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A short note about Microsoft App-V

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Desktop The application development lifecycle is less responsive than it could be. IT departments spend too much time maintaining existing software and infrastructure, time that should really be spent delivering tools to make the business run better. It's like trying to run an F1 team out of a small garage: you never have the resources to do the job that's really needed, when all you're doing is changing tyres.

Businesses need to be flexible, and that means rapid application development – and fast deployment. The latter is often the biggest bottleneck, requiring tests on every single configuration in use in your organisation. Even then something's will be missed, some configuration that you've not documented, or that has sneaked in under the radar.

What's needed is a way of reducing the maintenance overhead, so that applications can be deployed using self-service tools, and can run in safe sandboxes so they interact with as little on a target PC as possible. Tools such as Microsoft's App-V application virtualisation platform solve many of these problems.

Application virtualisation

Instead of testing on multiple platforms, a development team can build their application and then wrap it up for App-V distribution. When wrapped, it can be tested on any PC running the App-V client, with no need to worry about whatever other applications might be running. App-V keeps applications sandboxed, in their own protected area of memory, preventing interactions with other programs. Once an application's been tested, it can be added to the application catalogue and deployed to users.

You can use the same application virtualisation techniques to handle deploying updates. Support desks and users won't need to manage software upgrades. Instead, all you need to do is deploy a new application image in your application library.

Users will be switched to the new version next time they run the application, or next time they connect to the corporate network, if they're using a cached copy on a notebook PC. It's also possible to use tools like Remote Desktop Services to embed applications into web pages, leaving them running on a server without affecting desktop resources.

The next generation of desktop virtualisation tools will add additional application virtualisation features. Instead of deploying a single desktop image to a PC, you'll be able to mix and match base OS features with application images – bringing traditional virtual machines together with application virtualisation.

In this scenario, when applications are updated they're automatically replaced in the hybrid virtual machine that's delivering user desktops. It's a much simpler approach to developing desktop applications, as it means you're only supporting a single application version (and a single binary!) across an entire organisation.

Virtualisation encourages self-service approaches to provisioning and deploying desktops. Users will be able to select the elements of their custom desktop from a library, using only the components that their profile allows.

A few clicks on a web page, and they'll be up and running, with applications streaming from a central server to a local cache on their PCs. There's no support intervention, and no need to spend hours crafting and installing custom images for each user.

That time saved changes the development story, too. Instead of spending 80 per cent of your time in maintenance, you're now spending 50 per cent or even 30 per cent. That's all time that can be switched to developing new applications, spending time with stakeholders to determine just what the business needs. ®

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