Application virtualization has come a long way in the past few years. On a daily basis, we speak to customers about securely and cost-effectively delivering their productivity applications to users on any device from the Cloud.
One of the slides we use as part of our demo highlights the complexity of traditional application virtualization software and services. The customer usually nods and tells us about their experiences. As you can imagine, they are not always positive.
The stories typically fall into several categories:
- It’s too complex.
- It’s too expensive.
- It’s hard to manage.
- It’s overkill for my needs.
This article is not about beating up on application virtualization software vendors. After all, application virtualization benefits outweigh a lot of the complexity and cost. However, in the era of the Cloud, does application virtualization really need to be this hard?
The answer, of course, is no.
Do You Really Need Application Virtualization?
In some cases, the answer is no. If there is a built for the Cloud application available, it’s probably the best bet in terms of compatibility with your environment and with your users - especially if they are using mobile devices, Macs or Chromebooks. Doing a bit of research in the planning stage can save you lost hours and support costs down the road.
If a web-enabled version of the application is not available, we recommend checking with the existing software vendor to see if or when they plan to release an updated SaaS version. Based on the answer, you can then decide if you can gut it out until it’s available or move in another direction.
What to Look For When Choosing an Application Virtualization Vendor
So you have done your research. There isn’t an existing built for the Cloud service available and your software vendor is one, two or three years out from launching their SaaS product.
Sidebar: As we all know with development projects, add at least 12 months to the timeline the vendor gives you.
At this point, application virtualization is your best bet. There are many articles on the vendors that provide application virtualization. Reviews sites like Capterra provide a good overview of the different application virtualization software and services vendors in the space and in many cases include customer reviews.
When looking for application virtualization service, we recommend finding a service with the following benefits.
Built for the Cloud
Cloud native platforms offer significant benefits over software that is hosted in the Cloud or still relies on pre-Cloud technology. Here’s a great article on the major differences between built for the cloud and hosted in the cloud products.
Most modern application virtualization software and services are secure by design. Separating the application from the end user device helps keep your corporate network as safe as it can be from corrupted or infected end user devices. Other things to look for include: HTTPS, data encryption, multi factor authentication, single sign on, OAuth 2, etc.
For the many benefits of application virtualization, it can come with a serious amount of complexity and sticker shock. As discussed earlier, built for the Cloud services will typically be much more cost-effective because they take advantage of elasticity, power management and multi-tenancy.
A note on free application virtualization software. A quick Google search on free application virtualization software will result in hundreds of vendors claiming that they have a free product. Be sure to read the fine print, as these offers usually provide very limited functionality or can only be used by a small number of users. Cameyo offers a packager that is free for up to 50 users. It’s a great tool, but it’s for a limited use case and is nowhere near as powerful as our fully hosted SaaS and self hosted service. (More on that shortly).
For all organizations, but especially for small and medium sized businesses that have limited IT resources, simplicity should be a critical driver in the decision making process. Every company will tell you they are simple to deploy, simple to manage and simple to [insert marketing term here].
Here’s a simple test: If you are able to get the service up and running without help from the vendor, then you have found a simple solution.
Here’s a second test: If you can’t get a fully working POC up and running in less than a business day (and you have a certification on that product to set it up), then you have a complex product on your hands.
Does the application virtualization software or service work in any environment? In the best of all worlds, we would all be on the Cloud taking advantage of its benefits. The reality is that many organizations run some sort of hybrid environment - cloud and on-premises. When looking at application virtualization, make sure that you don’t get locked into a particular Cloud vendor or have to install a pre-cloud built architecture just to virtualize a few applications.
Application Virtualization Example
There are several great companies that offer many of the benefits described above. At Cameyo, we are biased to our own service, but this is not about a shameless plug for Cameyo, and you are the best judge as to what works best for you in your environment.
From the customer perspective, I’d like to highlight how Homer Central School District in New York is using Cameyo and our integration with Google’s G Suite to significantly reduce costs and provide a better service for their students, faculty and staff.
Josh Finn, the CTO of HCSD, is a classic early adopter. If it’s cutting edge, he’s looking at it. He was one of the first IT leaders to embrace the Cloud and is spearheading a Cloud first initiative with all his schools.
As a Google for Education school and G Suite customer, Finn and his team had already streamlined many of the IT services the school district relied on. He also implemented a one to one program to ensure all students have access to a Chromebook.
However, no matter how hard he and his team tried, he could not get rid of the expensive PC labs that had to run a half dozen applications that only ran on Windows PCs. At a cost of more than $35,000 per year per PC lab, they were not only a drain on the budget, but also a time suck for the IT support team.
After spending weeks trying to get a POC up and running with several large, well known vendors, Finn and team found Cameyo. Within a few hours, they had the Cameyo built for the cloud application Platform as a Service up and running. They have already eliminated one lab, providing immediate ROI on the Cameyo service, and are on their way to shuttering the rest.
Cameyo’s integration with G Suite allowed them to easily provide Single Sign On, application, storage and printer permissions and more. Last, by moving to Google Drive, the district no longer has to rely on expensive on-premises storage.