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Altiris Looks to Simplify App Installation

Altiris announced the Altiris Software Virtualization Solution (SVS), software that allows applications to be provisioned and delivered on-demand.

With SVS, the installation of an application’s files and registry settings is virtualized so they can be deployed and run without altering a PC’s operating system. Altiris claims that installing and making an application available in this manner reduces conflicts with other applications and allows multiple versions of the same application to run on a computer.

The SVS essentially decouples applications from the operating system. “You don’t have to [physically] install an application, you don’t have to reboot and there are no conflicts,” says Rich Bentley, Altiris’ client and mobile market segment manager.

With SVS, an IT department can make an application available immediately. And it can also pull it back, make changes, and quickly redistribute it.

SVS can be used to deploy any applications, but there are several scenarios for its use that offer new ways to think about software deployment.

For example, one way it might be used is to give workers access to all the applications they are entitled to from any PC in a company. For instance, SVS could be set up so that when a user logs into a PC, that person gets a list of all the applications he or she has rights to use.

In this approach, virtual software packages are created offline and downloaded to a PC once the user activates them by logging in. Once the software is activated, icons for the various programs appear immediately. And just as if the programs were installed on the PC, launching the program requires that the user click the icon or on a file associated with the application.

Another anticipated use of SVS is in rolling out a new version of an existing application. For example, a company running one version of Office might want to deploy an upgrade gradually, letting people get used to the application’s new features.

In many companies, one of the challenges when deploying a new application that replaces an existing application is synchronizing user training with installation.

As specific departments are being trained, users will need access to the original application. And once they get trained, they will need instant access to the new program. And in many cases, people may need access to both applications for a short period of time.

SVS can help here. For example, if a company is moving from one e-mail desktop client to another, the original program can remain on the user’s computer and the new program could be made available using SVS. Users would then have access to both applications.

From an IT perspective, a user’s access to the new program could be turned on instantly. For example, SVS could make it available while a person attends the training session on the new application.

One of the benefits of deploying a new application in this manner is that it will not conflict with the existing application. This potentially could eliminate many problems that are frequently encountered when new software is deployed. Specifically, comparable programs typically use similar computer resources. If two such programs are simultaneously installed and running on a single PC, there is a chance of contention for required resources. Deploying one application in a virtual mode gets around this problem.

Another benefit is that changes can be made quickly. For instance, if new drivers are required or if a patch or fix is needed, the change can be made centrally and pushed out to the individual clients.

This feature is handy, particularly if a company is working with an early version of a program. But it also can be used to address shortcomings of existing programs. As an example of where this technology might be applied, just consider all of the security patches that have had to be installed over the last year for both well-established and early versions of applications.

The Software Virtualization Solution will be available later this year and will be priced at $29 per node. The SVS can run as an independent application or it can be used in conjunction with Altiris’ suite of systems management products that are designed to help reduce IT staff time in maintaining and troubleshooting IT equipment.

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