Altiris virtualizes desktop applications

Company provides layer between active and inactive apps to help speed migration, reduce costs.

Altiris this week plans to announce a software application that the company says will help IT managers package and roll out applications to desktops without disrupting the current operating systems.

Altiris Software Virtualization Solution (SVS) uses tools to install software on desktop machines that can be remotely controlled by the administrator, hidden from end users until needed and restricted from resources that can cause conflicts with other applications.

The company refers to this process as virtualizing client applications and says it can help IT managers roll out new applications without causing a conflict with the existing software on the machine. SVS enables IT managers to create a virtual software package that can be provisioned and removed from an end-user client without lengthy install and rollback processes, the company says.

SVS uses server and distributed client software. The server includes an application-packaging tool that IT managers use to create the virtual software application packages to roll out to end-user machines. The client software includes a filter, which when a virtual application is rolled out can direct traffic, or calls, to and from the application to avoid conflicts with other applications.

In many cases, applications on the same machine depend upon similar resources, such as a dynamic link library and registry files. By directing application traffic to specific resources, the software helps avoid performance issues. They can arise, for example, when two calls to the same resource cause a conflict, the company says.

SVS installs the software on the client machine, but keeps its presence hidden from end users until the IT manager decides to activate it. For example, if a user upgrades his Adobe Acrobat to a version that doesn't work on his client, the user can call the help desk and the help desk staff can deactivate the new software and reactivate the last known version of the application.

For example, SVS lets customers roll out a new version of an application to desktops. If the upgrade works, IT managers activate the new version and deactivate the old. Depending on the worker, the software also will make it possible for multiple versions of the same software to run simultaneously on one machine, Altiris says.

Martin Gibbins, client technology manager, and Keith Hemenway, lead engineer at Amerigas in Valley Forge, Pa., have been beta-testing the software - set to be generally available by the end of November - for about four months. They support about 2,000 PCs, 1,000 thin clients and 200 mobile users across 46 states, and they say SVS could reduce the time it takes to roll out upgrades across their Microsoft Windows clients.

"We are in the middle of doing a Microsoft Office upgrade, and we have a lot of Access 95 databases. This software seems to be able to push the upgrade out and then activate it by basically flicking a switch. It could potentially take a half hour instead of days or a week," Gibbins says.

Altiris says the software can work stand-alone and is integrated with its larger Client Management Suite, which competes with products from LANDesk, Computer Associates and Microsoft.

Altiris SVS pricing starts at $29 per desktop as a stand-alone application. Existing Altiris Client Management Suite customers can get the capabilities as an upgrade.

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