UniBrows from Browsium allows organizations to run IE6 line-of-business applications natively on Windows 7 at a fraction of the cost and without rewriting any code.
Even as users download Internet Explorer 9, there are a number of
organizations still tied to Internet
Explorer 6 because they need to keep running a critical legacy business
application. For those users, a new plug-in may help them make the jump to a
more secure Web browser.
Browsium released UniBrows, an Internet Explorer add-on that allows
organizations to run legacy IE6 applications on IE8 without modifying a single
line of code, the company said on March 15. The add-on wraps the actual IE6
rendering engine and other related files, such as the appropriate Flash Player,
so that applications can run seamlessly in IE8, Gary Schare, Browsium president
and COO, told eWEEK.
"UniBrows lets organizations continue using their IE6-specific apps
while upgrading users to a more secure browser on a more secure operating
system," he said.
In early 2000, IE6 had something close to a 95 percent market share, said
Schare. It was a good browser when it first came out, and many companies built
critical line-of-business applications based on IE6, he said. These are mainly
internal applications and not external-facing, so they were not updated
frequently because of user issues or funding concerns, he said.
Schare estimates that rewriting legacy IE6 applications would exceed "hundreds
of billions of dollars" for the entire industry.
With Microsoft officially trying to move users off IE6, IT managers have to
figure out a way to move these critical applications, Schare said. "You
need to rewrite your code, and yes, you have to pay for it, and yes, it's going
to be difficult," he said of Microsoft's stance.
While some organizations are undertaking the rewrite task, many are considering
a two-operating-system environment, where users run legacy applications on a
virtual machine running Windows XP and IE6, Schare said. Browsium is offering a
third option, where organizations don't have to worry about the expense and
time required for the rewrite or the complexity in managing old systems on a
virtual machine, he said.
As a browser add-on, UniBrows is a "non-virtualized way to run legacy
apps as is," he said.
With UniBrows, IE6-specific applications run using the original, native IE6
administrators create rules and profiles within the add-on's management screen
to specify which Web applications should use the IE6 engine, he said. For
everything else, the user will be on IE8.
Organizations are currently in a "vulnerable state" when
everything the user does online is done via IE6. This exposes them to all kinds
of Web malware and malicious exploits taking advantage of unpatched
vulnerabilities in the aged browser, Schare said.
By using this plug-in, users are now in a more secure environment for most
of their Web browsing, while using the IE6 engine for very specific, usually
internal-facing, applications, Schare said. The idea is that IT teams control
the internal applications, so using the older browser engine is not that
insecure, he said.
UniBrows also picked up a little bit of IE8-specific security features,
Not making the switch has other implications beyond keeping users on an
older and insecure Web browser, according to Schare. IE6 is not compatible with
Windows 7, preventing organizations from dropping XP and migrating to a more
secure Windows platform.
Schare and key members of the Browsium team are former Microsoft executives
who worked on Internet Explorer. Other executives include Matthew Heller,
Browsium's founder and CEO, and Matthew
David Crowley, the CTO.
Intended for enterprise use in organizations with 5,000 to 50,000 users, a
UniBrows subscription costs $5,000 a year, with an additional $5 per user per
year fee. All updates and upgrades are available at no additional cost.
UniBrows 1.0 started shipping on March 6 to customers, Schare said.