The good folks at Thinstall contacted me to comment on my LANDesk posts. Some of the interesting capabilities of LANDesk that allows applications to be encapsulated, streamed down to a user's system and run there in a protected environment came from Thinstall. Henrik Rosendahl, CEO of Thinstall helped me better understand the technology I had mentioned in the post Using LANDesk Software.
Here's what it does
Thinstall's technology allows a Windows application (Windows NT up to Windows Vista) to be processed into an executable file that sees its own version of the Windows registry, filesystem and data link libraries (DLLs). So, previously incompatible applications can reside on the same system without conflict. These applications can be copied to a target system using a file transfer utility, downloaded from a Website or downloaded from any ol' SMB file server.
Another important benefit of this approach is that only a portion (10% to 20%) of an application is needed for the application to start up and function for users. This, along with the fact that all of the application components are encapsulated in the Thinstall image, means that applications start up very rapidly. Unlike the competitors, however, all of the application is eventually streamed down to the user's system. In comparison, Softricity only streams down the portion of the file a user has actually requested and will only stream the whole application down if administrators have chosen that option for that user so that the user can disconnect from the network and work remotely.
As one would expect, the Thinstall-encapsulated application is compressed and protected with a security/management layer that protects it from being used on unauthorized machines or beyond some specific date/time set by system administrators.
This sounds similar to what's done by...
Thinstall's capabilities sounded very similar to those offered by AppStream, Ardence, Endeavors Technology, Softricity and a few other companies. The good Mr. Rosendahl was able to offer a few points of differentiation.
- Thinstall does not require a separate server for application streaming. It works with just about any SMB file server.
- A Thinstall application can run on any Windows operating system from Windows NT to Windows Vista.
- A Thinkstall application runs in user mode so no special privileges are needed to install the application. (Very important in environments that require user devices be totally locked down for security reasons)
Thinstall's technology, along with those offered by its competition could simplify installation, updating and managing user applications. This certainly would tend to lower the costs of administration and operation that many organizations face. If an organization needs to be able to stream down and cache only a portion of an application, Thinstall isn't the appropriate product to select.
Thinstall streams an application and any required contents (such as Java, etc.) in a single EXE file automatically to client PCs in a block based fashion. Data is decompressed directly into memory and provided to the application, using minimal disk space to a client PC host operating system. As subsequent read requests are made by the application for the same data, the Window disk cache will provide the same data without requiring a network read operation. The process is fast, and can be done via network share, USB flash or CD-ROM.
If you organization's need fit what Thinstall's virtualization suite
does, it is worth learning about.