Microsoft Jumps On Virtualization Launch Event With 'App-V' Release

Fending off rivals VMware and Citrix, Microsoft is opening up a number of new licensing schemes for client virtualization, including offering App-V to the hosting community.
There's plenty of competition for Microsoft in a burgeoning application virtualization market that's young and remains in flux. One of App-V's earliest customers, for example, is looking elsewhere these days. Merrill Lynch chief architect Jeffrey Birnbaum was an early Softrcity keystone customer and played what Microsoft execs have said was a crucial role in its acquisition of the company, but Merrill Lynch is now scaling back its plans for App-V in favor of two-year-old start-up InstallFree. InstallFree last month secured $8.5 million in additional funding from Ignition Partners and Trilogy Equity Partners.

Earlier this year, Birnbaum told InformationWeek he was waiting for App-V 4.5 to pull the trigger on Merrill's major client virtualization initiative because he needed the new version's greatly improved ability to package Excel and third-party add-ons together into a virtual image. Now, however, he's decided to supplement his App-V deployment with InstallFree, a start-up he wrote in an e-mail has "the best app streaming technology in the market today." Microsoft will likely catch up, he added, but for now, InstallFree is as a start-up inherently more nimble with its development plans and which will become Merrill's primary application streaming software."

InstallFree Bridge allows IT departments to manage and stream virtual apps on several different Windows and server-based virtual clients. Apps can even be patched or updated without the need to re-package them at the server level and run on more versions of Windows than App-V. The company's other product, InstallFree Desktop, is a virtual desktop environment that applies user-specific applications and settings to a PC but like a virtualized application doesn't get fully installed on the local machine -- it runs from a sandboxed cache -- and thus doesn't gum up the Windows registry or other OS settings.

InstallFree is just one of a long list of start-ups in the field, including MokaFive, Desktone, Altiris, and Xenocode, who are looking to make in-roads against a group of big players like Microsoft, Citrix, and VMware. Last week, even Novell made an entrance with Xenocode-based ZENworks Application Virtualization.

It's likely no great coincidence that Microsoft's Virtualization Day comes only two weeks before VMware's VMWorld conference. The growing competition ought to keep Microsoft on its toes.

For a comparison of VMware's software, InformationWeek Analytics has published a report that reviews the virtualization vendor's security practices. The download is available here (registration required).

This article was edited on 9/4 to clarify statements by Jeffrey Birnbaum.

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