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ThinApp deployments in a training environment

Using ThinApp application virtualization in the classroom provides multiple versions of an application to one user while enabling scalability and configurability.

In a new VMware View end-user training environment, complications may arise when previously added applications need to be updated, patched or installed on the original gold template desktop. If a class calls for the availability of multiple versions of the same application, there are only two delivery methods: Deploy two different desktops for each student or introduce application virtualization.

Application virtualization is not a new concept. Citrix has been supplying application streaming for years. VMware ThinApp, Citrix XenApp and Microsoft App-V -- formerly SoftGrid -- are application virtualization providers. While each vendor has its own advantages, this tip focuses specifically on VMware ThinApp application virtualization.

The ThinApp product has three features that benefit the training environment:

  • ThinApp encapsulates the entire application in a single file -- with no ties into the underlying operating system.

  • It can deliver the application using various methods such as file share, local directory and email.

  • It allows linking between multiple applications.

These features create a static desktop environment that allows students to work on multiple versions of one application simultaneously. This classroom environment setup, a "training nirvana" as I call it, saves the trainer a great deal of time when preparing the classroom.

Application delivery methods
When using ThinApp for a training environment, the instructor must create a new package containing the application for classroom use. The easiest method to deliver the application to students is to place the package on a file share that's accessible to all desktops. If the file share is used as the delivery mechanism, there is no need to rollout a new set of desktops -- except when a new version of the OS is required or a patch is needed.

The other method of delivery involves installing the application package on each desktop. This process can be completed by using ThinApp's Update Management feature. The ThinApp package contains a small piece of code that contacts the ThinApp server every time the application is started. New application patches can then be streamed to the package. This method is useful for training situations in which the application package is required on the desktop.

Brad Maltz is CTO of International Computerware, a national consulting firm focused on virtualization and storage technologies. He holds certifications from VMware and EMC for many technologies. Brad can be reached at bmaltz@iciamerica.com for any questions, comments or suggestions.

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