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Analysis: Virtual App Wars Move From OS To Desktop

Application virtualization, an up-and-coming tool, segments where desktop applications are used from where they run.

Microsoft, Citrix Systems and AppStream are among the pack of vendors rushing to gain a foothold in the emerging application virtualization software market.

As the focus on virtualization moves beyond the server and operating system to desktop applications, new offeringsincluding Microsoft's recently acquired SoftGrid platform and Citrix's Project Tarpon technologywill hit the streets later this quarter. AppStream's AppStream 5.0, StreamTheory's AppExpress, Altiris' Software Virtualization Solution and Ardence Software Streaming Platform are other alternatives that stream desktop applications.

Partners and customers increasingly are eyeing application virtualization and streaming offerings to reduce desktop application conflicts, management and security woes; speed up upgrades to Windows and Office; and stream application bits to the desktop on demand.

The market for such software remains in its infancy, but one Citrix partner predicted the availability of new application virtualization products will open new opportunities for VARs.

"Being able to choose, at the time an administrator provisions access to an application, whether to publish it and run it from the server or to stream it to a desktop is extremely powerful," said Marc Mangus, vice president of practice development at MTM Technologies, a Citrix partner in Houston. Citrix's Tarpon will enable streaming to PCs and Windows Terminals without any compromise on functionality, he said.

Application virtualization separates where desktop applications are used from where they run. According to Gartner Group, app virtualization creates a wrapper or container around the app configuration to isolate it from the operating system. Desktop applications are then streamed to a standard PC desktop and executed locally without installing them to the disk, much the same way video is streamed to a desktop from the Internet.

Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) predicts the application virtualization market will grow significantly, but it will be some time before the dollars start rolling in. According to a recent EMA survey of 150 enterprises and SMB customers, OS and server virtualization will be used at least partially by 97 percent of respondents, and app virtualization will be used by 94 percent.

"At the moment, we're seeing a big pickup in server virtualization and running multiple operating systems on base hardware," said Andi Mann, senior analyst at EMA. "Application virtualization will become more important over the next 12 to 24 months. We're in an early growth period now."

Mann said there's plenty of room for AppStream, Ardence and Altiris, but Microsoft and Citrixclose partners in the terminal services software market for more than a decadeno doubt will face off as key rivals in this market as desktop application delivery moves to an on-demand model.

NEXT: The first shots in the virtual apps battle.

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