VMworld Europe VMware Application Virtualization (Thinstall)

The first breakout session at VMworld Europe I attended was the session about the newly acquired Thinstall. Unfortunately the time for the presentation was brought down to half an hour, nevertheless a neat session. Project North Star as VMware calls the beta program of VMware’s Application Virtualization is available as beta download since last week at: http://www.vmware.com/beta/northstar/

The product addresses the application deployment lifecycle.

With snapshot technology – you take snapshots of a system before installation and after installation of the application – you can create a single executable which contains the desired “thinstalled” application. Over at www.thinstall.com you will find a flash demo that shows the process of "thinstalling" an application. A virtual operating system (VOS) is embedded in each executable. Thinstall redirects all changes intended for the host PC’s file system and registry to a private per-user sandbox.

You can easily make this executable accessible through a network share. Also it is very easy to plug a "thinstalled" app into every available ESD product (Electronic Software Distribution like SCCM, Tivoli Software Distribution, Altiris etc.).

Thinstall / Project North Star can make your VDI solution better by separating the application from the desktop image. Resulting in fewer desktop images and reduction of storage costs through the placement of the applications outside the VDI image.

Currently VMware Application Virtualization Project Northstar is the only application virtualization product supporting Side by Side execution SxS. SxS is a relatively new OS feature supported by Windows on XP, Windows 2003, and Vista. SxS is a must-have feature in order to deploy most modern software products such as Microsoft Office 2007, Adobe Reader 8, and .NET 2.0/3.0.

With SxS technology, applications can install DLLs to version specific directories and tell Windows what version of the DLL should be used when they load a DLL by that name. Thinstall 3.0 has built-in support for SxS and manifest/policy file handling, so if you capture the installation of an application that installs SxS dlls it works perfectly on every platform with zero installation.

There is one risk that did not get answered (yet) though…

Let assume you’re in a company and successfully have implemented the VMware Application Virtualization solution (read Thinstall). You provide the applications through a network share.

Suddenly you find your packaged "Thinstalled" app everywhere on the internet (your company name and/or license key is in that file). Because the application (and VOS) is now encapsulated in one executable it is extremely portable. In fact portable in a way that someone has put it on a usb device and distributed it on the internet.

What countermeasures should you take to mitigate this potential risk? Possibly you could prevent your company users to use USB devices, but there are definitely more, I encourage you to comment your ideas…

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