In our line of business, all too often we come across IT infrastructure heads who say they are currently looking at virtualizing their applications and may look at virtualizing desktops later (if needed). I find this odd because it is not an either or decision.
Let’s first understand what application virtualization is and why organizations invest in it. It is a solution that insulates running programs from the underlying desktop. The idea is to eliminate the configuration problems that conventional desktops are plagued with and that require high support resources. In essence, the interactions between the OS and a given program are virtualized. This is particularly useful when the end-users need a specific set of applications to perform predictable tasks with minimal variance or access controls. A good example would be at the branch of a bank that typically handles a set type and number of average transactions. This however still leaves a need for personal computing capacity on the desktop.
Compare this with desktop virtualization which takes the entire desktop and puts it in the datacenter (put crudely) with the desktop becoming nothing but a thin client. This enables broader level of access to complex business applications even on the move, and is hence better suited for power users / management.
Clearly therefore, both these technologies serve very different purposes and application virtualization cannot become a proxy for desktop virtualization or vice-versa. If its the budget that’s causing you to take this phased approach, then remember, application virtualization maybe cheaper but it is also restricted in the capabilities and visibility that it provides to power users. Deploying it across the organization will mean that VDI will inevitably become necessary when a more sophisticated level interaction with applications is required.
Consequently, the thinking around virtualization needs to change. Enterprises should be looking to use cloud power to maximise end-user satisfaction, productivity and revenue generation. Hence, if the end-goal of your cloud strategy is to maximise productivity, increase IT efficiency and responsiveness and increase enterprise security, application virtualisation is a step in your cloud adoption journey which eventually has to proceed to user session and desktop virtualization in order to realise your organizational goals.