One question I get asked a lot goes something like this: "Hey JC, we’re wanting to consolidate some of our servers and get better at managing our client applications. Some of the folks here want to go with Terminal Server (or Citrix) but I’m leaning towards Microsoft Application Virtualization (SoftGrid). Based on A, B and C, which do you think would be better?"
Nine times out of ten I’ll surprise them with the answer of "both" only because they never realized what a killer combination these two products make. It’s not a question of one or the other as each product is really targeted at solving a different problem, so when you team them together you get an awesome solution that will solve most of the problems large enterprises are trying to solve.
I hate to sound all PR-like, I just want to hopefully clear up a common misconception that Terminal Server (or Citrix) competes with Microsoft Application Virtualization (SoftGrid) as they’re really two completely different technologies designed to solve two completely different problems. You don’t have to take my word for it though as we have an entire section on TechNet dedicated to this very topic. I pasted the main topics below but for more information visit http://www.microsoft.com/systemcenter/softgrid/evaluation/softgrid-ts.mspx.
Challenges with Today’s Terminal Services Environment: Rigid, Costly, and Unwieldy
Server growth is a costly issue for organizations that rely on terminal services. To avoid post-installation application conflicts, applications must be tested up front to determine which applications will collide and, therefore, must be separated and run on different Terminal Server silos – a time-consuming and costly process. Servers are routinely underutilized because each one is locked into a specific configuration, capable of serving only a limited set of non-conflicting applications, typically using just 25% of capacity. Often, 20 servers are required to support 1,000 users. Microsoft SoftGrid for Terminal Services completely changes this situation.
Microsoft SoftGrid Application Virtualization for Terminal Services: Features and Benefits
• Consolidate servers and end server siloing, increasing server farm ROI: SoftGrid’s application virtualization allows any application to run alongside any other – even applications that normally conflict, multiple versions of the same application, and many applications that previously could not run under Terminal Services. This eliminates the need for server silos and significantly improves server utilization. As a result, the number of servers needed is much lower, operational costs for managing the remaining servers is reduced, and the server farm ROI is increased. For instance, it has enabled Russell Investment Group and Fidelity National Financial to shrink their application server farms by 33 – 40%.
• End application conflicts and regression testing: By eliminating the need to permanently install applications on servers, and shielding the operating system and applications from changes created when installed applications run, Microsoft SoftGrid for Terminal Services prevents problems that hinder deployments. The need to perform lengthy regression testing is also significantly reduced.
• Build business continuity for applications: Replicate your virtualized applications like any other enterprise data to maintain an instant-on failover plan for your applications. Applications can be kept up to date between live sites and back-up sites by automatically replicating virtualized application files on the live sites’ SoftGrid servers to SoftGrid servers at a back-up site (using third-party tools).
• Simplify OS migrations and patching: Turn time-consuming migration and patching projects into largely automated, conflict-free processes. Applications typically do not have to be repackaged for OS migrations. Patching and migrations do not require regression testing.
• Simplify packaging: Applications that use SoftGrid only need to be packaged once for desktop or terminal services platforms. This reduces the need for "double packaging" or creating two different processes and packages when providing the choice for running an application on a desktop or via a Terminal Server. This simplifies administration, troubleshooting, and support.
• Scalability: SoftGrid’s unique approach enables applications to be centrally stored and then delivered and executed on Terminal Servers on demand. Application files are only delivered once from the SoftGrid server to the Terminal Server, where they are cached for repeat use by multiple users. As a result, SoftGrid is a bandwidth-efficient method of distributing applications to Terminal Servers ensuring that the SoftGrid server can support many Terminal Servers and thousands of connected users.
• Integration with Microsoft SMS: With SoftGrid for Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS), IT administrators get the benefits of SoftGrid’s application virtualization and dynamic streaming from within the SMS infrastructure. This allows you the flexibility to choose the best way to deploy and run applications while maintaining OS level patches, updates, inventory, and asset tracking with a single, integrated management point.
J.C. Hornbeck | Manageability Knowledge Engineer