The disadvantages of application virtualization

My list of advantages of application virtualization did get quite long. My list of the disadvantages is shorter which doesn’t necessarily mean that the upsides outweigh the downsides.

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Michael Pietroforte

Michael Pietroforte is the founder and editor of 4sysops. He is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) with more than 30 years of experience in IT management and system administration.
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A new complexity layer: Most Windows apps were not developed to run in a virtual environment. This might cause unforeseen problems. Whenever problems occur, you will wonder whether the app itself or the virtualized environment is the cause.

Vendor might deny support: If you tell your vendor that you are running their application in a virtual environment, they might deny support.

Problematic apps: Some apps, especially those installing their own system drivers, don’t work as virtualized applications. Note that there are differences between the different application virtualization solutions here. Some are more robust than others.

Shell integration: One reason that applications are installed is because they have to be integrated in the Windows shell. Since virtualized apps are not installed on the host, shell integration has to be established by other means. All virtualization products offer solutions for this problem, but it usually means extra work. How much extra time you to have to invest in this depends on the product and the application.

More work for you: Application virtualization can simplify many admin tasks. However, it is a new technology which you have to learn first. Complex virtualization solutions require a lot of preparation in advance. If you can’t give up your current software deployment solution, it will mean extra work for you.

Changes to your infrastructure: Many things work differently with virtualized apps. For example, you might not be able to use your current patch management solution anymore.

Single point of failure: Launching apps from a server has its advantages, but network outages or server problems increase the risk of system-wide failures. You can usually copy virtualized apps to the desktops, but then you give away one of the benefits of software virtualization.

Bandwidth requirements: Streaming apps to end users is an interesting technology. You just have to make sure that you always have the necessary bandwidth available.

Costs: Prices of application virtualization solutions range from $30 to $100 per client.

The importance of each point depends heavily on your environment. Hence, just one of the disadvantages might be a knockdown argument for you. Of course, various application virtualization solutions also differ in the way they deal with the disadvantages listed here. Even though I see the risks of this relatively new technology, I can imagine introducing software virtualization in my organization. In my opinion, the biggest downside is the cost. At the moment, I don’t see how we could give up our current software deployment solution (SMS) which would mean additional costs for us.

In the next two posts in this series I will discuss the features and the differences between application virtualization products.

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6 Comments
  1. avatar
    Christopher 8 years ago

    I am enjoying this series. Thanks for the info. I am very interested in deploying this to my organization and am eager to hear your thoughts on the various vendors. I am inclined to use Thinapp now that it’s a VMWare product.

  2. […] doing a good job on writing about application virtualization. The latest article is about disadvantages of application virtualization (after writing about the advantages). It depends on what product you […]

  3. Profile photo of Michael Pietroforte
    Michael Pietroforte 8 years ago

    Christopher, I am glad you like the series. However, in the next two posts I will only discuss the features for application virtualization products in general. That, is I won’t say anything about specific products. If you like Thinapp, you might also like Xenocode because it is quite similar. Freeinstall is also worth a look. It is different but very powerful.

  4. […] Symantec Altiris SVS Professional Streaming SystemThe advantages of application virtualizationThe disadvantages of application virtualizationGeneral features of software virtualization solutions Special features of application virtualization […]

  5. […] is all well and good, but let’s not overlook the downside, says Michael Pietroforte, head of library IT at the University of Munich, Ludwig-Maximilian. You […]

  6. avatar
    fred ephraim 5 years ago

    Does the system have only one disaadvantage.I want to learn more on this?

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