Guide to application delivery options
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VMware ThinApp is popular for virtualizing, sandboxing and packaging applications. But I'm always on the lookout for alternative tools that can provide the same functionality at -- hopefully -- a lower cost.
Citrix has its XenApp application streaming product, and Microsoft offers App-V to round out the more widely used application virtualization tools. Let's take a sampling of some alternatives to VMware ThinApp and see how they might save time and money in your environment.
A resource called Project VRC from Ruben Spruijt, Jeroen van de Kamp and Sven Huisman offers great insight into the use of application virtualization within VDI. If you're considering ThinApp or any of these application virtualization tools, this project is a great place to start learning about the technology.
Spoon used to be called Xenocode and was more widely recognized as an OEM product from Novell called Zenworks Application Virtualization.
The company, now called Spoon Inc., offers the Spoon Studio application virtualization product along with Spoon Server and Spoon.net. Spoon Studio is very easy to use and can integrate with either a physical delivery system (such as USB or Spoon Server) or its cloud offering -- Spoon.net. It is a very versatile product but still a bit pricy at $1,995 to start. Take it for a trial run to see if it's right for you.
Evalaze is a newer application virtualization tool on the market. It has three editions: a free Private edition, Professional edition and Commercial edition. The free edition is severely limited in features compared to the other two, but it does allow for an unlimited number of virtualized applications.
More on application virtualization tools
Smackdown: Application virtualization tools
Microsoft App-V vs. ThinApp
Application virtualization pros and cons
I wanted to try the Professional edition, but they do not offer a trial link for download. However, they do have a Commercial edition trial, which includes the proverbial kitchen sink of tools for your use, including distribution licenses and technical support. I had some trouble sending a request for the trial, but it looks promising from their marketing. You'll need to judge for yourself if you can get them to answer!
The company also has an application virtualization "service," which takes the application and files that you upload and creates the virtualized package for you. That's kind of cool in today's world of Software as a Service.
This is a tough one. I really like the InstallFree interface, pricing (free or subscription-based) and versatility of this app virtualization tool. However, you must have an Internet connection to use it. It doesn't provide the same offline functionality of VMware ThinApp or others. If having your application available offline is not a deal-breaker for you, this product might be up your alley.
Portable Apps provides a basic way to create and carry your applications wherever you go on a USB stick or drive. It is really what VMware ThinApp started out to be, but the vendor evolved ThinApp into a very large package with added functionality. Sometimes, you just need an application to be portable, and this product does that very well.
I believe all administrators should have this as a core item in their admin toolbox. Best of all, it's free, requires no registration and never nags you.
Symantec Workspace Streaming
This product is most often used by administrators that want to virtualize as many applications as possible or want to micro-manage their app license tracking. Symantec Workspace Streaming does a great job of virtualizing more applications than VMware ThinApp, but it also requires a client agent and streaming server, which ThinApp does not.
Workspace Streaming also lacks an intuitive user interface and is clouded by Symantec Corp.'s difficult licensing and support. ThinApp is more portable than this product and has more flexibility rather than complexity.
VMware ThinApp truly is a flexible, easy to use and versatile application virtualization tool. Still, some administrators need something closer to Portable Apps or will want to check out lower prices.