Application Virtualization

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What Does Application Virtualization Mean?

Application virtualization, also called application service virtualization, is a term under the larger umbrella of virtualization. It refers to running an application on a thin client; a terminal or a network workstation with few resident programs and accessing most programs residing on a connected server. The thin client runs in an environment separate from, sometimes referred to as being encapsulated from, the operating system where the application is located.


Application virtualization fools the computer into working as if the application is running on the local machine, while in fact it is running on a virtual machine (such as a server) in another location, using its operating system (OS), and being accessed by the local machine. Incompatibility problems with the local machine’s OS, or even bugs or poor quality code in the application, may be overcome by running virtual applications.

Techopedia Explains Application Virtualization

Application virtualization attempts to separate application programs from an OS with which it has conflicts, even causing systems to halt or crash. Other benefits to application virtualization include:

  • Requiring fewer resources compared to using a separate virtual machine.
  • Allowing incompatible applications to run on a local machine simultaneously.
  • Maintaining a standard, more efficient, and cost-effective OS configuration across multiple machines in a given organization, independent of the applications being used.
  • Facilitating more rapid application deployment.
  • Facilitating security by isolating applications from the local OS.
  • Easier tracking of license usage, which may save on license costs.
  • Allowing applications to be copied to portable media and used by other client computers, with no need for local installation.
  • Increasing ability to handle high and diverse/variable work volume.

However, there are limitations to application virtualization. Not all applications can be virtualized, like applications requiring device drivers and 16-bit applications running in shared memory space. Some applications must become closely integrated with the local OS, such as anti-virus programs, as they are very difficult to run with application virtualization.

Application virtualization is used in a wide variety of applications, including banking, business scenario simulations, e-commerce, stock trading, and insurance sales and marketing.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.