If you are not familiar with application virtualization, you are not alone.  As with many IT solutions that are offered by multiple vendors, the definition changes depending on who you are talking to.  At it’s very core, the idea is to be able to distribute complete programs in such a way that they are self contained and need no installation, as well as ensuring the program runs with an isolation layer between it and the OS preventing any opportunity the program might have to damage the OS.  AnandTech can tell you all about this technology and the four major competitors.

“In preparation for this article, we set out to find a simple definition of application virtualization. All we wanted was a simple and concise introductory sentence to give our readers a good idea of what application virtualization is all about, independent of the meanings given by the existing software vendors that tout the advantages of application virtualization.

The search turned out to be rather difficult, as it seems the different companies pursuing the technology are defining what it means. It is not our intention to declare a “winning technology” in this article; the fact is that all the products we’ll have a look at have a slightly different focus. Instead, the goal is to provide an objective view of the technology’s current possibilities for the IT market.

While the number of companies offering application virtualization is definitely growing, the bulk of the possibilities currently come from four products, namely VMware’s Thinstall, Altiris’ SVS (Software Virtualization Solution), Microsoft Application Virtualization (previously SoftGrid), and Citrix XenApp (previously Citrix Presentation Server). It’s interesting to note that in the course of the past two years, nearly all of these products were acquired by one of the major software companies, so there’s definitely interest by the big players in this field.”

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