Microsoft Server Application Virtualization CTP Released – Run More of your Applications on Windows Azure

Great news from the Virtualization Team and Azure Team in Redmond today………

Today we are excited to announce the Community Technology Preview of Microsoft Server Application Virtualization (Server App-V), and the Server Application Virtualization Packaging Tool.

Microsoft Server Application Virtualization builds on the technology used in client Application Virtualization, allowing for the separation of application configuration and state from the underlying operating system. This separation and packaging enables existing Windows applications, not specifically designed for Windows Azure, to be deployed on a Windows Azure worker role. We can do this in a way where the application state is maintained across reboots or movement of the worker role. This process allows existing, on-premises applications to be deployed directly onto Windows Azure, providing yet more flexibility in how organizations can take advantage of Microsoft’s cloud capabilities. Server Application Virtualization delivers:

  • Application mobility: Server Application Virtualization enables organizations to move their applications from on-premises datacenters to Windows Azure to take advantage of Windows Azure’s scalability and availability. This application mobility provides a unique level of flexibility to organizations as their needs evolve, enabling movement from one environment to another as their business needs dictate without the need to re-compile or rewrite the application.
  • Simplified deployment: With Server Application Virtualization, organizations are able to virtualize applications once and then deploy these packages as needed. This process creates a method to manage applications, simply and efficiently across their Windows Server® platform or to Windows Azure.
  • Lower operational costs: By using Server Application Virtualization organizations can gain the lower management benefits of the Windows Azure platform for their existing applications. This is delivered through the virtualized application being deployed on the Windows Azure platform, meaning organizations get the benefit of Windows without the need to manage a Windows Server operating instance or image for that application. With Server Application Virtualization, organizations are able to virtualize applications once and then deploy the packages this process creates, simply and efficiently across their Windows Server® platform or to 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.

Server App-V and the Windows Azure VM Role

Microsoft Server Application Virtualization and the Windows Azure VM role are complementary technologies that provide options for migrating your existing Windows applications to Windows Azure. With the Windows Azure VM role, you are taking a full Hyper-V VHD file with the OS and Application installed on it, and copying that Virtual Machine up to Windows Azure. With Server App-V, you are capturing an image of the application with the Server Application Virtualization Sequencer, copying that image up to Windows Azure with the Server Application Virtualization Packaging Tool, and deploying it on a Windows Azure worker role.

Connect back to your Local Network

For most of you, the on-premises server applications that you want to virtualize probably have to access local resources within your domain or in your datacenter. A question you may have is, "How can I configure my virtualized application to still access my internal network once I have moved an application to Windows Azure?" With Windows Azure Connect, you can create that linkage from within Windows Azure back into your network. This creates IPsec protected connections between machines (physical or virtual) in your network and roles running in Windows Azure. Keep in mind that you will have to account for the latency between running part of your service on-premises and part off, because you are running part of your application in one datacenter and part in another. An example of how this may work is that you have a Standard 3-tier application. 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.


In October, during Steve Ballmer’s and Bob Muglia’s Keynote at Microsoft PDC 2010, about 1 hour 53 minutes in, Bob mentioned that we would be having a Technology Preview available before the end of the year, and this announcement signifies that release. Currently, this is an invitation only Community Technology Preview. The final release of this technology will be available to customers in the second half of 2011.

I am really excited to be writing about this technology, as it gives you a way to move some of those applications that may never be rewritten for Windows Azure to run on our Platform-as-a-Service offering. This will give you the option to move however fast, and whenever you want to the cloud on your terms and in your timeframe.

Please stay tuned for more information about this technology and some feedback on our progress in the New Year.

Kenon Owens

Technical Product Manager

Datacenter and Virtualization Management

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