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Application Virtualization Takes Hold

Lots of organizations see virtualization as a way to free an operating system from the constraints of underlying hardware. But for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), it's also about freeing applications from the operating system.

The agency is one of a growing number of shops that have turned to application virtualization to simplify app installation and maintenance -- and to streamline data backup and recovery.

"We needed a way to deploy our applications that was really, well, a non-deployment," said Harvey Gilbert, DOD system architect, in a prepared statement. He meant that since DOD apps are customized and end-user computers securely "locked down," users weren't able to download applications without disrupting security. The DOD IT staff was spending too much time testing and installing software -- even as up to 20 percent of installations failed owing to DLL conflicts.

Enter Thinstall, one of several products on the market that isolate a Windows application from the computer's operating system, enabling it to be run in its own encapsulated .exe file without any device drivers or contact with the user's file system.

Now, about 15,000 DOD employees can use a range of customized apps without additional configuration tweaking. The DOD claims it eliminated installation failures and cut regression testing by 70 percent. Security and data changes are maintained at the host as always, and apps run on a user's desktop or laptop without touching anything else, including real files, registries, and LAN-linked devices.

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