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Application virtualization solutions on the market share technology with each other. What's more, to provide comprehensive end-to-end solutions that can manage virtual applications, software management vendors must be considered in order to evaluate technologies for the channel. Therefore, CRN Test Center engineers evaluated products from five vendors in three groups. AppStream's application streaming technology is available as a stand-alone product, but it's also included with Symantec's Altiris Software Virtualization Solution, which adds management features. Thinstall's Application Virtualization product also stands on its own, but is OEMed by Avocent's LANDesk unit and incorporated into its LANDesk Application Virtualization line. Engineers also tested Citrix Systems' Presentation Server, a complete application virtualization suite.
Engineers considered the way these technologies can be deployed in small data centers, looking at ease of installation from an end user's perspective, features, levels of configuration, ease of use and management needed to deploy these solutions for solution providers servicing the SMB market.
Thinstall Application Virtualization/LANDesk Application Virtualization
Whether solution providers choose the Thinstall Application Virtualization Suite or the LANDesk Application Virtualization product, they are getting the best application deployment solution for the SMB market. Since LANDesk embeds the Thinstall technology, at the core both products are identical.
Thinstall is the only agentless application virtualization solution on the market. Thinstall does not use kernels or agents to manage applications on remote desktops. Instead, it embeds a 400K file into an application and packages it for delivery. No additional agent or client management software is installed.
With the 400K file, Thinstall creates executables with all of the internal files, some parts of the operating system and the registries that applications need. When users run a Thinstall-prepared application, Windows loads the 400K runtime into memory initially. Because of its small size, Thinstall applications can be placed on any small file share and USB key and start up instantly. Solution providers servicing small verticals such as doctors' offices will find Thinstall ideal.
Thinstall requires Microsoft Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP or Vista to run on top of its virtual applications. The technology is not like VMware, which can replace an operating system completely. Thinstall supports 32-bit and 64-bit platforms. The 400K runtime replaces various parts of Windows that have been passed from NT all the way to Vista. Because of this level of transparency, one package can run on multiple operating systems as long as the virtualized application supports those platforms. The packages are portable.
Because Thinstall is completely agentless, application communication works seamlessly. There are no preinstall requirements. In addition, solution providers do not need to perform additional user acceptance and interoperability testing of virtual application packages.
Capturing applications with the technology is extremely easy. Solution providers can start with a clean Windows XP installation and run the Thinstall software. On a second run, the target application is installed on XP and the Thinstall software captures the difference. Even if a key product is missing, such as .Net's framework, the Thinstall packaged application can work if the target operating system is running the version of .Net required to execute the package. In other words, Thinstall packaged applications have complete visibility into local operating systems.
The software works entirely in user mode, so it can run multiple versions of applications. For instance, Internet Explorer version 6 and version 7 can run on the same PC side by side. The high level of interoperability allows IT management to deploy browser-based applications without having to worry about breaking functionality.
Thinstall does not alter network behavior, so packaged applications can communicate with databases or any other application. Applications also have full access to local resources, so users won't be able to tell the difference between what's virtualized and what's installed locally.
The Thinstall Enterprise edition, which the company is releasing soon, comes with a Thinstall License Manager product that will complement management products from vendors such as BMC, LANDesk and Macrovision. With these management offerings, solution providers are able to manage all of the applications through a single interface.
The Enterprise edition will provide software packaging technology that will manage licenses and synchronization technology to automate software updates over the Web. Thinstall also can complement the AppStream delivery system. Both products can provide a powerful streaming solution.
LANDesk's manager for its Application Virtualization product adds software metering and usage, as well as tracking for the life cycle of these assets. Because LANDesk's solution requires agents at each end point, solution providers servicing the SMB market do not need a large infrastructure.