Softricity Upgrades SoftGrid for Mobility

Version 3.0 of the SoftGrid virtualization software lets mobile users access applications.

Softricity Inc. is extending the reach of its application-virtualization technology to mobile and offline users.

The Boston-based company this week rolled out SoftGrid 3.0, a platform that officials say enables IT administrators to bring the benefits of utility computing—flexible deployment of resources, reduced IT costs, on-demand computing and increased management capabilities—to the application level.

SoftGrid 3.0 lets users that are not on the network can gain access to Windows applications, a key feature given the increasing mobility of workers, said CEO Harry Ruda. Application code can be delivered and cached as a service to a laptop, Ruda said. License compliance is maintained even when a user is disconnected from the network by setting a time limit after which the application stops working.

Softricity uses a sequencer to that virtualizes the application within a SoftGrid server. Then using the SoftGrid Management Console, IT administrators can send portions of application code as a service to users who order them. From the console, administrators can determine who gets what level of access to which applications. In addition, when applications are replaced or are updated, they only need to be dealt with once and then distributed to users.

Softricitys SystemGuard technology ensures no conflicts between applications running on computers and authenticates each user when they request application code.

Having mobile users included in the mix now gives IT administrators the ability to manage their entire computing environment, Ruda said.

"Its like an electrical grid," he said. "Its centrally managed, measurable and easy to turn on and off."

Other new features of SoftGrid 3.0—which can be used with Microsoft Corp.s Windows NT, 2000 and XP operating systems—include support for Microsofts Active Directory to make it easier to send application code in real time and the ability to add patches to existing SoftGrid-enabled applications without having to repackage the applications. In addition, SoftGrid can now manage everything from users and applications to license compliance and reporting through a .Net Web service that can be integrated into such management tools as Microsoft Management Console and Microsoft Management Server.

Calvin Wright said having the SoftGrid system at the Medical Center at the University of Illinois has enabled him to reduce the amount of time needed to deploy new and upgraded applications from four weeks to about four hours. Before, whenever any changes were made to an application, it was necessary for all of the Chicago hospitals application vendors to come in and make sure the changes didnt impact their software. With the new HIPAA regulations—which has resulted in an almost constant upgrading of applications—this process became particularly onerous, said Wright, director of technology solutions at the Medical Center.

Softricitys technology ensures that the application code can run on a desktop without disruption to any other software on the system, Wright said.

"We can go straight to market [with new or updated software] because it doesnt interfere or interact with applications that are working beside it," he said.

In addition, management of the applications is easier. At one point, the hospital operated about 200 servers to run the applications. Now that is down to two SoftGrid servers. System administration costs are reduced, the expense of bringing in representatives from the software vendors every time a change to one application is made it taken out of the equation, and Wright can no more easily deliver applications to clinicians, doctors and nurses who have offices outside of the hospital.

"It takes a lot of stress off of my guys and makes the environment more manageable, which is something you lose as you grow," Wright said. "I know where my apps are running. Theyre running in an environment that was specifically created for them, so I have more control over them."