Virtualization arrives at the application layer

Virtualization technologies for operating systems have essentially gone mainstream.

Many organizations have used virtualization software from Microsoft, VMware and others for some time. However, the concept of application virtualization is just starting to get the attention of information technology managers.

The difference between the two is in the extent of the virtualization.

With VMware and Virtual PC, you run an independent copy of a guest operating system as an application on top of a host operating system.

Application virtualization uses a similar concept to make it possible to run individual applications without installing it on your local machine.

All of the products in this review use a similar approach to packaging an application to convert it into a virtual application. This consists of running a snapshot program to examine the host machine ' preferably one that has nothing else installed ' being used to install the application.

Next, you install the software and take another snapshot. You use the difference between the snapshots to create a list of changes that must be made to install the software.

Once the virtualized application has been created, it can be deployed to any system and run as a stand-alone executable. We will discuss the details of how each vendor implements the mechanics of running the application.

We considered the most important criterion to be how easy it is to virtualize and deploy an application. Manageability and compatibility in the enterprise were also important, as were features and functionality. Finally, we compared everything to the price to create a value grade.

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