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How should IT evaluate application virtualization products?

When picking an application virtualization tool, IT pros must understand the app types they are dealing with, determine their security needs and more.

When sorting through the market of application virtualization products, IT professionals must decide which features they really need. Ultimately, the choice comes down to the organization's needs, its specific circumstances and what IT is trying to achieve.

The first step for IT pros when deciding which of the application virtualization products to use is to look at the features they need and determine what it will take to ensure that their users can access the applications they need when they need them and from wherever they're working. Users must also be able to access their apps without putting personal or sensitive data at risk.

Key considerations for application virtualization products

Streaming or remote apps. With streaming virtualization, all or part of the application runs on the client device when the user launches the application. With remote virtualization, the application runs on the server and is delivered over the network, similar to how VDI delivers desktops.

Application type. IT must also determine the types of applications it wants to virtualize. There can be Microsoft Windows and Linux apps, as well as legacy business apps to consider.

IT pros should also evaluate whether they need to run any applications in isolation from other apps or if they need to virtualize web-based or SaaS applications. In addition, they should identify all the application types they need to support now and in the foreseeable future. From there, they can determine which application virtualization products can support those apps.

Application delivery method. Application virtualization products that support remote applications usually use a remote display protocol to deliver the applications to users' devices. Remote display protocols can vary in terms of performance and features, so IT pros should be sure the protocol that the product they choose uses can meet their specific requirements.

Most major virtualization vendors, such as Citrix and VMware, provide advanced remote display protocols to deliver both virtual desktops and virtual applications.

User experience. IT pros must keep user experience (UX) at the forefront of their thinking. The application virtualization product IT picks must deliver on both performance and availability.

If IT pros plan to deliver virtual applications in conjunction with virtual desktops, they should account for how well those two systems will integrate with one another.

The remote display protocol can play a role in UX, but so can other factors, such as being able to run applications on both bare-metal or virtual servers. IT should fully test the product to ensure it can deliver applications in a way that does not diminish user productivity or increase user frustration.

Security and management requirements. IT pros must determine the level of protection they require to safeguard data at rest and in motion, accounting for compliance and regulatory issues. Plus, they should make sure the product can meet their management needs in terms of how well they can deploy, maintain and scale the platform, its applications and the application data.

Back-end support and integration. The application virtualization product must support and integrate with essential back-end systems, such as file servers, user data stores or directory services. If IT pros plan to deliver virtual applications in conjunction with virtual desktops, they should account for how well those two systems will integrate with one another.

In addition, they should ensure that the client software can run on all the supported user devices. For example, the Citrix Receiver client can run on operating systems such as Windows, Linux, Apple macOS, Google Android and Apple iOS.

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