VMware's newly launched ThinApp 4.5 promises support for Windows 7 migrations and better performance -- but lacks some key features that partners expected.
ThinApp is VMware's application virtualization product. It integrates with with VMware View and also sells as a standalone offering. This release comes on the heels of Citrix Systems' XenApp 6 release last week, and though VMware has not officially released the next version of VMware View, the company's desktop virtualization product, it should be available in coming weeks.
VMware View and ThinApp users and partners who had been briefed said VMware's plans for the new ThinApp would extend beyond desktop applications to server enterprise applications. But server application virtualization is not cited as a capability in ThinApp 4.5, and Raj Mallempati, director of desktop product marketing for VMware Inc., said Monday that ThinApp remains focused on desktop application virtualization.
Harpreet Walia, CTO and founder of Dublin, Calif.-based desktop virtualization product reseller WaveStrong Inc., said VMware had said that the next version of ThinApp would include enterprise server application virtualization support.
"I'm very surprised they didn't include that in this release," Walia said. "The only thing I can think is that it didn't make the cut for this release."
The idea of one tool that does both desktop and server application virtualization intrigues IT managers and the partners that support them. Jeremiah Logan, a desktop administrator and ThinApp user with a Lansing, Mich.-based insurance company, said enterprise server support would be useful for apps such as SharePoint.
"Should the server go down, the virtualized app could be launched from another machine without too much interference,' Logan said. "We also use some products for monitoring network, desktop, application and server metrics here, and I believe those would do well if they could be virtualized."
Even if VMware doesn't promote ThinApp for servers, version 4.5 does have full support of Windows Server 2008 R2 and theoretically could be used to virtualize applications and move them among servers, said Pund-IT Inc. analyst Charles King.
"There is no reason that it couldn't be used for servers ... but the primary value proposition for ThinApp is moving apps from one server to many desktops," King said. "Desktops and Windows 7 is where [VMware] gets the most commercial value out of this release."
What is included in ThinApp 4.5?
Rogue uses of ThinApp aside, VMware partners say improvements to the new version are significant, especially as IT shops move forward with Windows 7 migrations this year and next.
ThinApp essentially encapsulates custom and legacy apps and delivers them to end users via virtual machines so that IT pros can migrate apps from XP or Vista to Windows 7 without compatibility issues.
The new version also includes a VDI performance acceleration technology to improve application response time and performance and has reduced page file usage for virtual applications and increased memory sharing between multiple instances of applications.
In addition, administrators can convert existing ThinApp applications to the new ThinApp 4.5 format without associated project files for the applications.
But ThinApp still lacks the type of management infrastructure that enterprises want, which means customers need third-party products such as Quest Software's vWorkspace.
Standalone ThinApp costs $5,000 and includes 50 licenses (one per user or per device). Additional licenses are $39 each. Customers can also acquire ThinApp 4.5 via VMware View Premier edition in either the existing or next version of View.
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