Just before the end of the year, as promised, Microsoft released the first early beta of Server App-V, one of its most ambitious virtualization platforms.
App-V technology derives from SoftGrid, the application virtualization platform that Microsoft inherited with the acquisition of Softricity in May 2006.
Considered a leading solution before the acquisition, it didn’t become a mainstream platform despite Microsoft resources. This depended on several factors:
- the decision to relegate App-V in the controversial Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), available for Software Assurance (SA) customers;
- the lack of action to support App-V across its product portfolio (Office 2010 is the first major application made available as an App-V package)
- the lack of support from 3rd party ISVs
- the lack of a proper license to allow service providers to stream Windows applications to customers
- the lack of any significant marketing activity to promote App-V
- the lack of any concrete demand from customers
And now App-V technology is being applied to backend services.
Interestingly, Microsoft is pushing the Server App-V as a complementary technology to its Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) public cloud Windows Azure:
Microsoft Server Application Virtualization converts traditional server applications into state separated “XCopyable” images without requiring code changes to the applications themselves, allowing you to host a variety of Windows 2008 applications on the Windows Azure worker role. The conversion process is accomplished using the Server App-V Sequencer. When the server application is sequenced, the configuration settings, services, and resources that the application uses are detected and stored. The sequenced application can then be deployed via the Server Application Virtualization Packaging Tool to the worker role in Windows Azure as a file.
Microsoft even describes a hybrid cloud computing scenario, where virtualized back-end services, hosted on Azure, can talk to on-premises services thanks to the new Azure Connect:
You can update your Web Tier to run as a Web Role in Windows Azure. You can virtualize your Application Tier and run that as a Server App-V instance on a Worker Role in Windows Azure. Then this application can use Windows Azure Connect to access the local SQL Server that is still running in your datacenter. Eventually, you may want to migrate that SQL Server to SQL Azure, and you can do that within your own planned timeframe.
This first build, a Community Technology Preview (CTP), is available only with an invitation.
The GA version of Server App-V is expected to arrive in H2 2011. Microsoft is also expected to release a new version of System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) that supports Server App-V.