The Evolution from Application Virtualization to Virtual App Delivery (VAD)

Industry analysts have dubbed the shift to remote and hybrid work a “transformation opportunity.” Not surprisingly, the indication is that many companies—not to mention end users—are more eager than ever to seize that opportunity. One recent Gartner survey of 127 company leaders found that 82% of the respondents planned to involve some form of remote or hybrid work in the future. Nearly half (47%) said they would allow some employees to work remotely full time.

Virtual desktops and virtual applications have been a major enabler of work outside the office and the newfound receptivity toward it. These virtualization solutions allow companies to get business-critical software to a remote endpoint that might be entirely off-network. But the methodologies they use are different. Those differences can have a big impact on cost, productivity, complexity and the overall user experience.

This post takes a brief look at the evolution of virtualization solutions starting with desktop virtualization, then app virtualization and, finally, Virtual App Delivery (VAD). The aim is to help organizations better understand what separates these technologies and to make the right choice when it comes to supporting their end users.

A short history of application virtualization

Virtualization solutions have their enterprise origins in desktop virtualization, most commonly known as virtual desktop Infrastructure (VDI). This creates a discrete virtual environment—usually Microsoft Windows—on a remote user’s device, effectively giving them a computer-within-a-computer. With VDI, the key element is that the guest computer is a virtual machine hosted on xa centralized server located in a data center. That server is sometimes called a hypervisor host, which refers to the software virtualization layer that helps to host and manage the virtual machines.

The VDI paradigm tends to center on the operating system (e.g., Windows, Linux). It assumes that end users need to be equipped with a complete, self-contained desktop environment to remain productive. With the rise of cloud computing and powerful platforms like Azure, many VDI solution providers integrated some cloud-based components to create Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS). DaaS is generally more flexible than VDI but retains its focus on the operating system as the cornerstone of the digital workspace.

Even as VDI was expanding into DaaS, some organizations felt that desktop virtualization in any form was overkill. They didn’t want to struggle with managing virtual machines and device drivers when users just wanted access to one or two Windows applications. A better approach seemed to be application virtualization, which put less emphasis on the operating system and more on provisioning specific applications to end users.

The significant financial outlay for VDI and the costs of DaaS naturally played a major role in this app-centric thinking. It was also accelerated by the widespread adoption of consumer-friendly smartphones and tablets that moved beyond the traditional desktop environment. Solutions like Citrix’s XenApp (since rebranded as Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops) rose to fill the emerging demand for remote applications as an alternative to remote desktops.

The next phase of application virtualization: Virtual App Delivery (VAD)

The broader category of app virtualization makes use of various technologies, including application streaming. One example of this is the Microsoft application virtualization solution known as App-V. This essentially runs a remote application with the aid of a proprietary software client on a user’s device, even though essential files still have to be downloaded and installed locally. The remote application is hosted on a dedicated Windows server and has to be repackaged into a special format that also bundles the executable components and other files.

Whether streaming or not, the assumed benefits of application virtualization start to diminish when you start to factor in other drawbacks.

Despite the focus on applications and flexibility, many of these solutions have minimal to zero compatibility with Android and iOS mobile devices. And although app virtualization was supposed to have a smaller overall footprint than VDI or DaaS, the reality has been quite different. Application virtualization software still requires much of the same backend infrastructure and operational overhead as its desktop-oriented counterparts: servers to handle authentication and host the virtual applications, complex administration of permissions and provisioning, limited portability between devices, plus the need to mitigate security risks from allowing remote access.

Then came a new virtualization model, which re-asked the question that led to app virtualization in the first place: What if remote users just want to access applications quickly, easily and securely? This model saw the potential of application delivery as a cloud-native, low-footprint, device-agnostic virtualization option—one that was truly designed for remote and hybrid end users. That marked the advent of Virtual App Delivery (VAD).

Cameyo: Taking Virtual App Delivery to its fullest 

VAD eliminates the baggage and caveats that have dogged virtualization solutions around since the beginning. And Cameyo, the solution that pretty much launched VAD as a product class unto itself, is still the best way to realize the full potential of Virtual App Delivery.

What makes Cameyo the best choice for most virtualization use cases? It boils down to three chief benefits.

  • Simplicity: Cameyo is incredibly easy to deploy, provision and use. Most organizations can start publishing their essential Windows apps within a matter of minutes. It’s even easier for end users. With Cameyo, they can access applications with a few clicks using any modern HTML5 web browser.
  • Scalability: It doesn’t matter whether your current or future users are running Mac, Linux, Windows, Android, Chrome OS, iOS or a combination of all the above. They can all work with full desktop versions of Windows apps because Cameyo’s compatibility doesn’t depend on the specs of a user’s device. Plus, you can limit or expand access to virtual apps as your pool of remote users changes.
  • Security: Desktop and application virtualization solutions often rely on VPNs and open RDP ports to accommodate off-network users. Virtual app delivery with Cameyo leverages industry-leading technologies and best practices to mitigate risk. In fact, Cameyo enhances security while facilitating hybrid work, so you can enforce zero-trust policies even as you empower your remote workforce.

“Cameyo’s Virtual App Delivery platform is the perfect blend of simplicity, a seamless user experience and advanced security,” said Mario Zúñiga, IT Director, Digital Workplace at the Fortune 500 company Sanmina. Zúñiga and his team chose Cameyo over VDI and classic app virtualization in order to get full Windows apps on Chrome OS devices. The inherent optimization of VAD reduced hardware costs, minimized support resources and streamlined the user experience.

“We’ve surveyed users to collect feedback on their experience using their apps through Cameyo, and the results were phenomenal,” Zúñiga said.

You can read the full Sanmia case study here.Sign up for your free trial of Cameyo today and see how virtual app delivery can support your unique use case better than legacy virtualization solutions like VDI or app virtualization. To get a personal tour of VAD-enabled digital workspaces, request a demo and a Cameyo engineer will walk you through the essentials.