Book published: VMware ThinApp 4.7 Essentials

The first book on VMware ThinApp 4.7 has been published!! Specialist Systems Engineer ThinApp  at VMware Peter Bjork is the author of “VMware ThinApp 4.7 Essentials”.

What you will learn from this book is:

  • Concepts behind Application Virtualization
  • ThinApp architecture and vocabulary
  • Application Linking
  • Application packaging process and best practices
  • Various methods to deploy ThinApp packages
  • How to update your ThinApp project
  • ThinApp 4.7 design and implementation best practices
  • ThinApp troubleshooting

For more details on the great book and to order it, use the following link: http://www.packtpub.com/vmware-thinapp-4-7-essentials/book

View? No thanks, I’ll just use Appblast

The title of this article was one of the statements I heard last week. I also heard another interesting statements: “why use View? I will wait for Horizon”.

Back in February 2012, I published an article about VMware’s End User Computing vision and journey. In my opinion, that vision/journey hasn’t changed and still applies with the recent announcements at VMworld 2012. However, I have the feeling that the vision/journey need to be explained once again and maybe even more often, so people understand the vision and where EUC products fit in that vision/journey.

In a nutshell, VMware’s EUC vision starts with the future platform: The Horizon Suite- The Platform for the Mobile Workforce … applications, data and users in the post-PC era. Be aware that this Suite, or platform, contains multiple products/techniques, which are integrated with each other: View, ThinApp, Horizon Data, Horizon Mobile, Appblast and Horizon App Manager.

I have the idea that some people think they will be able to pick 1 product/technique and standardize on that: “All people will use Appblast for everything. There won’t be any need for VDI anymore”, as an example. That’s not true or even possible in today’s world. There isn’t 1 ultimate vehicle/technique to bring apps and data to any device in a secure and efficient way. A user’s workspace will deliver that user applications and data to any of his/her devices. Different products/techniques will be used to do so, to give that user the best experience to do his/her work on the device of that moment.

VMware calls it the Post-PC era but don’t think the PC, aka Windows is going away soon. Again, Windows won’t be as dominant as before anymore in the enterprise. The desktop (physical and/or virtual) won’t be the only place where users do their work. More devices, different platforms, less OS-dependent apps, but Windows will be there for a long time. That’s the reason for step #1: Optimize. That’s also the reason VMware keeps improving VMware View and introduce cool features like AppShift. Again, although Windows will not be as dominant, it still will be part of an enterprise user’s workspace environment

Now the journey: how do you get to that Post-PC era platform? VMware defined a 3-step journey:

  1. Optimize what you have,
  2. Embrace your/the Cloud,
  3. Escape to your/the Cloud

In my opinion, it doesn’t make sense to skip a step. You cannot “Embrace your/the Cloud until you have “Optimize what you have”. In other words, it doesn’t make sense to get Horizon (Suite and/or App Manager) before you use ThinApp and View. Technically, you could though. You could use Horizon App Manager for SaaS apps, you could use Horizon Data with the Horizon Suite with physical desktops. But, why wouldn’t you “Optimize what you have” first, virtualize applications, virtualize desktops, separate data and apps from physical desktops. Remove silos. Get savings out of that and become more efficient, more agile at the same moment. Then, invest those savings in more Cloud based apps: Saas or web service apps. Use a services broker like Horizon App manager. Distribute ThinApps via Horizon as well. Create a workspace where all techniques come together. Move to the your EUC cloud step-by-step.

“Links” section update Bright-Streams

Today I updated the “links” section on Bright-Streams. Products has been added to the VMware End User Computing portfolio over the last years. I added links to these product/technical resource/blog pages.

I also would like to mention the new whychooseview.com website, VMware launched recently. Videos, blog posts (also 3rd party) and other content is available there. Do check it out.

The updated links cover the following products:

  • VMware Corporation
  • VMware End User Computing
  • VMware View
  • VMware ThinApp
  • Zimbra
  • VMware Horizon App Manager
  • VMware Mirage
  • VMware Socialcast
  • Horizon Mobile

ThinApp Setup Capture; Basics (video included)

A little while ago I wrote an article about one of the biggest secrets of VMware; ThinApp.  I wrote about what ThinApp is, how it fits in the End User Computing vision and what the features are.

Today, I would like to continue and show you the basics around virtualizing an application using ThinApp. I created a video where I virtualize Mozilla Firefox. I will show you all the steps creating the virtual “bubble”.  Many people haven’t seen or touched ThinApp and I would like to show you what the process is., the steps to take.  I won’t discuss details and features. This is purely about the basics. More information about details will follow shortly.

So, where to start…

For anyone who is interested in trying out ThinApp, you can download a trial. Click here for your 60-day evaluation.

