In recent years, much has been written about the advantages of virtualization and the many benefits it brings to companies; especially, after the strong irruption of remote working driven by the pandemic.
Jorge Alonso, CIO of Velorcios Group and author of this article
Among all the positive aspects that come from the hand of this technology, there is one that, in my opinion, often goes unnoticed, or else, it is not given the relevance it has; I am referring to application virtualization, also called vApp. And it is curious, because when it is possible to understand the power of the value proposition that application virtualization brings to the IT architecture of a company, on many occasions, it can become a determining factor in the decision to acquire the solution by the end customer.
But let's go step by step and begin to unravel the hidden benefits, especially for the end user, of these vApps and the fact that they can have their desktop applications from a virtualized environment.
We are moving towards an IT model that revolves around a very simple premise: data and applications in the cloud. This fully cloud model is ideal for all stakeholders when deciding to launch a new development. A browser is enough for the end user to easily access his company's applications and carry out his tasks, assuming that the technology that is needed underneath will be transparent.
Nobody disputes the benefits of this model anymore and, in fact, most companies enjoy their applications in SaaS format. When they have the need to implement their own developments, they are inclined to do it on the web, and it does not even cross their minds to order a desktop application. In this ideal assumption, we can say that virtualization would hardly make sense because the same web technology already responds to all the user's needs.
Now, we are aware that this is a theoretical scenario that, to date, is not yet 100% extended, so web applications coexist with traditional desktop applications.
This coexistence is not easy and users demand, with increasing force, the evolution of their desktop applications to a web version because, in practice, it is the work model that everyone wants. But the truth is that being realistic, software manufacturers do not find it so easy to adapt their desktop applications to the web and let's not say anything if there are custom developments.
This situation promises to lengthen in time. Although developers are aware of users demand, reality prevails, and it will still take a few years to have all of our company applications in a web-native format. And in the meantime, what can we do? How can we facilitate the coexistence of these old desktop applications with the new web-based developments?
Logically, companies seek solutions that allow them to weather the storm. In this sense, virtual desktops (VDI) are a good way to try to extend our traditional way of working. Although it is true that on many occasions there are more efficient and simpler ways of providing the user with the specific tools they need, better aligned with the model to which they aspire, which is that of web applications.
And it is at this point where the until now largely unknown, application virtualization or vApp appears. The proposal is based on directly delivering the desktop application to the user from a URL that they only have to type in their browser. With this, we reach the paradigm that we all want: data and applications in the cloud.
The proposal seems very simple and even obvious, but we almost never notice the many advantages of virtualizing a desktop application, so many that when we understand the power of the vApp, on many occasions it ends up becoming the main reason for a change of IT model.
To try to explain it better, let's start from a real scenario: an SME with 20 employees that uses an ERP based on a widely recognized desktop application in its segment that, after years of multiple updates, is now at version 14. Logically, the application needs to be installed on the devices of the 20 users in addition to specifying a server to host the database.
The competition offers an ERP in web format. This solution has only been on the market for a short time and has not reached the maturity of the desktop application processes, so users, led by the Financial Director, are not willing to switch to the competition's web application, even though the Director IT insists that the company is moving towards a model where data and applications are in the cloud and that within this policy, BYOD will become more important every day.
Let's see how the vApp can respond to all interested parties while waiting for the desktop ERP manufacturer to have a web solution that, according to its roadmap, could take about 4 years.
We have already mentioned the first positive aspect that the vApp brings us: the end user experience after virtualization is the same as when accessing the application from the desktop. This is of enormous value because the learning curve is non-existent. In addition, the fact that the user only needs a browser to access the application makes him independent of the platform, so he can even enjoy the service from his smartphone.
Another important factor that should be noted is that the company, as happens when contracting an application in the cloud, does not have to acquire infrastructure. If the technical and economic proposal is well-thought-out, you will enjoy the desktop application in pay-per-use format.
It goes without saying that if the company adopts this application virtualization policy in a general way, it could perfectly do without its CPD, with all that this would entail in terms of investment and leverage.
Lastly, I would like to highlight an aspect that gives this article its title: the substantial improvement that vApps entail in workplace cybersecurity. We all know the vulnerabilities inherent to the desktop and how complicated it often is, for example, configuring the exceptions to an endpoint so as not to interfere with the functionality of the applications. Securing a web service is much easier and cheaper than doing the same with a desktop solution.
This securitization can be much more complicated if the database is published on the Internet and clients access it from their desktop from different IPs. Let's think that by delivering the virtualized application to all users, in practice, access to the database is done from a single IP, which makes it very easy to control traffic.
So, the fact of virtualizing the desktop application, ultimately, can also be considered a measure to favor the company's cybersecurity. In many cases, it can be considered as one more action within the company's Cybersecurity Master Plan that ends up being the element that triggers changes in the company's IT architecture.
In this article we have talked about many technical aspects, assuming that the reader knows the technology minimally, since many more pages would be needed to delve into the fundamentals of this solution based on virtualization. However, there is documentation available for those who want to dive deeper into the matter.
I invite you that the next time you visit the UDS Enterprise website and read: "Desktop and application virtualization" try to alter the order of the terms "Application and desktop virtualization" because, although it is known that the order of The factors does not alter the product, many times a vApp makes us forget about VDI.
Author: Jorge Alonso
CIO in Velorcios Group, Telecommunications Engineer (ULPGC), EMBA (Mid Atlantics Business School), Senior Business Management Program (Bravo Murillo International Institute), Professor of Technology for Managers at the MBA Business School and collaborator at Tribuna of Canarias.
Author, among other works, of the book “A story on digital transformation” (Canary Islands. Ebook - 2018).