT, we have created a simple categorization for our candidate applications. Based on our findings, stand-alone products can be virtualized rather easily as these applications typically don’t have any dependencies on locally installed components such as middleware or other applications. If you know any applications that match this criterion, make them your first choice for virtualization. You should achieve your quick wins here and make the most of your investment instantly.
Any applications that depend on additional products or that might install a device driver (e.g. for printers) will require your packaging team to spend some more time to investigate and dissect the application installer. One option could be to natively install the device driver and deploy the virtualized application in sequence. However, breaking out individual components from the product installer might be questionable as far as both vendor support and application management are concerned.
Applications that require a binding to physical components (such as the MAC address of your network card or a hardware dongle) are usually not a good candidate for virtualization due to the limitations mentioned above.
The decision to virtualize an application depends not only on these technical factors but also on your overall desktop and update strategy and how virtualization fits into the picture. This virtualization technology has matured significantly over the last few years and in the light of a mobile and more agile desktop operating system environment, Application Virtualization becomes a cornerstone to enable new and more efficient software deployment scenarios.
 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