From time to time, I have the opportunity to speak with Greg O'Connor, CEO of AppZero, about trends in application virtualization and how AppZero's customers are using AppZerol 5.2 to move applications from earlier versions of Windows to newer versions or into the cloud.
What is application virtualization?
Before we go too far into considering what AppZero is doing, let's look at Application Virtualization. Application virtualization is defined in the following way in Virtualization: A Manager's Guide, my O'Reilly Media book. (O'Reilly tells me that the bird on the cover is a Condor not a vulture. No matter what they say, it looks like a vulture to me.)
Client-side application virtualization
The client-side form of application virtualization creates a protected environment that makes it possible for applications to be isolated from one another and from the base operating system. This means that applications that could not successfully reside on the same client system could be used together. This prevents the “library version mismatch” problem with Windows applications.
It also means that an application designed for an earlier version of the operating system may continue to function on a newer version of that operating system, even though it would be incompatible without being placed in a virtual environment.
This is very useful when an organization is in the process of upgrading from one operating system version to another and can’t upgrade the application.
Another use is delivering applications or application components to a target client system as needed. Application virtualization also makes it possible for those applications or application components to either remain on the client system for later use or be automatically removed after they have been used.
Server-side application virtualization
Placing server-side applications in a virtual environment offers many of the same benefits as client-side application virtualization. Applications that are normally incompatible with one another can be made to work together. Applications that might be incompatible with new versions of an operating system can continue to be used. Server-side application virtualization offers a few other valuable functions as well. Multiple instances of an application can be automatically started on other machines when the workload is no longer meeting service-level guidelines. This could mean faster performance or being able to handle workload requests from a larger number of people.
Another important benefit is that applications can be restarted upon failure. While this is not the same thing as a high availability cluster, it can be very valuable.
AppZero 5.2 makes it possible to create Virtual Application Appliances (VAAs) and then deploy them on physical, virtual or cloud servers running Winows 2000, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, or Windows Sserver 2008(R2). VAAs from older versions of Windows can run on that version or newer versions. It also make user and group migrations a drag and drop experience. Sometime in February, AppZero is planning to release an update that will support Windows Server 2012 as well.
How are AppZero customers using application virtualization?
AppZero points out that companies are increasingly outsourcing portions of the software and hardware stack and that trend makes it difficult to effectively run the business. Depending upon the workload, any one of the following may have been outsourced and run by third parties.
Application virtualization, AppZero would say, allows applications to become largely "stack independent.' That is, the application can be hosted on a number of different operating system versions, virtual machine software, middleware versions, database versions and, thus, be quite mobile. As the organization moves more and more of its workloads into managed or hosted environments, and this includes cloud computing, the applications don't have to be changed.
Greg pointed out that AppZero's application virtualization tools do for applications what virtual machine software products do for entire systems. He also pointed out that might be a much more efficient approach. It isn't necessary to carry along a complete copy of the operating system, middleware, application frameworks and the like just to re-host an application. It is also possible to bring along older tools and make them continue to be useful until the organization can update them.
Orgranizations often select virtual machime software when other forms of virtualization would be a better choice. Application Virtualiztaion is a wonderful tool to make workloads more agile and to make version upgrades easy.
AppZero has been a company I've been tracking for quite a number of years. Their customers have told me time and again that they like the technology and think it helps them be more productive and at a lower cost.
Ask to see a demo of AppZero 5.2. I believe you'll be impressed how easy it is to encapsulate an application or tool and then move it to a new version of the operating system, a different host or into the cloud.