Application virtualisation provides users with a desktop application without it needing to physically sit on their PC, laptop, PDA or other client device. The applications are housed on a central server so only a virtual interface is sent over the network to the user.
This year has seen a surge in the number of businesses adopting application virtualisation. The driving force has been the benefits virtualised environments provide in IT efficiency and business performance.
For example, as applications and associated data are managed and maintained centrally, access to data can be monitored and protected from theft or other attack more easily. And bringing new users online can take minutes.
It also offers business continuity. All businesses must assess and protect against the risk of disruption to their working patterns and structure.
By replicating centralised applications on a back-up server, companies can provide a desktop experience regardless of where they are or what computer they are using.
Opening a branch office traditionally required new IT infrastructure. However, delivering applications virtually means remote workstations can be managed, upgraded and controlled from the central server, ensuring standardisation of business-critical applications and reducing the total cost of ownership as new regional locations are developed.
Similar IT management benefits can be seen from virtualisation for mobile working. Here IT managers can keep a tight rein on what software runs on mobile devices, easing the headaches caused by users personalising their devices outside of the corporate environment.
For remote workers, the ability to upgrade and update applications centrally can reduce delays related to support staff making home calls or field workers waiting for a convenient time to visit the office.
As devices delivering virtual applications do not actually hold data, the information can be secured centrally, always keeping it behind the corporate firewall and removing the risk of leakage associated with laptops going missing.
Furthermore, should the device be lost or stolen the only hardship is the replacement cost. It doesn’t matter whose hands the device falls into as there is no threat of data loss or theft.
Over the next few years, virtualisation will lead to the automation of IT management. IT managers will no longer need to install applications at the desktop for users or configure the user devices to meet their needs.
Neither will they need to allocate servers to specific applications. Rather, resources consumed by an application will be provided on-demand according to pre-agreed policies.
But to achieve a state of automated IT management, you need to have established a reliable operating layer on which the virtual applications can sit. With these foundations in place, businesses can deploy virtual applications knowing they will have all the benefits of centralised management and control while still guaranteeing the end-user experience.
Chris Mayers is chief security architect at Citrix
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