Microsoft promises to turn almost any app into SAAS

Server app virtualization will run on Azure, easing migration to cloud

Later this year Microsoft will roll out a more powerful version of its application virtualization products that will make it easier for end-user companies to use even applications they own as externally supported SAAS services.

The revelation came in a curiously understated blog post confirming that Microsoft's upcoming Server Application Virtualization (Server App-V) would be available as part of its Azure cloud service as well as being built into a big update to its virtualization-management suite later this year.

Using System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 (VMM) which, users can wrap a server-based application in a layer of abstraction software that is manageable by the VMM.

Server App-V went into community preview (pre-beta testing) in December.

The package includes all the components normally installed on installation, requirements about memory, disk space, operating system and other resource requirements.

Currently, to run a server-based application on Windows you have to install it on a virtual machine, and maintain an image of that VM, complete with the application, operating system and all the other software components.

It is similar to Microsoft's existing desktop App-V product, except it is designed to run server-based applications that connect to many clients in a complex network, rather than streaming to a single user.

The potential benefit is that end-user companies could wrap legacy applications up in a VMM package and run them on any hardware they like, migrate them to different servers, launch new instances when they need more capacity, and all the other benefits of virtualized servers, even if the app doesn't run well in a VM.

VMM is designed to replace most of that under-layer, allowing the virtualized application to run directly on it, without having to worry about keeping the underlying OS patched, whether configuration changes you've made since the VM golden image was frozen will confuse it when you launch a new one, or other potential conflicts.

The key revelation at the Microsoft Management Summit in Las Vegas last week, though, is that apps wrapped up as Server App-V packages will run on Microsoft's Azure cloud service as well as a customer's own virtualized servers.

That would make it far easier to offload management of server applications to an external data center than would be the case if you had to tweak and customize every app and VM for each potential provider.

Theoretically it would give even the business units that are the primary customers of external cloud services the ability to move secure internal applications to an external service provider, accelerating what is already a dead sprint toward externally managed applications.

Even if it works exactly as advertised, the first version won't work with most applications, anyway. So whether you're worried all your apps will leave home, or hoping you'll be able to use Server App-V to shift them out of their rut, you'll probably have to wait a bit.

In the first edition they have to support these characteristics to work:

  • State persisted to local disk
  • Windows Services
  • IIS Applications
  • Registry
  • COM+/DCOM
  • Text-based Configuration Files
  • WMI Providers
  • SQL Server Reporting Services
  • Local users and groups
  • Java

The first version will specifically not support these apps or attributes:

  • Virtualization of Windows core component (IIS, DHCP, DNS, etc).
  • J2EE Application Servers
  • SQL Server
  • Exchange Server

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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