I attended Symantec Vision in Las Vegas last month. Even though Symantec didn’t make any major desktop announcements, there were still some cool little things worth discussing here.
First is that Symantec created something called a “Layer Definition Tool for Symantec Workspace Virtualization.” (Workspace Virtualization is the new name for what was Altiris SVS—Symantec’s app virtualization product.) The Layer Definition Tool allows anyone to import/export XML configuration “definition” files to and from app virtualization packages. The idea is that a customer could create and perfect a virtual app package and then export its configuration. A different customer could then import the definition file which would rebuild the final package with the second customer’s binaries. This is useful in situations where people want to share packages but the original package creator doesn’t have legal rights to redistribute the binaries.
The Layer Definition Tool actually came about because Symantec’s own IT department uses Workspace Virtualization to deploy Microsoft Office to Symantec employees. And of course they have access to the team who created the product, so you know they can build the world’s most perfect Office package. The problem is that customers who want to use Symantec Workspace Virtualization to deploy Office have to start from scratch. So you have Symantec Corporate with this awesome package while customers have this amateur next-next-next effort that’s not cool at all. And up until now the only solution has been for Symantec to publish huge step-by-step documents that walk customers through all the boring steps.
This situation led Symantec to create the Layer Definition Tool. Now Symantec’s own internal IT department can export the definition file from their Office package which they can post publicly. Then any customer can download that file and use the Layer Definition Tool to rebuild the final package using the customer’s own copy of Microsoft Office. (And for packaging apps whose source installation files are available on the web, the Layer Definition Tool can automatically pull those in on its own, making even easier for the final customer to build the package.)
At this point Symantec has quite a few Layer Definition Files available for download, but I think the ultimate benefit will be the peer-to-peer sharing this can enable. I imagine that the app deployment forums of the future can be full of people sharing their Layer Definition Files instead of text-based answers to questions like, “How did you package X?”
And once admins download a Package Definition File, they’ll be glad to know that they can just import the definition and rebuild the package on whatever machine they happen to be on—there’s no need to use a “pristine” packaging environment like when a new app is packaged from scratch.
If you’re interested in seeing this tool in action (and hearing more about it), check out the video I recorded of my conversation with Symantec’s Erik Hughes from the Internet Lounge at the Vision conference.
Internet Explorer 6 on Windows 7
Another side benefit of this whole import/export concept is that it now becomes possible for customers to access packages that wouldn’t otherwise be easy to make. A great example of this is Internet Explorer 6. Packaging IE6 is tough because it’s not easy to find an installer that will work on whatever platform you happen to be on. So Symantec created a definition file for IE6 that pulls the IE binaries directly from Microsoft.com when the package is rebuilt. This means that anyone on any platform can easily create an IE6 package that will run on any platform. (To be clear, Symantec Workspace Virtualization has always been able to virtualize IE6. The new aspect here is the fact that it was previously really hard to find the source files and create an environment where you could even create this package in the first place.)
I posted a video of a conversation with Symantec’s Randy Cook (creator of SVS and past BriForum presenter) if you’d like more info or you want to see it in action.