Novell Adds Application Virtualization to Portfolio

By Cameron Sturdevant  |  Posted 2008-10-02

Novell Adds Application Virtualization to Portfolio

Novell ZENworks Application Virtualization makes short work of eliminating application conflicts on Windows desktops by isolating programs from the underlying operating system.

ZAV still allows applications to interact with each other to enhance user productivity, and the product is a worthy addition to Novell's virtualization portfolio. IT managers who are looking to take the next step in reducing application deployment and operational costs should put ZAV on the list of application virtualization products to consider.

However, this is far from being an empty playing field, and IT managers shouldn't shy away from playing vendors off one another to get the best deal. Symantec Altiris SVS (Software Virtualization Solution), Microsoft Application Virtualization and VMware ThinApp 4 are all vying for attention.

Symantec's tool has been around for several years and has a small but active end-user community called Juice that is a good resource for SVS users. Microsoft Applica??ítion Virtualization is based on what used to be SoftGrid from Softric??íity, and based on my recent test, IT managers will be tasked with significant packaging and setup burdens to make App-V 4.5 work correctly. VMware ThinApp hit some snags during my testing as well, but it has a neat method for keeping remotely deployed virtual??íized apps up to date.

Although this category of prod??íucts is called "application virtual??íization," it might be more apt to call it OS virtualization, because Novell's ZAV-like its competi??ítors-creates a sandbox of sorts on the desktop or laptop and isolates the application's changes to files and registry from the operating system. This effectively separates applications from each other as well, essentially eliminating com??ípatibility testing from the applica??ítion deployment test plan.



During my test, I virtualized Mozilla's Firefox browser (Version 3), WinZip and Microsoft Office 2003 Professional.

My Novell ZAV test environment consisted of a VMware Workstation installation composed of two Win??ídows XP Service Pack 3 systems. One of the Windows XP systems was my clean build system on which I used Novell ZAV to prepare my test applications. The other system was my installation target.

The basic process I used for vir??ítualizing Windows applications using Novell ZAV is exactly the same used with any other appli??ícation packaging tool. Starting with a clean install of Windows and using equipment that closely approximates one's installed hardware inventory, a desktop administrator uses Novell ZAV to take a snapshot of the registry, DLLs and other files on the clean system.

After completing this step on one of my test systems, I installed the application I wished to virtualize and then allowed Novell ZAV to capture the differences. Novell ZAV then packaged these differences, along with some Novell ZAV-spe??ícific client software, into either an .msi or an .exe that I could deploy to my test clients.

Configuring applications to run in a virtualized fashion can be tricky, but a talented and detail-oriented IT staffer can do the job with a couple of days of practice. So Novell's addition of preconfigured wizards that build an automatically configured vir??ítual application should not weigh heavily into considering the prod??íuct. The module can ease the creation of Adobe Reader version 8, several versions of Microsoft Office, Mozilla Firefox and Open Office 2. I ran the wizard on my Office 2003 Professional install and found that it mostly got in the way, so I quickly returned to the old-fashioned method of walking through the snapshot process.

There are some handy tools included in the application pack??íager. It was simple to add run-times, including a number of versions of Microsoft's .NET Framework or Sun Microsystems' Java run-time, to my package. The packager also enabled me to process command-line arguments and environment variables, including spawning out child processes within the virtual??íized environment. These types of advanced features are available in this first version of Novell ZAV because the bulk of the product is based on Code Systems' Xenocode Virtual Application Studio.

I installed my applications in local sandboxes on my target desktop systems, had them run from USB thumb drives and even installed the applications locally on the hard drive. My test applica??ítions ran quickly and smoothly in all cases. I was able to drag docu??íments from the Office sandbox to the Windows desktop, which is a nice user productivity feature.

Novell ZAV was released Sept. 2 and costs $39 per seat, which is in line with competitors' license costs.

eWEEK Labs Technical Director Cam??íeron Sturdevant can be reached at cs??í



Rocket Fuel