By Cameron Sturdevant  |  Posted 2008-08-26 Print this article Print

The trick to getting this working was navigating the setup vagaries of AppSync, the new feature through which application packages check for updates, and through which these updates stream down to their intended clients. As implemented today, desktop managers should tack on at least several days of consulting to get VMware ThinApp 4 working correctly, or wait for VMware to smooth out the wrinkles before deploying.

The documentation for AppSync is quite sparse and in many cases incomplete. I spent several hours over a period of days on the phone with VMware staff trying to figure out why my test applications weren't updating.

It turned out that the .ini file associated with the older version of the test application must match the .ini file of the upgraded version of the application. This is not documented. The reasoning makes sense. In order to assure that the user gets the correct update, VMware ThinApp checks both .inis for a match. This does mean that desktop administrators will have to remember to retain the same name when preparing future application packages.

Undocumented behaviors aside, the product's AppSync functionality is exposed through a weak UI. Doctoring the .ini files means editing text files by hand to make a series of changes to indicate the location of the update file, the update-checking frequency and the optional warning message to display in case updates go awry. VMware officials told me that an improved configuration UI is being considered for a future update to the product.

Also problematic is the lack of a central console to show desktop administrators which end-user systems have been updated and, more importantly, which update attempts have failed. I would also like to see a central policy administration mechanism for determining the update frequency and license status of deployed ThinApp packages.

Finally, VMware ThinApp requires a Web server to distribute AppSync updates to users but provides no information on how to set up this functionality. Other VMware products that rely on Web-accessible components, such as VMware's Virtual Center, should serve as a model for future ThinApp development. In the meantime, desktop administrators may have to seek out the help of their Web development cohorts to complete the setup of AppSync.

 eWEEK Labs Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at

Cameron Sturdevant Cameron Sturdevant has been with the Labs since 1997, and before that paid his IT management dues at a software publishing firm working with several Fortune 100 companies. Cameron also spent two years with a database development firm, integrating applications with mainframe legacy programs. Cameron's areas of expertise include virtual and physical IT infrastructure, cloud computing, enterprise networking and mobility, with a focus on Android in the enterprise. In addition to reviews, Cameron has covered monolithic enterprise management systems throughout their lifecycles, providing the eWEEK reader with all-important history and context. Cameron takes special care in cultivating his IT manager contacts, to ensure that his reviews and analysis are grounded in real-world concern. Cameron is a regular speaker at Ziff-Davis Enterprise online and face-to-face events. Follow Cameron on Twitter at csturdevant, or reach him by email at

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