Fundamentals: Application Virtualization

Oct 24, 2011


Fundamentals: Application Virtualization

The evolution of virtualization—from a way to more efficiently use hardware into a whole new application platform variously known as the cloud, IaaS or PaaS—has exposed complexities in application distribution and management that we couldn’t have imagined in the days of disposable  disk images. Today, the job of configuring virtualized applications is incredibly complex—never mind maintaining them across multiple VM instances on an increasingly diverse array of hardware, hypervisor platforms and cloud services. All these are now application endpoints, and each demands different tools and interfaces for configuration and ongoing administration.

Furthermore, as IT has gained comfort with their virtualized infrastructures, the range of production applications deployed thereon has grown large and complex. Out: a few Windows development and test servers. In: multitier, mission-critical enterprise applications. As a result, flaws in the longstanding practice of distributing VM disk images as virtual application appliances are coming to the fore. While these golden images are a great way to quickly deploy a new machine, they quickly diverge from their pristine initial condition in the wilds of daily use. Furthermore, they don’t always work across different hypervisor or public IaaS platforms. A similar problem afflicts system managers trying to configure and instantiate virtualized resources, like compute cores, memory, networks and storage, on different hardware platforms in a repeatable fashion.

In an ideal world, application and infrastructure requirements could be abstractly expressed in a machine-readable meta-format that IT could use to automatically configure and deploy instances on a variety of virtualized platforms, both private and public. We’re still a long way from this cross-platform, “configure once, deploy anywhere” vision, but vendors across the virtualization ecosystem are chipping away at various pieces of the problem.

In this InformationWeek Fundamentals report, we’ll walk you through the problems surrounding application virtualization, provide some context and a framework for understanding the various approaches to solving them, and present an overview of the products and technologies that can decouple the configuration and management of virtualized applications from their physical manifestations. (S3721111)

Research Report