VMware acquires Thinstall

VMware just announced that it is acquiring Thinstall and it appeared wise to look a bit at what VMware is doing. The financial details of the acquisition have not been disclosed.

VMware just announced that it is acquiring Thinstall and it appeared wise to look a bit at what VMware is doing. The financial details of the acquisition have not been disclosed.

It is clear to me that that VMware is working very hard to be VIRTUALIZATION for industry standard systems, not just be one of the major players in certain select parts of the virtualization software market. This move clearly is a response to Citrix  and Microsoft.

Citrix acquired XenSource to add virtual processing to its already stong access and application virtualization story. Microsoft acquired a list of companies to create a pretty complete virtualization story. It is clear that VMware wants to extend the fence around its customer base by adding application virtualization to its portfolio.



VMware has done a masterful job of co-opting the industry term "virtualization" and making many believe that it only refers to virtual machine software. This has always astounded me because that phrase has been used for well over 30 years to describe making IT functions work in a logical, not a physical, environment. This term has been used to discuss technology that operates on many levels including:

  • Technology that makes it possible for people to access applications and data that reside somewhere on the network with their choice of intelligent systems without worrying about compatability issues
  • Technology that provides applications with an ideal environment for processing that differs from the actual physical configuration of the systems upon which they execute
  • Technology that allows many systems to appear to be a single computing resource or a single system to appear to be many computing resources
  • Technology that makes it possible for systems to access remote storage without having to know where it is, what form of media is being used or that others may also be accessing it
  • Technology that hides what the real network media and topology are allowing a system to communicate in an "ideal" environment
  • Technology that make a "virtualized" environment secure and managable.

The Kusnetzky Group model of virtualization software lays this out graphically.


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. This clearly belongs in the application virtualization category in the KG model.

In August 2007 I posted  Thinstall puts application virtualization on a diet. At that time, I commented that Thinstall's technology offers capabilities that appear very similar to those offered by AppStream, Ardence, Endeavors Technology, Softricity (part of Microsoft now) and a few other companies.

Here's what VMware had to say about Thinstall

Thinstall decouples applications from underlying operating systems, improving isolation and portability for applications across desktop environments.  Thinstall’s unique, agentless approach to application virtualization enables the rapid, secure and cost effective delivery of software applications to desktops. Agentless application virtualization, pioneered by Thinstall, requires no pre-installed software on physical or virtual PC’s and no new deployment infrastructure or management tools. Thinstall’s architecture integrates into existing application management systems to deliver virtualized applications across a variety of operating system versions (NT, 2000, XP, Vista) and enables applications to move with users as needed. Thinstall significantly decreases the time to value of a software application and reduces the overhead of costly integrations.  For example, a large federal agency turned to Thinstall to completely eliminate software installation conflicts that previously ran as high as 20%.  The same customer used Thinstall to cut regression testing by 70% as applications no longer had to be tested in every environment or with every other application.

Founded in 1999, Thinstall is used by more than 600 customers in government and commercial industries.  Thinstall customers have deployed thousands of virtualized applications to over a million desktops around the world. For more information about Thinstall please visit www.vmware.com/go/Thinstall.

Snapshot analysis

If one reviews VMware's current product portfolio, it's clear that the heart of the company's products is its virtual machine technology. Over time, the company has added technology that manages virtual machines, makes it possible for virtual machines to migrate from one physical system to another (another management function) to meet sevice level objectives or outages, access virtual systems remotely, allow virtual machines to access virtual storage and some capacity planning tools.

VMware still doesn't offer products in a number of virtualization categories including:

  • a comprehensive access virtualization product although its VDI has been the foundation of many other supplier's products (another acquisition in the making perhaps)
  • a high-performance/grid computing product
  • a high availability/high reliability clustering product although its VMotion is evolving in that direction
  • a comprehensive network virtualization product
  • a comprehensive storage virtualization product
  • a comprehensive orchestration capability (once again, VMwares management software plus its VMotion are evolving in that direction)
  • The company didn't, until now, have application virtualization technology.

If I were a member of VMware's strategic planning team, I'd be considering how to protect my customer base and reach out to others in the face of increasing competition coming from both Microsoft and Citrix. The traditional choices when a company finds itself in the position VMware is now in are building technology, acquiring companies having this technology or partner with companies having this technology. VMware has been rapidly doing all three.


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