ThinApp Continues to Push Windows 7 Upgrade

By Cameron Sturdevant  |  Posted 2010-05-04

ThinApp Continues to Push Windows 7 Upgrade

VMware ThinApp 4.5 has added support for 32-bit and 64-bit Windows systems and made other modest improvements that make it worthy of consideration by IT administrators who want to ease migration to Windows 7, while still using applications that are certified for Windows XP, Vista or an earlier version of Windows.

While VMware ThinApp 4.5 is not radically different from its predecessor, the package format did change-in part to enable large .MSI (Microsoft Installer) files-and IT managers will need to convert applications that were prepared with the earlier ThinApp 4.0 version with a simple-to-use utility. ThinApp 4.5 isolates applications from the underlying operating system that reduces application conflict, while enabling a speed-up in the application deployment process by eliminating full-blown regression testing for applications that are already approved on older Windows operating systems.

The product has gained polish since I reviewed ThinApp 4.0 in late 2008, after the product was acquired by VMware. What hasn't changed is the price: ThinApp is still $5,000 and is also available in a bundle with VMware View Premier for $250 per concurrent user. ThinApp 4.5 became available on March 17. 

ThinApp 4.5 and competitive products-including Microsoft's App-V and Symantec's Workspace Virtualization (formerly Altiris SVS)-differ from standard application packaging tools because they can stream an application package to a sandbox that is created on the target desktop system where the application executes without interfering with other programs that are already installed.

ThinApp performed its core application virtualization chores effectively, using an efficient application packaging mechanism and distribution system that make virtualized applications available to end users from a variety of traditional software distribution mechanisms, including tools that distribute an .MSI to a file share or from inside a VMware View environment. I used a file share in my tests to distribute Microsoft Word 2003 and 2007, WinZip and large (greater than 3GB) components that are part of Adobe's newly released Creative Suite 5 Master Collection.

Testing It Out


Testing It Out

My VMware ThinApp 4.5 test environment ran on a Lenovo W510 mobile workstation with dual Intel Core i7 quad-core processors, 8GB of RAM and 450GB of hard-drive space. I used VMware Workstation 7 to create several Windows XP SP3 and Windows 7 Professional end-user systems and a Windows Server 2003 system to handle software distribution.

In addition, I used snapshots of the Windows XP and Windows 7 Professional systems as my clean reference machines for creating the application packages. These systems were then reset to a pristine state and used to access the file share on my Windows Server 2003 system to access and install the various test applications.

As is the case with application virtualization products, I was able to use ThinApp 4.5 to run multiple versions of the same product. Thus, organizations that need employees to use an older version of an application (say, Word 2003) while transitioning to a more up-to-date productivity tool (for example, Word 2007) can do so on the same system without the two versions of the product causing interference.

Organizations that are considering a migration from Windows XP to Windows 7 but are concerned about application compatibility can use ThinApp 4.5 as a bridge between the two operating systems, using the same principle of application isolation.

I used the previous version of ThinApp 4.0 to create several application packages and then employed the new Relink utility to update these packages to the new ThinApp 4.5 format. Both versions of Word, WinZip and the Adobe After Effects packages transitioned without a hitch.

For midsize to large organizations, ThinApp 4.5 is still best used in conjunction with an enterprise-class software distribution system, such as HP Client Automation, LANDesk Management Suite or Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager. These products provide the management infrastructure-such as deployment success/failure-that is not provided by the ThinApp 4.5 product.

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