How browser virtualization overcomes pesky Web app demands

A new tool from Spoon virtualizes any browser and streams it from the Web, which helps cut through some of the more annoying app demands.

Browser lock-in is still a problem for many organizations deploying certain Web apps, but there's a new browser virtualization tool that can help you overcome specific application demands.

Spoon.net's current application virtualization tool uses application-specific virtual machines to stream applications to your users. Rather than sending an entire OS down and running it plus an application, only the application bits are included in the virtual machine, and the Spoon client takes advantage of the underlying instance of Windows that's already installed to execute the application in a secure, isolated way.

There's no excuse anymore for running old, insecure OSes just to support old browsers.

Recently, Spoon released a new browser virtualization product called Browser Studio that addresses the need that many organizations have with regard to browser lock-in. For every company you talk to that's migrated 100% to Windows 7, you can find five others that have issues with applications that require ActiveX controls in Internet Explorer (IE) 6, or that have browser plug-ins that are no longer supported in newer browsers, requiring the company to deploy IE 7.

How Browser Studio works

Browser Studio uses the application-specific virtual machines that Spoon.net uses, plus a management console that allows you, with a few clicks, to build out instances of many browser and plug-in combinations. For instance, you can use it to deploy IE 6 with Java 5 Update 14, Flash 9 and .Net Framework 3.5 SP1 to systems running Windows 7 (which is not possible without third-party intervention).

The best part about Browser Studio, though, is that it does all the packaging for you and streams down the completed build from Spoon's site. That takes all the work out of assembling not just the package but the platform from which the package is delivered.

Spoon isn't the only company that's built browser virtualization and other tools for addressing this issue. Browsium has made a name for itself doing similar things. Originally, it addressed this issue with UniBrows, which let end users run the IE6 engine inside IE8 and IE9. That product broke a few rules, so Browsium released another one called Ion, which uses its own engine to run IE6 applications (and to tweak the browser for each app).

There are other application virtualization tools that deal with the troublesome Web apps that require old, unsupported software, too. The key takeaway is that there are many ways to make this happen before it's too late. You probably don't have control over whether you have these applications in your company, but you do have control over how your users access them. Products like these can help get over the hump of the last few Windows XP machines in your company, not to mention give your developers more time to get a new application built.

Of course, the real benefit they have is that they help you streamline the environment that you have to manage. You can move to a single OS, and maybe even a single image. And, on top of all that, you no longer have gaping security holes all over your organization. There's no excuse anymore for running old, insecure OSes just to support old browsers.

This was first published in March 2014

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