Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Application Virtualization Journey - Begins with a SINGLE Step

Many of my favorite customers have asked me where to begin with application virtualization. A few have been very proud that they selected their first 15-20 applications to migrate over and now believe they are ready to go. My best advice to all of you is to STOP - take baby steps when approaching application virtualization.

Why? Because it is not that simple and creates as many issues as it solves (if not more). Don't start out with 15-20 applications - pick 1 or 2 and their dependent applications. Look for those that have the highest ROI for the company to enable you to do the following:

1) Build your Business Case - Applications like CRM, Custom Applications that can't be migrated over to new OS, etc make a perfect test case. They are typically complex, with many dependent pieces and have lots of calls to the underlying Operating System. Pick ones that have no other option and a low user population - don't ever start with Outlook or Office. Remember -similar to Business Service Management - if you try to swallow a fish whole - you WILL choke on it! Cut it up into bite pieces, get rid of the bones and unnecessary elements and you can have a delicacy to be savored.

2) Identify Risks to the Business - With anything there are risks - that rings especially true for NEW technology. The earlier a technology is in their release cycle the more stability, performance and defects will be uncovered. Lessons learned only come from the experience of discovering what you didn't already know or assume before. The application (and dependent components) should enable you to deploy a complete cycle to not only test your ROI assumptions but to discover hidden costs and risks. Hint: Network, Performance, Disk Space, Integrations Required with existing tools, etc should all come up during your initial pilot. Some risks are minor - others can be significant depending on implementation architecture and route taken. More to come on this topic....

3) Formulate Routes to Value (requirements) - Similar to Business Service Management - how the solution is architected really depends on the objective one has in mind. With Application Virtualization there are several possibilities - the requirements should vary based on the end goal. For example, are you deploying Application Virtualization to reduce storage capacity for your Virtual Desktop Infrastructure? OR Are you deploying it to migrate a legacy application to another OS? OR Are you deploying Application virtualization to reduce system dependencies for your Cloud/SaaS implementation of a single application? OR Is it to reduce the footprint of your Citrix Server Farm?

The architecture that works best for each scenario will vary depending on the end objective. An agent based tool such as AppV may work better for OS Migration due to contracts already in place with Microsoft, while an agentless tool such as VMware's ThinApp would be the best solution for Cloud/SaaS deployment (nothing to install on endpoint), etc

4) Solve a REAL Problem - Although Vendors have interesting opinions - they are not as relevant as customers. Why? Because YOU are the ones that have to put your job on the line to deploy their technology. YOU know your environment and pain points far better than ANY vendor. Having deployed to millions of endpoints - I can safely say that no two environments are EXACTLY the same (although there are similarities). Customers never ceased to amaze me with how they used technology to solve problems it was never intended to (why? Because vendors didn't even realize it existed). Don't buy the Hype cycle around Migrating to Windows 7 or other events that will drive you to bite off more than you can chew at the given moment. Yes - Application Virtualization can help you migrate (don't get me wrong) but just because you CAN doesn't mean you Should. If you are not ready yet (Educating your Workforce, Development Team, Understanding Risks & Rewards, etc) - it is better to step back and take a test run before you bite off more than you can chew.

Real Problems I have seen that are compelling are DLL Hell (Finally isolating those badly behaving applications), Reducing the Footprint of your Citrix Farm, Reducing Reboot time and time needed for back outs on 24x7 facilities (such as call centers), enabling Test/Production on the same machines for longer beta cycles, and many others.

5) Educate your Company/Team - Pick application(s) that will enable you to educate your user population on the value they will gain before you leap. When I say User I mean all users (includes IT, Support Staff, End User, Executive Team, etc). By having a small pilot with no more than 500 users - you can quickly understand what types of questions virtualization will bring that you did not anticipate (FAQs and Training needed for the masses), You can also determine the impact to current reporting and provisioning tools, License compliance for Regulatory or Software usage (are there new tools or reports that are needed), Service Level Agreements (if there is a patch for a security hole, reducing trouble ticket turn around, reducing call volume into help desk - good for ROI too), and last but not least your end users.

Each week I will try to share Lessons Learned along the way - from my experience - to enable customes to drive vendors and the market to evolve. Similar to Business Service Management, Server Virtualization, and other new markets - Application Virtualization is needed and has a compelling ROI - the People, Processes and Technology all need to evolve for the real benefit to be realized and mass deployments to occur. Today - there is not one solution that has it all - so proceed with caution and select the right one for your company.


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