Altiris has added application virtualisation to its Wise software packager, in a move that the company claimed could save corporate users both time and money when repackaging applications for internal distribution.

The Altiris SVS virtualisation technology installs and runs each application on its own software layer which sits on top of Windows, and does not install anything to Windows itself. This should prevent applications from conflicting with each other and with Windows, the company said.

With the release of Wise Package Studio version 7, applications can be packaged to install as SVS layers, said Altiris regional manager Peter Thomson. He added that as well as reducing conflicts, virtualisation reduces the time taken to package new versions of an application, because it removes much of the need to test for conflicts.

"Repackaging applications is a huge business and the savings can be substantial," he said. "For example, a pharmaceutical company migrating to Vista has to repackage 1200 applications for the new operating system, and repackaging typically costs £500 per application."

He said that a PC could support as many as 30 application layers, and that each layer can contain multiple applications - for example, a database and the client programs to work with it.

The Altiris approach is very different from the application streaming technologies offered by Citrix and Softricity, Thomson said. Those rely on a server and network infrastructure to deliver virtualised applications to the desktop, he explained, whereas Wise Package Studio simply installs the app to the PC, albeit to a virtual software layer. (Both Citrix and Softricity do also support local installs though, for offline use.)

"One customer I spoke to said they put problem apps on Citrix servers because it isolates them from the desktop, but it's a pretty expensive solution to that problem," Thomson added.

Initially, Altiris has only added the virtualisation capability to its Wise software for corporate use, not to its packaging software for developers. The problem seems to be licencing, with SVS being free for personal use but not for business use. However, a new release of the developer software is due soon, so this could change.

"We have increased the cost of Wise Package Studio slightly and added 50 SVS licences," Thomson said.

He admitted that there are still a few issues with virtualised apps. For example, it is necessary to manage the various virtual software layers and the number of applications in each.

In addition, it is not yet possible to apply patches to a virtualised app - instead, a new distribution would have to be created containing the required patches. However, the virtualisation still means that those patches cannot adversely affect apps in other layers, so once again, less testing should be needed.