Six Steps to Automating Application Virtualization

by Chris Maher

Application virtualization projects should focus on shifting the current application management from reactive to proactive.  The goal of automated application readiness is to take in software from any source and produce consistent packages in various formats for delivery to any device.  There are six steps to transition into an automated application readiness solution. 

Identify

The first step is to obtain an accurate view of the applications that are deployed across the organization in order to begin estimating the effort required to complete the project.  Since the benefits of application virtualization increase as a greater percentage of applications are virtualized, this is a good time to capture the current inventory of applications and identify the ones that are, or are not, being used.  Also, since application virtualization is often part of an operating system deployment, the data obtained can be used for both purposes.  Most applications will be virtualized, but some will need to be installed traditionally, so having an accurate inventory of applications is the best place to start.

Rationalize

The next step to automating application virtualization is determining which applications are actually needed from the application inventory.  Many organizations have had the same operating system for years and their applications catalogs have grown to include multiple versions of the same application, applications that are not used, and duplicate applications that perform the same task.  By consolidating these applications, organizations can reduce the amount of software that needs to be remediated for the new operating system and converted for application virtualization.

Assess Compatibility

Rationalizing the applications will provide a list of applications for conversion to application virtualization packages, but application virtualization doesn’t ensure application-to-operating system compatibility.  Applications still require compatibility testing prior to virtualization.  When embarking on an application virtualization project, IT professionals need to assess compatibility with Windows 7 and identify which applications work with specific application virtualization technologies.  All of the virtualization solutions have specific guidance on what won’t work, but utilizing that information requires knowing applications at a very deep level.  Application vendors may offer troubleshooting information for applications that won’t work using the supplied packaging tool, but they often provide only limited prescriptive guidance.  This lack of substantive information often slows or stops the process of packaging applications in a virtualized format.  Automated virtualization technology provides packagers with information regarding what applications will work virtualized, as well as known issues and prescriptive guidance for remediation.  This troubleshooting information can save considerable time, eliminate working on incompatible software, and provide guidance for accelerating solutions to known issues.

Plan

Many organizations do not having adequate information to plan and budget for projects that require application virtualization.  Since application compatibility and packaging are costly and time-consuming components of an application virtualization project, having an accurate view of the applications targeted for migration and their readiness for application dependent projects provides data for budget and resource allocation. The work completed in the Rationalize and Assess Compatibility phases provides a list of rationalized applications and the details of compatibility issues that need to be addressed. With this information you will have a clear view of the magnitude of the project enabling you to accurately calculate costs and likely timeframes.

Fix & Package

Applications that presented issues during the “Assess Compatibility” phase must be fixed or replaced prior to deployment.  Manually researching and remediating “fixing” applications produces varied results and requires dedicated and highly-skilled resources.   Automation that fixes compatibility issues should create standards ‘based MSIs for traditional delivery. Organizations also implementing application virtualization as part of their desktop deployment can create virtualized application packages from remediated installations, or have them automatically converted into a specific application virtualization technology, such as Microsoft App-V™, VMware ThinApp™, and Citrix XenApp™ .This simplifies your move to application virtualization by creating both traditional (MSI) and virtualized packages during the same process without additional tools or processes.

Deploy

With the automated application virtualization approach, the resultant packages are automatically added into the Electronic Software Distribution solution without additional copying of files and manual hand offs.  An automated solution can pass packages to virtually any deployment solution, including Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager, LANDesk® Management Suite, Novell® Zenworks®, and others.   This enables an organization’s deployment specialist to simply pick a package from the catalog and deploy it to the appropriate targets.  Since most of the manual process has been removed eliminating potential errors, the deployment specialist can be confident that a consistent and supportable package has been delivered.

Conclusion                                

Automated application virtualization readies applications for new technology adoption.  This process enables IT staff to accept any format of application, remediate it for compatibility issues, evaluate it for application virtualization, and produce consistent packages in any desired format.  An automated virtualization solution, when combined with the ability to publish packages to common application delivery technologies, reduces IT department resources and enables packaging staff to produce quality packages for predictable deployments

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