What is Application Virtualization?

If you are a technology decision-maker in your organization, you are probably overwhelmed by communications from vendors offering the latest and greatest technologies to help you save money and make your IT operations more efficient. There are now so many technological advancements available that even the most resource-anemic of IT departments can get whipped into a lean, mean, high-performing machine. But, reaching this pinnacle takes time. First, as a decision-maker you must understand the technologies that are available. A good place to start your education is with virtualization, specifically, application virtualization. What is application virtualization?

Forrester, a well-known technology research company defines application virtualization as follows:

Application virtualization refers to software technologies that encapsulate their applications from the operating system on which they are executed, in order to improve their compatibility, portability, and management.1

To fully understand application virtualization, we can break down the Forrester definition into four parts: encapsulation, compatibility, portability, and management.


In organizations, many applications are typically installed directly on individual desktop systems. When you implement application virtualization, it becomes a new layer that is sandwiched between the work computer’s operating system and the application. This virtual layer, which often exists as a sandbox or virtual machine (VM), is where all the component-related activities occurs. For example, changes to the system registry. System performance issues are often tied to these activities. By virtualizing apps, those issues are no longer associated with the organization’s work systems.


I’m sure employees in your organization use multiple applications to perform their jobs. When you install or upgrade applications, there is always a chance for compatibility issues. These may relate to the operating system or the applications themselves. Virtualized apps remove these dependencies. All of your requirements and testing are limited to the virtual system.


Since virtualized apps are installed on a host system, management occurs at a single location. Once installed on the host system, deployment of virtualized apps works similar to a network service. You deploy the applications across the network and employees access them as needed directly or using a VPN connection. You control all installation and management tasks related to the applications. Any updates to the application are made to the host and automatically picked up the next time the user launches the app.


For the most part, virtualized apps are used the same way as their counterparts. Users are able to store information on their local system as normal. If there are employees in your organization that work remotely or travel often, they can access virtualized apps that are streamed across the network. Depending on the setup, they may not need an Internet connection.

Is Your Organization Ready for Application Virtualization?

If you decide to follow-up with potential vendors about application virtualization as a potential technology for your organization, it is a good idea to first determine your goals, specific use cases, and the number and types of applications you want virtualized. There are many approaches to application virtualization. Identifying your specific needs when talking to a vendor can help determine if their solution is suitable for your organization.

1 = http://www.forrester.com/Application-Virtualization

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