Palo Alto, Calif.-based VMware Inc. announced the upcoming availability of VMware ThinApp 4 application virtualization software that allows customers to run multiple versions of virtually any application on any Windows operating system without conflict. The ThinApp technology derives from VMware's acquisition of San Francisco-based Thinstall about five months ago.
ThinApp application virtualization works on physical or virtual PCs without adding software or new deployment infrastructure or management tools, so it is considered agentless. ThinApp packages applications in formats such as .msi or .exe, and the applications can then plug into existing software license management, deployment, audit and compliance suites.
"It takes applications and isolates them in a virtual machine 'bubble' so when they run, they do not see an underlying OS or any other apps," said Jerry Chen, the senior director of enterprise desktop at VMware. The real benefit is that encapsulating applications enables users to avoid conflicts with incompatible OSes or applications, Chen said. With ThinApp, for instance, Internet Explorer 6 and Internet Explorer 7 can run side by side on a system when they are virtualized.
"When an enterprise rolls out a new app, there are application-to-application conflicts, and it slows things down on the system," Chen said. "If I am an IT manager, I can package an application with ThinApp and not worry about it conflicting with other apps, and I can then run it on almost any Windows OS on the desktop."
ThinApp allows the same virtual application to be streamed from a network, presented to a terminal server, delivered to USB stick (e.g., for a contract worker) or delivered through standard software delivery tools.
This release of ThinApp, 4.0, has new features: Application Link and Application Sync, which allow two virtualized applications to communicate with one another and remote virtual applications to be updated, based on policy set by the system administrator.
"Application Link lets two virtualized applications communicate with each other, where other similar products don't allow the application see or talk to any other apps," Chen said.
Application Sync allows updating of virtualized apps. If a user has Firefox version 1 that needs to be updated to version 2, for instance, Version 2 is virtualized and onto a Web server. When the new version is recognized, Application Sync will update only the new features instead of replacing the whole version, Chen said.
Chen said performance overhead varies, but in most cases it is barely noticeable. "You notice it when ThinApp is first launched, but a performance hit is not noticeable when it is running," he said. "[ThinApp] increases the size of the file by about 500 KB. The memory and space taken up is negligible."Using ThinApp
Bob Carter, senior IT engineer for Fluor Federal Services, a Richland, Wash.-based federal contract management company, said he learned about Thinstall in 2005 and, about a year ago, implemented it to solve a specific issue at his company.
"We have a lot of remote contract employees who work in locations that aren't owned or managed by us, and they needed applications that aren't available at their location. We would deploy those applications for them, but the app would get broken on the foreign networks, where the apps weren't supported," Carter said. "Since Thinstall [now ThinApp] is agentless, we can deploy apps with no existing infrastructure to support it, so it solves that problem for us."
"We have been deploying applications using Thinstall for about a year now, and have noticed absolutely no performance hit after the initial deployment," Carter said.
There are about 100 Thinstall applications being deployed at Fluor now. Carter said he also looked at other application virtualization products before choosing Thinstall, but those options required supportive infrastructure.
Fluor is doing beta testing with ThinApp 4.0 now and Carter said the new Application Link feature will benefit them from a deployment perspective. "It allows me to assemble applications modularly, so multiple versions of say, .NET, can be sent out without having to bundle the apps."Pricing and packaging
The VMware ThinApp Suite consists of the ThinApp Setup Capture Packager, which virtualizes and deploys applications to individual clients, as well as a copy of VMware Workstation and 50 client licenses. Each client running a virtualized application requires a license. The VMware ThinApp Suite and client licenses are perpetual and have a list price of $5,000 and $39 per end point, respectively.
VMware ThinApp will be available for purchase within 30 days through VMware's network of distributors, resellers and OEMs.
VMware is offering 5/12 Gold and 24/7 Platinum package support options, and several services to speed application virtualization adoption, including ThinApp JumpStart, ThinApp Plan & Design, and ThinApp Application Packaging Framework.