Explaining app layering and application virtualization benefits

Application virtualization benefits include isolation, on-demand delivery and the ability to deliver apps from a single image.

What are the benefits of application virtualization, and how does desktop personalization fit into app delivery?

Application virtualization and layering technologies can augment a traditional physical endpoint deployment or a virtual desktop delivery model. In a virtual desktop infrastructure environment, desktop personalization allows users to keep their desktop customized while still accessing the apps they need.

Application virtualization

Application virtualization was initially developed to isolate applications from one another to solve incompatibility issues when running applications together. Common examples of this were applications that required different versions of Java on the machine to function correctly. Virtualizing the application in an isolated container allowed each app to see and interact only with its Java-compatible version. In some cases, this isolation can cause problems for apps that need to interoperate because they are isolated from one another by default.

Another benefit of application virtualization is the ability to stream the app to an endpoint on demand as opposed to installing via a setup.exe or .msi package. Over time, people have deployed Citrix XenApp, Microsoft App-V and VMware ThinApp, not for their application-isolation capabilities, but instead to provide on-demand deployment of user and department apps.

Application layering

Application layering is similar to application virtualization except that it focuses on the on-demand delivery of applications from a single image that the IT department manages.

Typically, applications that are used company-wide, such as Microsoft Office, go into the gold image, a master image for virtual machines. After that, department-installed applications are added or separate images are built for each department. Application layering allows an organization to use a single gold image and dynamically apply a layer to add department and user apps.

Systems such as VMware Mirage (acquired when VMware bought Wanova) go beyond department- and user-installed programs and can layer operating system, application, user personalization and user data on top of an existing OS.


Personalization is especially important when delivering virtualized applications. Personalization solutions capture profile data in a Windows operating system to make it portable, so that it can be applied to other Windows operating systems on demand. It makes your desktop feel like your desktop.

This technology is also sometimes used outside of a virtual desktop environment to reduce the amount of time it takes to replace an end user's PC for hardware or software maintenance. Vendors in this space include AppSense, Citrix, Dell, Liquidware Labs, Microsoft, RES Software and VMware.

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