After the software, you need a machine to “capture” your application/create your virtual applications.  Personally, I use Virtual Machines on VMware Fusion.  VM’s are great for ThinApp-ing. Create a snapshot of your VM and you can install, change, do whatever you want and after you’re done, revert to the snapshot and you can go ahead with another application. You can package on Windows XP or Windows 7. Choose the OS which is the “oldest” in your environment. If you have a mixed XP and W7 environment and you want a package to run on both, package the application on XP. Keep this machine as clean as possible. Install patches and leave it like that.  After that, install the ThinApp Setup Capture application, and lastly, take a snapshot.

Right, you are good to go. Pick your application and follow the steps in the video.

Again, I’m not touching details like entry points, data container, isolation modes, AppLink and ThinDirect. I will blog about those soon. In case you want to read ahead, see below for more information;

Entry points/Data container

Isolation Modes

ThinDirect

Enjoy creating your first ThinApp package!

User Virtualization in the Post PC-era?

Today I ran into an article which had an interesting quote;

 Persona Management isn’t mature enough yet, and VMware knows it, Dunkin’s Brennan said. The company probably added it just to “check the box”, but he speculated that VMware would get profile management up to speed by making an acquisition

We can have a discussion about the the first part in another article but especially the acquisition part caught my attention.

So, will VMware acquire another company to speed up its profile management? I think that is an interesting question. A different question but related to the first 1 could be; how important will User Virtualization be in, let’s say, 5 years? Yet another question; will you still need User Virtualization in 5 years?

First, let’s take 1 step back for a minute; Once upon a time, there were Windows PC’s and in Windows NT the profiling scheme was introduced. Then there were roaming profiles, mandatory profiles, default user profiles and Group Policies; all mechanisms to control the user, control and save their settings like printers/wallpaper, their permissions to shares and folders, what they are or aren’t allowed to do like accessing Control Panel. Also, store profiles centrally and users will have the same look and feel from any Windows PC. Separate the user from the Operating System.

Third party vendors like RTO, Appsense, RES and LiquidWare got into this space as well to fill gaps and add new features, moving on where standard Microsoft profiles and GPO’s stopped.

But, all the tools have 1 thing in common; Windows. That’s not a bad thing but it isn’t the only platform anymore to run applications. IOS/Android phones/tablets and Macs are out there in the enterprise, even privately owned ones. The world is changing and I believe it is the Post PC-era already.

Management will change. It has to change. Applications and data will be delivered to different devices in different ways; you access ThinApp apps via VMware View from your private Android Tab 1 moment. Next, you access a SaaS app on your corporate iPhone.

Instead of managing most things on a Windows level/device level, you have to take that management up a couple of levels. To me, that’s the user level. It will become more important who is allowed to access which application/data from what device and place. The underlying Operating System and device will become less important. Horizon App Manager will be that Universal Broker where you set those user based rules.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe Windows will be around for a long time as a platform to execute specific applications. But will that platform be considered to be big enough for VMware to invest in a Windows profile management tool? Again, interesting questions.

One of VMware’s big secrets; ThinApp

In the last couple of months, I have been doing presentations about ThinApp quite a lot. I have noticed that ThinApp still is a big unknown product for many customers/people. It seems ThinApp is a VMware secret and my opinion is ThinApp deserves to be more than a secret.

Let’s reveal ThinApp. Why? Because it is a cool products. It is very good and it is a big part of the End User Computing Journey! So, first a quick overview;

Separate layers;

Traditionally, users are working on a PC at work. It is “their” PC and they work on it everyday. On that PC, an Operating System is installed; let’s say Windows. On top of Windows, applications are installed. Users use those applications to do their job. Also on this PC, user data and settings are saved; their custom look and feel like where the shortcuts are positioned, different wallpaper etc.

You see that a traditional PC consist of 4 blocks; Hardware+Operating System+Applications+data/settings, which are tied together. Managing 1 block could have an effect on another block; Changing the hardware could effect the OS. Updating the OS could effect applications and vice versa. Updating the OS could change personal settings of a user. Bottom line, you need to manage a PC completely, all at the same time. Wouldn’t it be better to be able to manage those blocks separately, independently?

VMware’s vision is to separate those building blocks. Create independent layers with the use of virtualization;

  1. Use a hypervisor/vSphere to separate the OS from the hardware,
  2. Use application virtualization/ThinApp to separate apps from the OS,
  3. Use user virtualization/Persona Management to separate data/settings from the OS.

Now you are able to manage those layers separately.

ThinApp; virtualizing applications;

With VMware ThinApp, you can create virtual Windows applications to run on end points. Picture it as creating a “bubble”. Inside that bubble there is a very small Virtual Operating System and registry. Also in that bubble is your application. It’s running and basically thinking it is installed on an standard Operating System, but it isn’t. It isn’t modifying your OS because of an install because there is no install. Your application makes calls like it does on an OS but the VOS is handling all that. Changes a user makes to the application are written to a ‘Sandbox”, which is by default located in a user’s profile.

