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Virtualized Applications – The Future of Computing?

June 7, 2011

The past few years mobile computing as redefined itself with the powerful tablets and smartphones that are on the market today.  So what is the next step?  I think it could be virtualized applications.  What if I told you that regardless of device (any PC, laptop, tablet, or smartphone) you could access the exact same applications and documents that you use on a daily basis?  Now I am not talking about opening an excel file that you copied or synced with your device in a slimmed down spreadsheet application I mean opening your file, from your corporate file server,  in Excel 2010 (or your full features spreadsheet application of choice) from your iPad (or nearly any other device).  It is called virtualized applications.  Now this concept isn’t really a new one.  In fact it has origins goes back to the early days of mainframes.  But the recent advances in mobile computing have it coming back into fashion.

So what is application virtualization?  And why is it so cool?  Well, basically it is being able to open an application regardless of the platform, device, or your location.  In other words let’s say you have a custom windows application that runs in your corporate environment.  Normally you could not access this application from any device that did not have windows on it and that device would mostly likely need to be a part of your corporate network.  With application virtualization you could access your application from your iPad (or just about any device) no matter where you were, so long as you had an internet connection.  Now it doesn’t stop there.  Any application could be virtualized.  You want to open Microsoft Power Point and update your latest presentation from your android phone?  No problem.  You want to open Photoshop and tweak a few images from your tablet computer? Not a problem.

At the core it allows businesses to leverage their existing solutions onto any device making them available at any time and place.  It makes a lot of things simpler and easier.  Remote users no longer need to install and configure a plethora of applications to work.  Instead one light weight client application is installed and all the applications they need are preconfigured and ready to use.  Additionally, it can help reduce cost, improve system performance, and ensure secure access to data.

Now there are some downsides to application virtualization that should be mentioned.  The impact from hardware failures on the sure side can be greatly magnified.  While as a general rule a virtualized environment will see an increase in performance that is in part because it requires higher end hardware to run on without the fastest hardware you may experience some degradation in performance.  And finally while long term virtualization can save money there is generally a hefty initial cost involved with it.

All in all I think application virtualization is going to become the norm over time.  And frankly I can’t wait.


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