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Thinstall Shows VMWare Is Serious About Desktop Virtualization

VMWare has strengthened its client-side technology by acquiring application
vendor Thinstall. The deal isn't a huge surprise, as
VMware's two main competitors both have an app virtualization side
already. But it demonstrates that VMWare takes the desktop market seriously.

Although VMWare has sold desktop products for years, these are all based
on the same hypervisor technology as its servers, requiring that
multiple OSs are installed. Rather than a complete OS, app
virtualization gives each application its own virtual copy of the
Windows registry and other custom settings. This means it only works
with Windows (XP and Vista), but compared to OS virtualization it can
save on system resources and (often) software

Thinstall's main innovation was to separate app virtualization from
software streaming. Sold by Citrix, Microsoft, Altiris and Endeavors
Technologies, streaming requires client-side software and a management
server to control the virtualized apps and their associated virtual
registries. The Thinstall technology is superficially simpler, bundling
each application with its associated DLLs and settings into a single
executable file. That makes distribution easy, as it turns Windows
applications into the desktop equivalent of virtual appliances, able to
run without installation. Users can carry their apps around on a USB
drive and run them on any Windows PC.

The downside of Thinstall's approach is more complicated management, at
least compared to streaming, as there's no built-in way to see who is
using which applications or whether they're patched. Thinstall got
around that by partnering with network management vendors, notably
LANDesk, which re-sells the Thinstall product and has integrated
into its own management software. LANDesk says that their OEM
agreement isn't affected by the acquisition, but with VMWare also using
virtualization management as its main differentiator in the hypervisor
space, some tension between the two seems likely.

Thinstall's technology isn't unique anymore. In November, Microsoft
upgraded its streaming product to allow what it calls standalone
, which accomplishes much the same as Thinstall. It also
renamed the software Microsoft Application Virtualization to emphasize
that it can be used in non-streaming architectures. On the same day, it
launched Hyper-V server virtualization, a direct assault on VMware's
core business.

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