Advantages of application virtualization and ThinApp are;

  1. Capture once and deploy multiple times,
  2. Application is running inside a bubble, decoupled from the OS,
  3. This bubble is a single .EXE or .MSI file,
  4. Easy integration with current application management tools/deployment tools,
  5. Virtualized applications run from different devices; desktops, USB devices, Flash, Terminal Servers/XenApp.

Features of ThinApp;

  1. Virtualize Internet Explorer 6 to run on Windows 7; With ThinApp you can virtualize IE6 and run it on Windows 7 desktops. With this feature you are able to move to Windows 7 even if there are legacy applications which require IE6,
  2. ThinDirect; Now, you have created an Internet Explorer 6 virtual package but how does a user know which browser to use for specific websites; the virtual browser or the native, new browser? With ThinDirect you can define which browser needs to open which websites. Example; when a user is browsing the web with IE9 but needs to go to www.vmware.com, and vmware.com needs to be opened with IE6, ThinDirect will detect the user wants to go to vmware.com, opens IE6 and closes IE9. When the user wants to go to another page, which isn’t meant to be opened by IE6, IE9 will open and IE6 will close,
  3. Appsync; Update your packages centrally by using Appsync. Of course virtualized packages need to be updated as well,
  4. AppLink; Basically, 2 bubbles/packages won’t “see” each other because they are virtualized. Sometimes it is necessary for packages to communicate with each other; an example is Internet Explorer and Java Runtime. When you package them separately, they need to be able to communicate to use each other. AppLink makes that possible,
  5. Application Assignment in View Manager; ThinApp packages can be assigned to pools of VM’s via the View Manager. This is a very straightforward procedure to stream and/or copy ThinApp packages to virtual desktops.

Deployment of ThinApp packages;

There are a couple of ways to deploy your virtualized ThinApp packages;

  1. Stream the .EXE packages from a central file share. When a user double clicks a shortcut, the package will automatically start to stream to the desktop. Most important bits will be streamed first so the application can start and be used. Thinreg.exe is a very small tool to make a package “known” to the Operating System; after running thinreg.exe you will see your package in the Start menu and Add/remove programs. Also, file association is being created so for example .pdf files will be opened with a virtualized package of Adobe Reader. Thinreg can be part of a login script or you can use thinreg with tools like Appsense/RES/LWL ProfileUnity.
  2. Streaming is great when all desktops have connection to that central file share. But what if you don’t? Well, you can install the .MSI virtual packages on those desktops/laptops.
  3. As mentioned before under features, you can deploy ThinApp packages via the View manager Console. You can set the deployment to Stream or Full Copy (which is de copy and install of the .MSI package).
  4. You can also deploy your virtual packages via USB drives. Copy the .MSI packages to the drive and users are able to start the virtual apps.
  5. Terminal Server/XenApp; More and more I see ThinApp packages being used in a TS/XenApp environment. In stead of installing applications natively (and create application silos) on TS and XA servers, people add several ThinApp Packages for users to use.

ThinApp and VDI;

Desktop virtualization is booming. Customers are moving from physical to virtual desktops. I believe ThinApping your apps is the first step. Second is the move to virtual desktops. Virtualizing your apps makes a transition to virtual desktops so much easier (and a move to Windows 7). The result is you can deploy clean Windows 7 virtual desktops in a View environment and give users access to their ThinApp’d applications. Virtualize users with Persona Management and you have separated all layers.

Virtualize what you currently have. Virtualize applications, desktops and users. After that embracing the cloud will be the next step, introducing SaaS apps, accessible from a central universal user portal.

Information about ThinApp;

www.vmware.com/products/thinapp

http://blogs.vmware.com/euc/thinapp/

http://blogs.vmware.com/thinapp/

http://www.vmware.com/products/thinapp/related-resources.html

 

Do I eat my own dog food?

Customers and partners do ask me what I use on a daily base. Do I use ThinApp, Socialcast, Sliderocket, View etc etc? In other words, do I eat our own dog food?

Well, first of all, the base. My laptop is a personal Mac Book Pro. For the geeks (just like myself); a 2.66Ghz Core i7, 8GB Ram and a 256GB SSD and Snow Leopard. Yeah baby, I love my MBP. It’s quick!

On top of Snow Leopard I have installed VMware Fusion 4. I installed Windows 7 Enterprise inside Fusion. This VM is my VMware Workspace. So my VMware Workspace is completely separated from my personal Mac environment. This way you can apply the “Bring Your Own Device” concept securely.

