This content is part of the Buyer's Guide: Buy the right desktop and application virtualization product

Buyer's Guide

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The key features in an app, desktop virtualization product

Desktop and app virtualization tools help admins deliver services to users regardless of where they work and what devices they work on. Learn how to make a smart buying decision.

When searching for a desktop or application virtualization product, buyers must ensure that the platform they choose contains the features necessary to meet their business needs.

All organizations have different requirements, but many will benefit from a system that supports both desktop and application virtualization so they have flexibility in how they deliver services. Buyers should also ensure that the product includes comprehensive management, as well as data governance capabilities, and can meet the modern needs of a mobile and distributed workforce.

Desktop virtualization

Organizations turn to VDI tools to provide their users with flexible and reliable desktops that are also easy for administrators to manage and scale. Just as important, however, is that the product can deliver the highest quality performance and user experience. The hypervisor, which abstracts the hardware resources and delivers them as services in virtual machines (VMs), plays a critical role in this regard.

Some products come with their own hypervisors and others rely on third-party systems. For example, Citrix XenDesktop includes Citrix XenServer Hypervisor, and Microsoft Remote Desktop Services uses Microsoft Hyper-V.

Editor's note

With extensive research into virtual desktop and app virtualization products, TechTarget editors focused this series of articles on vendors with considerable current market share who offer both virtual desktop and app virtualization capabilities. Our research included Gartner and TechTarget surveys.

In contrast, the hypervisor used in NComputing VERDE VDI is based on Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) technologies. There are even products that are hypervisor-agnostic, including Parallels Remote Application Server, which can use hypervisors like VMware ESXi, Hyper-V and XenServer.

Another important VDI component is the remote display protocol that delivers desktop images to client computers. Products vary in terms of the protocols they use. For example, some products support only one protocol, such as Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.'s FusionAccess, which uses the Huawei Desktop Protocol. Others offer multiple options. VMware Horizon, for example, can use VMware Blast Extreme, PC over IP or Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol.

Although the hypervisor and remote display protocol can affect how virtual desktops perform in various situations, buyers should also account for scalability; printer management; redirection capabilities; use of persistent and nonpersistent desktops; and the OSes the server, VM and client devices support. Buyers must understand the full breadth of available features while keeping performance, availability and the user experience at the forefront of their buying decision.

Application virtualization

IT can use application virtualization in conjunction with or separate from the VDI. Even if admins use VDI separately, application delivery often relies on some of the same technologies that support virtual desktops. For example, XenDesktop uses the Citrix HDX protocol to deliver both desktops and applications to client devices running the Citrix Receiver client. The Receiver client is available for a number of OSes, including Microsoft Windows, Apple macOS, Linux, Google Android and Apple iOS.

As with desktop virtualization, buyers should keep the user experience in mind when reviewing app virtualization products. Users must be able to access their applications from any approved device, regardless of where they're working. Although the display protocol plays an important role, so do other components. For instance, Systancia AppliDis Fusion integrates machine learning and predictive technologies to help ensure immediate application access.

The app virtualization product should also support a wide range of application types, including legacy apps that might need to run in isolated environments to prevent them from conflicting with other apps. Regardless of the application types, the system IT chooses should provide users with a consistent, unified experience. For example, VMware Horizon Apps, which uses Horizon 7 technologies, can run Windows applications alongside online services and mobile apps, delivering them in a unified digital workspace that supports single sign-on authentication.

An organization's application virtualization requirements depend on the type of applications they run and the devices workers use, but performance and availability should always be the primary concern.

Systems management

A desktop or application virtualization product must include the tools administrators need to manage virtual desktops and applications, as well as the deployment that supports them. The tools should help streamline and simplify administrative tasks, such as provisioning desktops, scaling systems, managing users, allocating resources and implementing applications.

A desktop or application virtualization product must include the tools administrators need to manage virtual desktops and applications, as well as the deployment that supports them.

Most vendors recognize the importance of providing a centralized management platform, as is demonstrated by products such as the AppliDis web console and AppliDis Fusion and vSpace Manager in NComputing vSpace. Before an organization decides on a platform, IT should test the management features for usability and completeness. Ideally, administrators should be able to carry out all thetasks from a centralized portal, whether managing virtual desktops, virtual applications or any other components.

The management tools should also support monitoring capabilities that help IT diagnose and address issues as quickly as possible. For example, Microsoft offers the Operations Management Suite for monitoring Remote Desktop Services deployments, and VMware provides vRealize Operations for tracking issues in the Horizon infrastructure. When evaluating virtualization platforms, buyers should determine the extent of their monitoring capabilities and the quality of the data it collects.

Buyers should also evaluate the product's ability to integrate with other systems. For example, vSpace Pro can integrate with server virtualization platforms from Citrix, Microsoft and VMware, and Ericom Connect can use Active Directory to control access to resources, as can many other virtualization systems.

Data governance

When evaluating a desktop or application virtualization platform, IT should make sure it can effectively manage and protect application files, configuration settings, personal information and more. Regardless of the form it takes, the system IT selects must protect the data at all times, while still allowing users to access the information they need as seamlessly as possible.

Vendors offering desktop and application virtualization software provide various mechanisms for safeguarding the data. FusionAccess, for example, uses Active Directory for authentication and Secure Sockets Layer-based encryption when transmitting data. It also deploys antivirus software for protecting the VMs. Remote Application Server supports two-factor authentication, smart card authentication, and granular access filtering based on devices and IP addresses.

Equally important are the steps vendors take to meet compliance standards. For instance, Horizon 7 complies with the Federal Information Processing Standards that define U.S. federal government requirements for ensuring computer security and interoperability. Horizon 7 is also in compliance with Credential Guard, a security feature in Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016 that protects key system and user secrets.

When it comes to sensitive corporate data and personal information, buyers must carefully assess each virtualization product to ensure it will not put any data at risk, taking into account any regional or industry regulations that govern their operations.

Mobility and the distributed workforce           

An effective desktop or application virtualization product must be able to accommodate today's large number of mobile workers.

Vendors have responded to increased mobility by expanding their products in various ways. For example, AppliDis Fusion provides BoxOnAir, which enables users to easily access their workspace applications from their smart devices, and to view them through an HTML5 browser by pairing the mobile device with the computer running the browser. Another example is Remote Application Server, which makes it possible to deliver Windows applications to iOS and Android devices as if they were native mobile apps.

Buyers must evaluate their own workforces and worker conditions to determine whether an application or desktop virtualization product can properly serve their users, regardless of where they work and how they connect to their desktops and applications.

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