App virtualisation is the separation of an installation of an app from the actual computer that is accessing it. In traditional computing, an app is installed onto a host computer’s operating system and effectively hard codes the entire system. With app virtualisation, the app executes its configuration on demand, leaving the host operating system unchanged. This is made possible by the use of a virtualised layer, which effectively acts as an intermediary so that the computer’s runtime environment is replaced in a virtual sense.
The ultimate effect of this kind of configuration is that the underlying computer is basically insulated from the program which is running on it. This can reduce the number of conflicts that occur between apps, and provide greater efficiencies when it comes to managing desktops. It’s important to know that while conflicts between apps are dramatically reduced, there can still be occasional conflicts between an app and the operating system.
App virtualisation has become popular in business computing due to its impact on overheads and technical resources. This type of technology is not as useful in personal computing, although an example of this technology in the personal computing space is remote desktop software, which allows a user to log in to their desktop from another machine.
There are two main types of app virtualisation: remote and streaming.
Remote apps run on a server, which means that users use the app over a network but it is displayed on their local machine. In most cases, a user won’t notice the difference with an app that is running remotely, but it’s important to note that a constant network connection is required.
Streaming an app means that a virtualised app is executed on the user’s actual local computer. When a user opens the app, it downloads the required components onto their computer and they can use it as they normally would. Usually, the main launch files are downloaded to allow a user to open the program, and then any other required files are downloaded in the background. Once the download completes, the app basically functions on its own, with no connection required.
One of the major business benefits of app virtualisation is that updates and patches can be installed and deployed in one go for an entire network. The traditional individual installation route would require each machine to be updated independently. Version control is therefore much easier under a virtualisation arrangement and this can even save on resources required to ensure each machine is up to date, resulting in less technical overhead. System security can also be more tightly managed this way, as apps are isolated from the main operating system, which means that the risks of direct infection are lower.
Overhead relating to hardware can be reduced as a result of app virtualisation, since the local machines need only meet a minimum requirement due to the servers running the main processing hardware.
Some of the limitations of app virtualisation include the fact that not all apps can be virtualised. This is because some apps require a very close connection with a local operating system to be able to operate as desired. An example of this is anti-virus software.
However, as app virtualisation becomes more common and broadly integrated, more sophisticated and comprehensive supporting apps will be released. Ensuring a successful implementation is often a matter of assembling the right toolbox to manage and maintain your system. A system architect can identify and implement the most efficient virtualisation solution for your business.