VMware buys Thinstall! What does this mean?

Today VMware announced they're acquiring application virtualization vendor Thinstall for an undisclosed amount of money. Thinstall has an application virtualization product that's similar to Microsoft SoftGrid, Citrix's Application Streaming, or Symantec / Altiris's SVS technology.

Today VMware announced they're acquiring application virtualization vendor Thinstall for an undisclosed amount of money. Thinstall has an application virtualization product that's similar to Microsoft SoftGrid, Citrix's Application Streaming, or Symantec / Altiris's SVS technology. It lets Windows clients run applications locally from a single-file package within a protected sandbox without ever having truly "installed" the application.

The key differentiator between Thinstall and the other products is that Thinstall is "agentless." It doesn't require any software agent to be pre-installed on a workstation before Thinstall-packaged applications can run. Of course in reality nothing is truly agentless--it's just that in Thinstall's case the client agent components are packaged into the EXE package along with the application files.

The specific mechanics of how Thinstall works are not important at this point. (We'll look at that more in the coming days and weeks.) What's important now is what this means in the grander scheme of things, namely, that VMware is now working their way out of the hardware virtualization game and into the application space.

If you think of the OSI stack, the "value" of each layer increases as you get further away from Layer 1 (the physical layer). Layer 1 is about copper and wires and electrons and photons. Layer 2 (the data link layer) is about physical connections like Ethernet and WiFi. Then you get up into protocol routing and stuff... This continues through Layer 7, the application layer, where things like HTTP live. Even though it was developed for computer networks, you can imagine how an OSI-like model might apply to computing in general (at least in terms of how applications are delivered to users.) At the bottom you have your physical hardware, then your operating system, then your user personalization, then your data, and then your applications. (You could argue the order of these higher layers, but probably everyone can agree that applications are more valuable to a business than the hardware on which they run.)

Apply that concept to software vendors like Citrix and VMware. Citrix started life at the "high level, high value" application layer. They only "stooped" down to lower layers (via hardware virtualization and disk virtualization) so they could increase their competitive position by offering the "full stack." (This is important becasue unlike the networking world with its open OSI model, no such model exists for the application delivery world. One company's lower level components are not necessarily compatible with another's higher components.)

VMware, on the other hand, began life down in the low layers of hardware (via hardware virtualization). Even though hardware virtualization can be very strategic to companies and can have its own nuanced layers, fundamentally hardware is "just" something an OS runs on (whether it's virtualized or not). And at some point everyone will have all the hardware virtualization they need and VMware will be in the commodities business.

The folks who run VMware aren't stupid. They know what Citrix's acquisition of XenSource means, and they know what Microsoft is trying to do with Hyper-V. In order to survive, VMware needs to climb up the application stack and into some higher value areas that are closer to the applications. This is where Thinstall comes in.

The immediate impact

First of all, VMware initially plans to continue selling Thinstall as is, except with the added bonus of thousands of VMware engineers, consultants, and tech support staff brought up to speed for support. They also claim that Thinstall will benefit from the VMware QA, distribution, and channel network. Later this year they hope to release a VMware-branded version of Thinstall that incorporates some of the most often-requested new features, although at this point they feel that product will still sport the "Thinstall" brand.

The most obvious place for Thinstall in VMware's solution stack is for use with their Windows XP and Windows Vista desktop delivery products, including their VDI solutions for server-based computing scenarios and VMware ACE for local computing scenarios. Thinstall is great here because the more apps you package with Thinstall, the less you have to build into your base Windows disk image that your desktop users will use.

Last September I wrote an article about the importance of a "stateless" desktop disk (which is important regardless of whether your users are running the desktop locally or remotely). Owning an application virtualization capability allows VMware to offer a more complete desktop delivery solution. Up until today, VMware's desktop solution went something like this:

VMware: "With our stuff, you can completely manage, deploy, and provide access to desktop instances of Windows from anywhere."
Customer: "Cool! What about my applications?"
VMware: "Ummm.... Citrix?"

We all know how much VMware and Citrix like each other now.

But now it can go like this:

VMware: "With our stuff, you can completely manage, deploy, and provide access to desktop instances of Windows from anywhere."
Customer: "Cool! What about my applications?"
VMware: "Glad you asked! You can use VMware Thinstall to 'virtualize' your applications too, and provide them on-demand wherever they're needed, whether that's within a virtual instance of Windows or on a physical Windows desktop."

The million-dollar question now is whether the Thinstall acquisition fulfills VMware's needs in the application space.

On the one hand, you could argue that single user-based SBC solutions (VDI) could replace multi-user terminal server-based SBC solutions (Citrix Presentation Server, Ericom, 2X, Quest / Provision) as hardware continues to fall in price and VDI user density approaches terminal server user density in terms of users per dollar.

