Today Softricity launched SoftGrid 4.0, an upgrade to its software virtualisation system that allows companies to deploy virtual applications flexibly. It allows enterprises can virtualise any Windows application and make it available to computers worldwide within minutes, while supporting end-users with new remote help features that further reduce application management costs.

SoftGrid 4.0 turns locally installed Windows applications into virtual network services that are centrally managed and deployed on-demand-without any recoding-to any desktop, server, laptop or virtual machine. They run in a protected "sandbox" environment without installation or alteration to the host operating system, and without conflicting with any other applications.

The latest version makes applications easier to deploy because, said the company's David Gretschler: "We've built more comprehensive virtual engine. It has more features, including the ability to install programs you're logged in or not. It can turn the virtual service on or off when the programme needs it - it's virtualised. Essentially, it's about removing dependencies between the application and the OS."

What that means, said Gretschler, is that applications become entirely portable. "It's not just about the application but what the user has done with it - personalisation. We've virtualised that whole layer. Previously, such changes are stored in the registry -- they were part of the virtual registry in previous versions which means you were tied to that virtual instance of that application. We have now separated them out even more so users' preferences follow them.

"Additionally, when an application needs to be passed from the central server to an end user, we don't pass the whole application down, just the changes, which is especially important for those on slow remote links." This speeds up streaming by about 40 per cent, he said. According to the company's official statement, installed software now becomes an on-demand, available-anywhere service that solve many of the challenges inherent in application deployment, testing, security, help-desk support and business continuity.

It improves the patching process too, according to Gretschler. "Previously, the application of patches used to mean that all sessions stopped and users were re-routed to the new file. Now you can put new file on the server, and when users restart the application they are reconnected to the new version of the application. You can still remotely disconnect people from a session for licensing reasons."

The new product's benefits include:

  • Rapid virtualisation: SoftGrid 4.0 virtualises all components of an application -- not just redirecting files or the registry -- turning them into portable run-time "application images" that can be run on any computer the moment a user needs them. SoftGrid 4.0's Sequencer, the packager that virtualises applications, has been completely re-designed to turn sequencing into a completely automated process that has been optimised for speed. For example, the latest Microsoft Office suite now takes less than 10 minutes to virtualise, said the company. SoftGrid 4.0's virtualisation engine is also significantly more comprehensive, including the virtualisation of Windows services (used by many complex applications) and user specific preferences (which enables end-users' customisations to follow them to any computer they log into). SoftGrid can now also virtualise administrative mode, enabling applications that require administrative rights to run in the much more secure user mode. In sum, with SoftGrid 4.0 Softricity continues to pioneer new levels of application virtualisation that is unmatched by any other vendor

  • Controlled streaming: The SoftGrid platform is the only application virtualisation product on the market that combines virtualisation and on-demand streaming into a single, powerful solution. Administrators and end-users have more control over streaming, including the ability to both "pre-cache" applications (stream 100 per cent of the program on demand) and work in a disconnected mode. Cached applications are now locked in memory, preserved even in the case of unexpected computer shutdown.

  • Scalable centralised management: New usability features and functions in 4.0 enable much easier centralised management of both small and large-scale deployments. The most compelling of these features is the ability for administrators to remotely control SoftGrid clients from any other computer, providing help-desk support and terminating unattended sessions without desk-side visits. Another key addition is "Active upgrades," where updates to virtualised applications on the server are now accomplished without disconnecting connected users, while SoftGrid server configurations can be migrated to other servers simply with a single click of the mouse from the management console. For customers with hundreds or thousands of users and applications, there is a new hierarchical management interface that allows for easy and organised access.

  • Microsoft integration: SoftGrid 4.0 has also been designed to integrate directly into Microsoft's Systems Management Server (SMS). SoftGrid for SMS allows users to virtualise applications and stream them from within SMS.

  • Support for virtual machines: Version 4.0 has been certified to work with virtual machines by Microsoft and VMware. Collier County in Florida is the first customer to take advantage of this support with a deployment for 50,000 unique users that employs a hosted virtual desktop infrastructure. Softricity is providing the on-demand applications functionality for this on-demand virtual desktop deployment.

  • Cost savings: Many of SoftGrid 4.0's new features further improve the cost savings captured by the Softricity's Forrester TEI-Compliant Return on Virtualisation Calculator. These savings stem from increased centralised control, the ability to remotely help end-users, faster sequencings and active application upgrades.

According to Softricity, the advances in SoftGrid 4.0 are based on thousands of hours of development, combined with feedback from hundreds of customers and partners who have been using Softricity since 2001 to virtualise over 25,000 applications and deploy to hundreds of thousands of end-users.


Gretschler said: "We've sold our biggest deal ever. Collier County in Florida is to deploy 50,000 unique users using this, with 20,000 concurrent connections. They used to have 50,000 VM images -- each unique -- and can now reduce that to a few images, as people's individual profiles follow them. It works for them because each application works without any problems, and because there are no dependencies."

According to Softricity, US healthcare provider Cerner uses Softricity to help its clients deploy and upgrade its 1.5GB suite of more than 55 applications. According to Cerner's senior technology architect, Jim Coons: "With Softricity's Sequencer enhancements, our clients can accelerate deployments of key Millennium applications and functionality. In fact, they can package the entire suite in just one hour. In addition, Active Upgrade will allow packages to be updated without disabling connections, requiring users to log off the system or rebooting to roll out new code."

"With SoftGrid version 4.0, application virtualisation is as easy to deploy as machine virtualisation, making it more compelling than ever for enterprises to virtualise their entire application environment," said Softricity CEO Art Matin . "Simply put, Softricity's application virtualisation is proven to be the most effective way for IT organisations to dramatically reduce application management costs while adopting transformational computing approaches such as utility computing and software as a service."