RealTime IT News

Can App Virtualization Get Any Simpler?

Provisioning new desktops with applications has always been a headache for IT administrators, even when done from a server over the LAN, because the process can consume both time and bandwidth.

That's one of the reasons enterprises are moving to virtualization, which speeds up provisioning while reducing network overhead.

Xenocode, which focuses solely on application virtualization, takes things one step further by making the process even more lightweight: enabling system administrators to create files that encompass the entire setup of an application, its content, configuration and customization.

"If you're an IT administrator and use LANDesk or Microsoft SMS or a desktop management system, you can deploy a Xenocode application instead of the full application," Kenji Obata, Xenocode's founder and CEO, told InternetNews.com.

"The applications run right away with no delay, and they can run on locked-down desktops for security."

The new product at the heart of these capabilities, the Xenocode Virtual Application Studio, marks a change in direction for the six-year-old company. Xenocode earlier had focused on virtualization for the .NET area with a product called PostBuild, which ran .NET-based runtime in a virtual machine (VM).

With what it described as a significant customer base for its .NET solution, the company decided to "generalize this virtualization technology outwards to support all Windows applications and not just .NET applications," Obata said.

Based around its own VM, the company's new flagship Virtual Application Studio offering uses lightweight app virtualization technology that emulates core operating system features required for executing applications.

As a result, virtualized applications behave like native executables and do not need setup, configuration, clients or device drivers, it said.

Applications are also isolated from external DLL and dependency conflicts, often the cause of crashes in desktops running Microsoft Windows.

One way that Xenocode is aiming to set itself apart from other players in application virtualization is through a simpler architecture.

Unlike many other virtualization products, Xenocode does not need specialized servers or other infrastructure. VMware, for example, requires an ESX hypervisor at the back end.

Using Xenocode enables enterprises to run Microsoft Office 2003 and 2007 side-by-side on the same machine, or run Internet Explorer (IE) 6 on Windows Vista -- a feat that normally would crash the system.

While Microsoft has solved that problem, its approach is to put up a virtual PC image of Windows XP running IE 6 and boot Windows XP in the VM.

"They run a window inside a window, while we let you run IE 6 on the VM natively," Obata said. Xenocode's approach "lets you install new applications without breaking old applications, or install old applications on new systems without breaking the legacy software.

Those benefits may prove a big selling point for enterprises.

With Xenocode, "the application doesn't get installed on the local operating system and this simplifies application lifecycle management," IDC analyst Michael Rose told InternetNews.com.

Additionally, the company said its code enables hefty applications such as Microsoft Office, QuickBooks and Adobe applications to be usable even on USB devices once they've been virtualized.

"If you take Xenocode binaries for Microsoft Office and put them on a USB key, then plug that into any computer, you'll have your Office suite immediately available," Obata said.

Downloading applications or, indeed, any data, onto USB drives can represent a security problem, and many enterprises ban staff from attaching these drives to their desktops.

Xenocode's solution is to let users configure host resource devices to restrict selected aspects of the file system from access by the virtualized application, so the Xenocode application on the USB drive "cannot see or write to certain files on the host device," Obata said.