Software of the future

'The minute you start altering operating systems, you're binding an application to a machine and binding a user to a machine,' said David Greschler, co-founder of Boston-based Softricity Inc., which makes application virtualization tools.

Installing software on a computer, with all the Registry settings and OS changes it entails, is a laborious, untidy process. To the extent agencies can virtualize programs so they're available as services but still run locally, they could see big advantages.

Last October, GCN got a visit from IT management vendor Altiris Inc. to see the company's new Software Virtualization Solution. Soon after, we got an online demo of Softricity's SoftGrid and ZeroTouch virtualization products. SoftGrid does the actual virtualization and deployment; ZeroTouch is an end-user self-provisioning tool. Greschler said Softricity's technology was different from something like Altiris SVS because it runs each application in its own virtual environment. When a program is initiated, SoftGrid sends over just a portion (20 to 30 percent) so the user can get started and then sends more of the application as the user needs it. In low-bandwidth environments, say 100 kbps or less, SoftGrid can send the virtual application to a terminal server, such as Citrix, and screen scrape it for delivery.

Greschler said SoftGrid works for continuity-of-operations plans. He described one situation where an organization was able to redeploy applications in 12 minutes. The software is also good for software license compliance. The Veterans Affairs Department, the Army and pockets of the intelligence community are Softricity customers, Greschler said.

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