First impression: InstallFree Bridge

My main experience with Application Virtualization is based on App-V (formerly known as Softgrid) and a bit of VMware ThinApp and Citrix Streaming Applications. With the release of InstallFree Bridge 2.0 it’s time to spend some time on this product too. So, how to get a quick hands-on experience? Well, I just signed up for an online hands-on lab. After contact with an InstallFree representative I’ve had access to a 7-day lab environment including some exercises. Which was a great way to get some hands-on experience with the product. Thank you, InstallFree.


My first impressions on InstallFree Bridge are based on this hands-on lab. Next to that I’ve also read some available documents. Because I’ve not installed the product I will not have an impression on the installation phase.

Architecture: InstallFree doesn’t require additional infrastructure components. No database is needed; InstallFree packages are copied to a file share. InstallFree’s solutions are designed for rapid deployment with no up-front investment while leveraging the existing IT infrastructure. Via a login script the Virtual Agent is delivered at the endpoint. This agent connects with the IFMC for application information. This agent doesn’t provide the virtual environment. The virtual environment is already part of the virtual application package.





InstallFree Virtual (IFV) Applications consist of several separated layers that bind dynamically at the moment the virtual application is launched. The two main layers are: The IFV Engine which provides the IFV Application with all the resources usually provided by an underlying OS, and the Application AOD File – A single packaged file that includes all of the application’s system and execution files.





Management: The management console is also a virtual application, that’s real virtualization :-). The console has a direct overview of the Active Directory for application permissions and it has an overview of the available virtual applications with their dependencies. The management console is really intuitive, so it is easy to import and assign applications. Application add-ons (expansions), updates or dependencies can be added to an application with a few mouse-clicks. Really cool is the fact that you can combine different add-on or dependencies to create different application combinations, which has added value in case you have several MS Office add-ons. You don’t need to create several libraries; you just make the right combinations in the management console.





Packaging: The process is called encapsulating, and also this Encapsulator is a virtual application. With the AOD builder you will install the application directly in the virtual environment. No snapshot technology or monitoring installation is used therefore you don’t need a clean machine for creating a virtual application. Virtualizing the application is the same as installing an application. By default your applications will be installed on the v-drive. The result of the encapsulating process will be an AOD file which needs to be imported to the management console. Today InstallFree released the new version of the Encapsulator.





When doing Application Virtualization, most of the time I’m working with Microsoft App-V. So, some quick comparisons need to be made 😉
Pros and Cons compared to App-V;


Pros
– Complete Shell Integration
– Application Compatibility
– Internet Explorer virtualization
– Dependency overview directly within Management Console
– Targeting to machines (App-V only can when using SCCM integration)


Cons
– No 64-bit support (expected later this year)
– No native integration with 3rd party vendors yet (eg. RES PowerFuse, SCCM or any other software distribution vendor)
– Small community
– Could be challenging in distributed environments to manage your applications


Conclusion: InstallFree Bridge is a competitive Application Virtualization solution. Because InstallFree puts some additional code (Just Enough OS) in the packages, they can claim to be “application compatible” with different OS versions. InstallFree also makes it possible to virtualize IE versions and run different IE versions side-by-side. This could be a use case when you want to migrate to Windows 7 but still have some legacy applications depending on IE 6. Next to that, InstallFree is able to deliver a great user experience with full shell integration and seamless add-on integration. Based on what I’ve seen till now, I will be watching InstallFree that’s for sure.


Can’t say whether App-V is a better product than InstallFree Bridge or vice versa, just because there will be use cases for both products. Based on the business requirements you select a product which will fill your needs.


Below some links if you need some additional information on InstallFree:
InstallFree website
InstallFree forum on appvirtguru.com
InstallFree Youtube channel
Integrating InstallFree and PowerFuse

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