By eweek  |  Posted 2006-04-17 Print this article Print

Softricitys SoftGrid 4.0 offers reliable application delivery while eliminating desktop conflicts.

Released in March, SoftGrid 4.0 delivers applications using Microsofts Active Directory and application packaging technology that Softricity calls "sequencing." Applications are delivered to the desktop or laptop and can be cached locally. All user customizations and preferences are saved as well, but the cost of this convenience is a hefty $200 per licensed user.

Softricity provides an ROI (return on investment) calculator so IT managers can more easily determine if SoftGrid 4.0 will be cost-effective for their organizations—or for specific users at their organizations. We recommend that IT managers use the calculator, but we also suggest that they look at Altiris SVS (Software Virtualization Solution).
SVS doesnt offer all the bells and whistles that SoftGrid 4.0 does, but, at $29 per seat, SVS is certainly worth considering if reducing application conflict on the desktop is your main concern.

Based on our tests, SoftGrid 4.0 is best suited for environments that service high-value users who move from one machine to another and need all their customized applications and settings to follow them immediately. In fact, SoftGrid 4.0 excels at providing almost instantaneous access to applications.

We installed the SoftGrid Universal Desktop Client on user systems, including laptops and desktops. The only difference worth noting between mobile and office use of SoftGrid 4.0 involves caching. Because applications are never installed, we used a SoftGrid feature that let us precache all the applications needed by our laptop users before they disconnected from the network.

Click here to read a review of Altiris Software Virtualization Solution 2.0. The default client cache is 2GB, and it can be expanded to 64GB. (The default settings worked well for us in tests.)

SoftGrid 4.0 also provides a scripting method that allows administrators to force the precaching of applications, although changes in the new SoftGrid client handled this task just fine with no additional prompting from us. This is an improvement over the previous version of SoftGrid, which required a mobile client shim to handle some of these tasks.

Application Isolation

Softgrid 4.0 delivers applications in a fully isolated environment on the target systems. During our tests, we found no application conflicts—even when we used multiple versions of the Java Virtual Machine, Microsofts Office and Visio, and WinZip. In addition, regardless of the printer drivers or anti-virus applications that we loaded, we never ran into a problem when using the various test programs.

The flip side of application isolation is that some functions where one application relies on another—such as embedding Microsoft Excel spreadsheets in a Word document—were impossible to do. Softricity officials said plans are being made to address this concern in a future version of SoftGrid.

A benefit of application isolation in this release—one that Softricity officials said SoftGrid will retain in the future—is the ability to provide Active Upgrades. This new feature allowed us to update an application version while users were still using the older version. When a user logged on to his or her local system, the new components were transparently downloaded and the new software version was immediately available.

We like this upgrade method because users dont have to disconnect from the previous version of an application while an upgrade is in process. In addition, because the SoftGrid 4.0 client actively checks for new applications at log-in, no user action is required to get the new application on the desktop.

Next Page: Its all in the packaging.


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