This post is the first in a series in which I will explore the advantages, the disadvantages, and the essential features of application virtualization solutions. I will also review some products which will make you realize how different the approaches to application virtualization are. You’ll find the links to all articles in this series at the end of each post. German speaking readers might also be interested in my introduction to application virtualization in the magazine Computerwoche.

ThinApp Wikipedia defines it application virtualization as “an umbrella term that describes technologies that improve application compatibility and manageability by encapsulating applications from the underlying operating system on which they are executed.” The main idea is to run programs in a virtualized environment on a desktop system.

The difference between hardware virtualization solutions, such as VMware Workstation or Virtual PC, and application virtualization is that in the latter case the underlying operating system, the host if you will, is executing the program. But it seems to me that there is no clear dividing line between the different virtualization solutions. For example, you could say that Vista supports application virtualization as well, because it can virtualize folder structures and the registry for legacy apps. Hence the virtualization solutions differ only with respect to the objects they virtualize. Some virtualize a full-blown computer and others only the programs folder.

Most reports I’ve read sound quite promising, but in my experience every new technology also has its downsides. On the one hand, it sounds great to install software on desktops without making changes to the underlying OS. On the other hand, I have doubts, because running programs in an environment for which they were not explicitly designed invites problems. Instinctively I try to avoid anything that deviates from the norm when it comes to IT. Anyway, application virtualization is a hot topic.

I am interested in this technology because we would like to deploy a large number of different applications to student PCs (Elearning, dictionaries, etc.). Many of these applications are from small vendors and are often buggy. Usually they have to be updated frequently. I am afraid that we mess up our desktops this way sooner or later. Application virtualization might be the solution for this problem.

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In the next post of this series I will publish a list of all application virtualization solutions with a short introduction of all products.

7 Comments
  1. dude 15 years ago

    What about MojoPac? I just tried the trial of their latest enterprise version, and it seems to be able to handle some complex applications pretty well. Support for the Cisco VPN client seems to be somewhat buggy, but does work. The interface doesn’t look professional at all, but it does have some interesting enterprise features.

    Last time I tried Thinstall, I don’t believe it supported Cisco VPN connectivity, which is a big requirement for me. It did handle regular applications pretty well, but I only played with it as a trial.

    I am definitely looking forward hearing what other people have to say about these applications, as this technology has a lot of potential.

  2. ochiru 15 years ago

    Thinstall is the best for Application Virtualization but 5k$ for it is a big joke!

    At that price tag it should be more polished, automatic and offer driver virtualization too.

  3. Dude, thanks a lot for the hint. I added MojoPac and another one to the list. If the Cisco VPN client really works, then this indeed means something. This thing doesn’t even work properly on my Vista machine. 😉

    Ochriu, I think it is not the only VMware solution which is a bit overpriced. I guess that is the privilege of the market leader.

  4. Bert Bouwhuis 15 years ago

    Then I would suggest to also add Ceedo and InstallFree to your list. There may even be a couple of others, see e.g. http://www.virtualization.info/radar/

  5. Bert, thank you very much for the link to this list. I am reading virtualization.info, but I wasn’t aware of this very useful overview. I will post a new article shortly that will contain all application virtualization products.

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