I created several file shares on the same Windows Server 2003 R2 member system in my Active Directory domain and copied the InstallFree end-user components to one share and the applications to another. The IFMC runs as a process and is not installed on the server, in a manner similar to the process agents that run on the end-user Windows systems.
After executing the IFMC, I imported several specially prepared versions of test application software that included the Mozilla Firefox Web browser and Sun Microsystems' OpenOffice productivity suite. I also encapsulated Microsoft Office Word 2007.
InstallFree defines three types of virtual applications for deployment: applications, patches and expansion packs. Applications are the base product, patches are fixes that change the version of the base product and expansion packs are optional add-ons, usually from a third party, which add functionality but do not change the version of the base product.
This amount of flexibility is a real positive and showed to advantage during my tests. For example, I was able to deploy a relatively up-to-date version of Firefox, apply patches to bring it up to the most current version and then add a Google Toolbar, depending on how I configured my central policy. Here is the advantage: Most other application deployment tools would require a complete library of every possible configuration of an application. With InstallFree Bridge, I was able to "dynamically assemble" (InstallFree's perfectly appropriate term) the version, patch level and extra add-ons by mixing and matching components at start-up time.
Applications and any updates or expansion packs are most easily used when assigned to Active Directory objects in the Windows domain. By default, applications assigned to higher-level groups such as Organizational Units are inherited by child groups. InstallFree does provide an easy-to-use mechanism to block inheritance and further easily allows any type of virtual application to be assigned to an individual user.
Tests and further research showed that some applications work better with different versions of the InstallFree engine (the management console) and InstallFree Bridge virtual agents. While it was easy for me to assign the best version of the engine and the agent to applications, this is a weakness in the product and diminishes one of the chief reasons to use application virtualization-to get rid of regression testing.
Even with this shortcoming, however, the applications I used during my testing worked well with each other and the end-user operating systems.
Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.