I don’t have a corporate vDesktop yet. Basically the only reason is I’m offline too much of the time and the current View Client for Mac doesn’t support Local Mode. I do have a vDesktop on our European demo environment though. I can connect to it from my personal Mac side with the Mac View Client and from inside my Windows VM with the Windows View Client.

So, what am I using inside my VM? Of course email. My email resides on a Zimbra backend and I either use Google Chrome (my default browser) or the Zimbra Desktop Client Application to connect to Zimbra. Because there is hardly no difference between the browser and application way of connecting, I use Chrome to connect to Zimbra basically all the time. I can use my email independent of an OS and App and have the same experience every time by using a browser.

For my presentations I do use Sliderocket. I converted my most important PPT’s into Sliderocket and threw away all my presentations. All new presentation I create from scratch in Sliderocket.  Give yourself a bit of time with creating presentations and converting PPT’s. Not everything will go smoothly from the start but I love Sliderocket now. I’m still not a guru but I wasn’t a guru with Powerpoint either. I tried to create a small story here. Just in case I don’t have a connection, I have cached all my presentations into my Sliderocket Player application. You can download it for Windows, Mac and iPad.

Everyday I also use VMware App Manager. Via App Manager I can easily connect to several SaaS applications VMware provides me, like for example VMware Socialcast.  I intensely use Socialcast to collaborate with my colleagues. You can read about my Socialcast experience here. To connect to Socialcast I do use a browser but I have to say the Socialcast App is looking pretty good.

For my data I use Mozy Stash. Stash is in beta at this moment. This new technology keeps my data synced across all my devices. You can compare it with Dropbox. I will elaborate on Stash soon.

Lastly, I use a couple of ThinApp-ed applications, like Google Chrome and Adobe Reader.

I try to use as much VMware End User Computing technology as possible. When new technologies arrive I will continue to try to use them as quickly as possible. I can’t wait to use Horizon Mobile, Appblast and Octopus.

 

VMware ThinApp; ThinApp- Basics

Application virtualization helps you to separate the applications from the underlying OS which brings you a lot of benefits. VMware has a product called ThinApp which you can use to virtualize your applications.

I believe that ThinApp will get a huge boost now VDI/VMware View is very popular and more and more customers are implementing a virtual desktop environment. Both ThinApp and VMware View are very complementary and it makes sense to use them both; separate apps and OS, avoid conflicts between 2 applications, manage and maintain OS and applications independently. Also, save on storage. With ThinApp you can virtualize for example Office and provide it to users instead of installing Office inside every VM. For the record, ThinApp absolutely works in a physical environment as well.

Now, what is ThinApp?

Basically, VMware ThinApp makes it possible to run an application inside a “bubble” in stead of installing it locally. Because it is running inside a “bubble”, the application won’t “touch” your OS. When you run the application, you don’t have to install it first so this application won’t modify your system.

Inside the “bubble” there is a very small Virtual Operation System (VOS), Virtual Registry (VR) and Virtual File System (VFS). Everything the application does will be handled by the VOS, VR and VFS. It will intercept file and system calls. A “sandbox” is a place where the virtual app writes to. This can be settings like favorites in Mozilla Firefox. This to saves changes and make the life of a user easier.

When you “ThinApp” an application (which needs to be a Windows application), you will create a single file MSI or EXE file. The EXE or MSI is a choice you make during the packaging. You can copy/distribute this file and run it from almost any device; a share, USB, flash, Windows desktop but also publish it on a Terminal Server or Citrix Server.

When you put the package/EXE on a share and give users access to it, all your users can start an application from 1 file. When residing on a share, the packaged will be streamed to the (virtual) desktops. For offline users (experimental feature in View) you need to copy the file to the VM’s so the user can start the application when he/she is offline. In these cases, most times, you will use the MSI option. With this option, it looks like the application gets installed when starting it. It isn’t though. It will register itself inside the OS; you will see it in the start menu, add/remove programs and file association is established. File association means that the OS “knows” when you, for example, click on a PDF file, it needs to start the ThinApp version of Acrobat Reader.

Encapsulation and isolation are, again, the 2 magic words; the application is inside 1 package and isolated from the environment, other applications. Because of this you can run 2 versions of the same application together on the same system which in the traditional world wouldn’t be possible because off DLL issues.

Because ThinApp makes an application run inside a “bubble” (and is isolated) it won’t see other bubbles. This is perfect because this way you avoid conflicts between “bubbles”. On the other hand, what if 2 “bubbles” need to communicate with each other? Luckily there is a mechanism to make that happen; AppLink. With AppLink, which is a setting in your application package, you can let  “bubbles” communicate with each other.

A lot of information about ThinApp can be found on VMware.com. There is also a very active community where you can find a lot information about different kinds of applications and ThinApp.

When you want to try ThinApp packages, you can go to thindownload.com. Here you will find open license application which are virtualized with ThinApp.