On the other hand, all of VMware's solutions today are only useful if VMware is delivering and managing the entire desktop. (Again, this can be remotely via VDI or locally via VMware ACE.) But what if the user already has a desktop and doesn't need another one? This is where the beauty of single application publishing from those traditional terminal server-based application delivery companies comes in.

So what does VMware do next? Do they buy one of the terminal server-based SBC vendors do delivery applications into unmanaged desktops? Or do they assume that in the future, all applications will run on managed desktops, and unmanaged desktops will simply run a managed desktop in a VM? (Maybe even seamlessly?)

While you're thinking about this, don't forget that Microsoft will release Windows Server 2008 in a few weeks, and one of the new terminal server features is "Remote Applications," a capability that lets Windows-based clients connect to remote terminal server applications in a seamless way. The out-of-the-box feature from Microsoft isn't necessarily mature enough to use on its own, but maybe there's enough there for VMware to build upon?

Then again, that may be "dancing with the devil" for VMware, because if they wanted to just add management capabilities on top of core Microsoft capabilities, then why did they buy Thinstall instead of simply building on top of Microsoft SoftGrid? (The answer to that question may have to do with Microsoft's focus on SoftGrid, and the hoops they make customers jump through just to get the product!)

The bottom line is that it's no secret I think this is a brilliant move on VMware's part. (In fact I wrote "they might as well buy someone like ThinStall" in an article last October about whether VMware should focus more on applications.) What a great day in our industry!

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With the announcement of VMware to acquire Thinstall, the "Virtual war" is really started.

When people want to read more about Thinstall please read: https://www.brianmadden.com/blog/RubenSpruijt/Application-Virtualization-with-Thinstall.  Yo can also buy the BriForum 2007 DVD(s), this is a great resource about Application Delivery and Application Virtualization. There is a video and presentation called "streaming smackdown". In this video and presentation Thinstall and the other players in this area, are explained. http://www.briforum.com/europe/2007/dvd.aspx

Hopefully this information makes sense while discovering the application virtualization landscape.





I was all excited to check out the video - then realized I didn't have access!   Guess I should have gone to Briforum, lol.

It severly lacks in terms of provisioning, licensing and managing end user data.


I think this is good for the industry in terms of validating another layer of the virtualization stack and enabling greater flexilibility by removing state from the VM. That said, loads of limitations with Thinstall, and good for them that they got bought out by VMWare while MS is still sleeping with Softgrid and they have an average at best product. With VMWare pumping money into it know, I can't help wonder will this become another VMWare product that is difficult to manage. I mean at least with Softgrid there is a story with Systems Center to manage the Virtualization stack. Don't get the VMWare story. Just feels like they are buying up pieces and it will take a lot of time to integrate all of these companies into a compelling product solution that offers a real TCO.
So what we have here is at least 3 vendors building a siloed "stack". I hope they all remember the word interoperability....
To your question on whether or not VMware "buy one of the terminal server-based SBC vendors", the answer is that they already have. When they acquired Propero, they acquired WTS SBC technology.

Please do not bundle this software with your other VMWare products!

All products should be good enough to stand on their own merits and should not be dependent on your other products!

I want the freedom to choose the best application solution from whoever and only purchase just what I need.

I think Citrix's bundle strategy is a giant negative for us customers. 

Propero blows.... he meant a real WTS SBC technology
I find your comment on Citrix's bundle strategy interesting. Does VMWare do anything different or MS? They all do the same thing. In particular I find it telling that VMWare's new VDI AKA Silverstone strategy means only support for ESX, where as XenDesktop is talking about multi hypervisor support and MS is now taking about Systems Center opening up to help manage VMWare as well. So lots of posturing going on, and I agree with the earlier post, that interoperability is important. Let us choose the products that best fit our needs based on features, and don't force custom solutions on us.
Anyone hear how much they are paying for it?


You can use AppStream on-demand technology to stream applications virtualized by Thinstall and get all the license management, license re-harvesting, automatic updates and other features.

So I have to buy another competing product to make thinstall work?  Wow!  What a suggestion! I'm surprised you didn't recommend Softgrid.
Actually AppStream is not a competing product to Thinstall. AppStream offers, for lack of a better way to phrase it, the ability to "stream-ify" any file across a network, online or offline. Thinstall only provides the core application virtualization or sandboxing, and a lot of people combine it with AppStream for streaming. The same goes for Altiris's SVS, which also was virtualization only and relies on an external streaming engine such as AppStream.
Ironically this is EXACTLY what people have been asking for! They say "Don't bundle. Let me buy piece-by-piece exactly what I need." And this is what SVS, Thinstall, and AppStream offer. And how do people react? They say "What?!? You mean when I buy X, I also have to buy Y?"
An overview of the main players in the application and desktop delivery marketspace:

