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, and needs to be opened with IE6, ThinDirect will detect the user wants to go to, 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;


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