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Q&A: New Getting Started Book for Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.6 - A Word with the Author

I recently had the pleasure to speak with Augusto Alvarez, the author of a new book covering Microsoft's App-V technology titled, Getting Started with Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.6.

We discuss server virtualization and desktop virtualization a lot here at VMblog, and the new thing in the industry is talk about the cloud.  But application virtualization has been around for a while now in one form or another.  And this book does a great job of bringing the reader up to speed on application virtualization.  Alvarez did a really nice job of stepping through everything in this latest getting started book from Packt Publishing.

Here's what Alvarez had to say during the interview: 

VMblog:  To start things off, can you give VMblog readers a quick synopsis about yourself and your background?

Alvarez:  I'm currently working as the IT Service Manager in Algeiba, an IT consultant company residing in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I've been working several years now with Microsoft, collaborating in different areas like Academics and also as a speaker in most of technological events in Argentina.

I've worked with most of the Microsoft technologies in the last few years, designing and implementing; but also coaching about the use of them in several mid and large-size companies from Latin America. I also try to share my experiences with the community using my blog: http://blog.augustoalvarez.com.ar/ and my Twitter account http://twitter.com/augustoalvarez

VMblog:  Application Virtualization has been around for years, yet people want to concentrate on or talk about server virtualization for the most part.  What made you write about application virtualization?  Why now?

Alvarez:  That's true. Well, I had great experiences working in the field with Microsoft Application Virtualization and the benefits that this technology brings to most companies; but when I started learning about it I found that there were no large documentation about it but the official documents by Microsoft; I felt that giving a more depth approach to the available documentation would be great.

VMblog:  And if you don't mind me asking, what inspired you to write this book?

Alvarez:  I started to write a few App-V introduction articles in my blog, and when the possibility to work with Packt Publishing on a App-V book appeared I did not hesitate. The main motivation about working in this project resided in the idea of having the first App-V book available with the step-by-step approach and of course having the chance to elaborate it myself.

VMblog:  This book is very well written and really does a great job of covering the A-Z for this technology.  When you came up with the idea to write this book, who were you writing it for?  What was your target audience in mind?

Alvarez:  The first thing that came to my mind when I've started with the idea, is writing this book with the approach and content as I would wanted to read when I first started learning about App-V; using plain and simple concepts, relating those to the day-to-day facts of any IT Pro guy.

Also I thought about not just provide the step-by-step guides to understand and implement it, but also give any IT decision maker the possibility to understand App-V architecture, implementation models, benefits and comparison with other similar technologies.  

VMblog:  If someone is reading this and hearing about application virtualization for the first time, how would you best describe the technology so that someone would understand what it is or does?

Alvarez:  Application virtualization basically gives you the possibility to isolate application in their own virtual environment, without disrupting or conflicting with any operating system configuration or any other application. Because of this, application virtualization provides the possibility to have in the same OS incompatible applications (like Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010), facilitating applications transitions in companies.

Handling their own virtual environment, you get the chance to remove common processes in application's life cycle like installing or uninstalling; in this scenario the applications are distributed or streamed down by clients. With that, using a centralized management is also possible, transforming a dynamic
and agile application infrastructure. 

VMblog:  As we said, application virtualization has been around for quite some time now in many different flavors.  In your expert opinion on the subject, what are some of the top reasons why people should be taking a harder look at implementing the technology in their environment?

Alvarez:  To name some of the main benefits in application virtualization:

  • Centralized management for all your applications. Assigning and removing applications to users can be achieved using one console.
  • Simply your complex applications. Several companies applications needs particular configurations every time you deploy them, with application virtualization you just need to install the application once (in the capturing process) and then deliver it to all clients.
  • Maintain small foot prints in OS. Without having to install applications you get the chance to use clean OS where you can deliver virtual applications at demand and not creating heavy operating systems to deploy.
  • Virtual applications can interconnect with each other. For example if we have a Mozilla Firefox as a virtual application, we can also have as virtual the Java Runtime Environment and mark a connection with these two. So every time Firefox requires Java engine, this second package is delivered on demand.
  • Facilitates applications transitions. Having the possibility to use incompatible applications in the same OS, could help you out in the user's perception about migrating to a new version.

VMblog:  We hear about VMware a lot, and they too have an application virtualization technology.  But it dwarfs in comparison to their server and desktop virtualization offering.  What made you focus on Microsoft Application Virtualization?  What stands out with this platform over some of the competitor products?   Or why should people look to Microsoft?

Alvarez:  There are some fine products around application virtualization but Microsoft's App-V caught my attention for several reasons:

  • App-V 4.6 supports 64-bit implementations not only for clients but for applications as well.
  • In the sequencing (capturing) process of an application, you can generate an MSI that can be distributed to clients. With that, you can distribute virtual applications using GPO or any other automated process; or even use this MSI for offline users.
  • App-V is highly integrated with System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) 2007 R2 SP2 and the upcoming release of SCCM 2012 (in beta stage).
  • Possibility to integrate and interconnect virtual applications, making App-V a more dynamic technology. This feature is called Dynamic Suite Composition (DSC).
  • Variety in the possibilities for streaming. Streaming is the way applications are received by clients, and with App-V we can use the default option using RTSP protocol; HTTP/S (using IIS or any other web server) or SMB (any file server) which are far more common protocols.

VMblog:  What's one or two of the newest features in Application Virtualization 4.6 that excites you the most?

Alvarez:  Starting in App-V 4.6 and the recently released Service Pack 1, there are some interesting new features about it. With SP1, the new feature that will help us in several matters is the use of "Package Accelerators", which provides the ability to transform virtual applications avoiding the sequencing process and introducing the best practices used to capture it. In the App-V community, the use of these best practices and guidance to virtualize an application were usually published in forums or blogs as "Recipes"; with Package Accelerators we can guarantee a more effective and efficient way to obtain virtual applications.

Other important new features are for example: Supporting Microsoft Office 2010 is another key factor for App-V mainly because this suite is one of the most wanted applications for virtualization; VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) also appears in App-V as a supported technology, using "Shared Cache" feature to optimize storage usage in this environment of virtual desktops.

VMblog:  Did you learn anything new about application virtualization while writing this book that you didn't already know before you started the project?  If so, what was it?

Alvarez:  There were some configurations that I had the chance to review it in a more detailed way in the writing process, for example the use of certificates in App-V to enhance security. But I guess the writing process per-se is an important value to any professional, since it demands for a deep understanding on each matter and forcing you to explain in an organized way.

VMblog:  Any final thoughts that you'd like to leave the readers with?

Alvarez:  As any of the emerging technologies you can find, App-V really represents a great platform to review, even though you are not considering virtual applications in your environment. Maintaining App-V in your scope could help you out in any of your next steps for your infrastructure; a good example
of that is the new role available in Windows Azure to use virtual server applications: Server App-V (there's only a private beta available right now).

The main idea is you should never prohibited yourself from trying new technologies.

VMblog:  Where can we send interested parties to find out more information about this book?  Where can they buy it?

Alvarez:  You can find detailed information about the book and buy in paperback or ebook version in the following sites:

Thanks again to Augusto Alvarez for taking time out to speak with me about his latest book covering Microsoft's App-V technology. I invite others to check it out and read it as well if you are interested in or already using the technology.

Published Monday, April 11, 2011 5:25 AM by David Marshall
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