Death of the apps installer?

Look mama, no apps

One of the great bugbears for developers is the issue of fitting their splendid new applications code to the requirements demanded by applications installers. But could this be about to disappear as a problem? According to David Greschler, co-founder and VP of corporate marketing with Softricity, the answer is a soundly political “maybe”.

He would prefer the word 'transformation' to be applied, for he sees a role for installation-oriented technologies for some time to come yet, but it is also possible to see a wall with writing writ large upon it.

The writing he has in mind is that the general trend towards virtualisation is helping to create an environment where there is no longer any need to install applications on client workstations. "Virtualised applications can have a greater impact than machine virtualistion," he said. "There are more desktops than servers, and the rate of change is faster, so virtualising applications has greater cost implications in areas such as management and maintenance."

The specifics concern the launch of Version 4.0 of Softricity's applications virtualisation environment, SoftGrid. The company has concentrated on three areas of the technology to make additions that could create an environment in which there is no real reason to install applications on individual workstations - certainly for business users.

To make it easier to virtualise just about any PC application, the company has virtualised Windows Services. The relationship between several applications and Windows Services has, till now, made them difficult to virtualise. Now a virtual version of the application will be able to turn on the virtual version of Windows Services when needed, and turn it off when not running.

The Sequencer, the tool which virtualises and packages up applications, has been accelerated and has also had a batch process added. This allows new or upgraded versions of applications to be grouped together for virtualisation at a convenient moment. Virtualisation is a one-off process for an application and only needs to be repeated if it is upgraded - and quite often now the upgrade can be directly applied to the virtualised version.

The streaming capability, which feeds out applications functionality as it is required by clients, has been speeded up and given additional administration management capabilities. In particular, admin can now pre-cache virtualised applications onto client systems where access rights pertain. There is also a remote Help module, which allows IT staff to connect to any SoftGrid client and manage it.

The need for installers is specifically reduced with the addition of Active Upgrade, which automatically routes users to the latest version of an application, subject to policy and compliance issues. This bypasses the traditional issues of upgrade roll-out and what Greschler calls "the miserable part of IT".

The advantage for users and developers is that each application is installed on the server once only, and only has to test against the operating system in isolation.

The recent move to integrate SoftGrid with Microsoft's SMS sees further fruit with the ability to use SMS to push virtual applications to clients. There is no Streaming or Active Upgrade available with this, but it is cheaper and aimed at work places where users have a fixed, regular set of applications to work with.®

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