Altiris System Curbs App Conflicts

Altiris is bringing the weight of its experience as a desktop management provider to application virtualization.

Altiris Inc. this week will bring the weight of its experience as a desktop management provider to application virtualization.

Altiris new SVS (Software Virtualization Solution) is initially intended to streamline the software-testing process and help eliminate application conflicts when updates and patches are rolled out. SVS follows similar products from Softricity Inc. and AppStream Inc.

Although their techniques differ, all three offerings work to simplify application deployment by isolating application components from the operating system and delivering just enough of the components to perform the desired tasks.

The Altiris approach is unique in its ability to roll back software updates or patches to a known, good state without relying on a system image or using the uninstall file, said David Friedlander, an analyst with Forrester Research Inc., in Amsterdam, Netherlands. "Normally you have to use the Microsoft uninstall file, which doesnt always work successfully. Altiris simply removes the virtual layer and changes back to the state it was in before," Friedlander said.

SVS copies the necessary files from the application onto a remote machine and puts them into a hidden area of the file system. A filter driver exposes the application to the user and manages where the files come from that are required by the application. The driver runs the operating system and pulls the resources required by the application.

One early user found that the Altiris technology eliminates the DLL conflicts that can occur among different applications running on the same PC, making it much simpler and faster to move software around. "I have so many apps on my machine, I have to be careful with software conflicts. With this running in virtual memory, I dont have those conflicts," said Bill Washburn, operating systems analyst at California State University, in San Marcos, Calif.

But beyond eliminating software conflicts, Altiris officials in Lindon, Utah, believe application virtualization has the potential to be a "disruptive technology" that could change the way applications are deployed, managed and used.

At least one user working with Softricitys SoftGrid application virtualization platform agreed. "With Softricity, every application is self-contained in one data file that has everything the user needs to execute that application, and the file runs in its own virtual space. It doesnt just impact desktop management. Now it gives you new opportunities for business continuity and disaster recovery," said Rick Mickool, executive director of IS at Northeastern University, in Boston.

The Altiris offering is due by December and will be priced at $29 per node.


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