Application virtualization is software technology that encapsulates application software from the underlying operating system on which it is executed. A fully virtualized application is not installed in the traditional sense, although it is still executed as if it were. The application behaves at runtime like it is directly interfacing with the original operating system and all the resources managed by it, but can be isolated or sandboxed to varying degrees.

Technology categories that fall under application virtualization include:

  • Application streaming:  Pieces of the application's code, data, and settings are delivered when they're first needed, instead of the entire application being delivered before startup. Running the packaged application may require the installation of a lightweight client application. Packages are usually delivered over a protocol such as HTTP, CIFS or RTSP.
  • Remote Desktop Services (also called terminal services, server based computing, and presentation virtualization) is a component of Microsoft Windows that allows a user to access applications and data hosted on a remote computer over a network. Remote Desktop Services sessions run in a single shared server operating system (e.g. Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, etc.) and are accessed using the RDP Remote Desktop Protocol.
  • Desktop virtualization is an umbrella term that describes software technologies that improve portability, manageability and compatibility of a personal computer's desktop environment by separating part or all of the desktop environment and associated applications from the physical client device that is used to access it. A common implementation of this approach is to host multiple desktop operating system instances on a server hardware platform running a hypervisor. This is generally referred to as "Virtual Desktop Infrastructure" or "VDI".


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