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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?

 

Determine the Scope

AppV_Candidates.jpgSoftware 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[1]. 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.

The concept of Application Virtualization imposes certain restrictions to be aware of – the most important one being that this technology runs on top of the operating system and (just your e-mail client, for example) does not have access to lower layers of the stack like device drivers or items outside the virtualized container.

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.

AppV_VirtSignal.jpg

 

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.

 


[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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  1. Former Member

    While the categories make sense and definitely well describe the growing complication for virtualization, the software for virtualization made big progress over tha last two years. E.g. do you know that SAP Landscape Virtualization Management which is general available since half a year allows you to quickly copy, clone and refresh SAP systems and provide therefore a very important step towards virtualization of your SAP system. So – if supported by the vendor – software that might be classified in the red box is ready for virtualization today.

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    1. Former Member Post author

      In deed, there has been great progress in the virtualization are over the last few years and SAP Landscape Virtualization Management is an excellent example of how even complex systems and server applications can be decoupled from the physical limitations.

      On the client side however, some of these limitations unfortunately still exist for desktop applications that include device drivers and IT has three options: A) natively install the device driver and deliver the virtual client application on top (no vendor support),  B) deliver just the virtual client application – without the drivers (limited application features), or C) natively install the application including the driver (vendor support). Taking both the technical boundaries as well as the support aspect into account, there might be some limitations one encounters when evaluating candidate applications.

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