Windows Application Virtualization:
VMware (Thinstall), Citrix (Application Streaming feature for CPS), Microsoft (Application Virtualization/SoftGrid), Altiris/Symantec (SVS/SVS Pro)

x86/x64 Hardware Virtualization:
VMware (Type-1, VMware Workstation, VMware Server, VMware ACE) (Type-2, VMware ESX)
Microsoft (Type-1, VirtualPC, VirtualServer) (Type-2, WS08 Hyper-V)
Citrix (XENenterprise with several editions)

Disk Streaming:
Citrix (Citrix Provisioning Server)

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure:
Citrix (Citrix XENdesktop), VMware (VDM)

Other players worth looking at:
- Provision Networks
- Virtuozzo
- Endeavour AppExpress
- ..
- ..
Next BriForum I have an updated version of the "Streaming Smackdown" presentation!
Besides of these technologies also secure and fast delivery of windows/web applications- and desktops should be part of your infrastructure design. I think Citrix has the most complete overal solution. Microsoft with IAG/ISA/VECD is also comming close.
The main question (and there are more questions!) is does your organization need al these solutions!?
Amen Brother!

I've just discovered that LANDesk - a popular server/desktop management suite uses an OEM version of Thinstall to provide its Application Virtualisation component.

(See: http://www.landesk.com/WorkArea/downloadasset.aspx?id=2221 )

This gives VMWare a sneaky route into existing organisations that don't use VMWare but use other management/virtualisation products.

I wonder how many other companies have OEMed Thinstall technology?




Add Qumranet and Trigence to your  "other players"....

Actually, managers want a bundle.  It's the Engineers that do not.  From an overall TCO it is better to bundle with one vendor than have 20 vendors and major compatibility issues. 

Anyone have an opinion on Qumernet?  The sale guys annoy the *** out of me, but I really don't see much value in them and some pretty high startup costs.  Its also strictly a KVM solution which, despite what they claim, you need to pretty fluent with Linux distros
A little off topic but along with the acquiring Thinstall, VMware is buying part of Foedus? Does that mean Michael Burke will be working for VMware?
Nah, Mike left Foedus a few months ago. Also, I think VMware only acquired part of Foedus, not the whole company.

Its funny to see people always mentioning how to integrate thinstall's technology with other cool technology to get it delieverd, then turn around and bash SoftGrid for requiring some much infrastructure, when in essence thats exactly what people are trying to add to thinstall. Kind of seems like the benefits of Thinstall are also its faults.




I think you missed the point, today I own ZENWorks and I want app virtualization. I can buy Thinstall and incorporate it into an EXISTING infrastructure rather than rolling out a separate application virtualization infrastructure. I know MS is trying to reduce the infrastructure burden by tying SoftGrid to SCCM but now your being forced into a solution to some degree. It depends what you want from the product but I do have customers that like not having too much delivery and management infrastructure around their app virtualization solution and I have some in the other camp that want everything in one bundle.

Thanks Brian.
If you're running ZENWorks then you're an idiot..  Novell died many years ago.  Instead of bandaiding your network, look at upgrading it to something in the 21st century.

That's an outstanding crtique of ZENworks, well though out and insightful.  I didn't quite understand the conclusion after finding that Novell is still a going concern with revenues for FY07 of $932millions.  Maybe I missed something.


LOL! Ok you're in the ZENWorks is dead camp and I get it but this is a real world consulting pre-sales scenario I saw.

Yes,  you missed something.  Novell revenues are not from New Netware, Groupwise and Zenwork sales.

Most of their income comes from AIX, UNIX and Linux distro.  Microsoft and IBM are their biggest source of revenue.


Novell makes it's money from Linux and Unix.

Apple made 9.47 billion in F07,  10 times better than Novell 

I would have to agree with the comment previous to yours Brian.  While I am a big fan of AppStream, they are a man without a country at the moment.  They tried to enhance SVS.  They tried to enhance Thinstall.  While I see the value in AppStream, the real question is who will purchase them!

This product looks like the same : a proof ? compare their web sites : same language, same pictures !
Strange ? no ?

www. thinstall.com & www.xenocode.com



There are no server/desktop management oriented solutions, like LANdesk, which are OEMing Thinstall. There are some companies who are working closely with Thinstall. BMC and MacroVision are the examples. I know that there are some more companies to work with Thinstall on the roadmap, don't know how that workout with VMware as owner of Thinstall ;-)

Again simple File and Registry re-direction that is just not going to cut it. One day people will wake up from the hype and realize that InstallFree is ahead in this game. Softricity is behind them as well in terms of ability of the sandbox to virtualize. Hopefully somebody can just explain this at BriForum, it's pretty obvious the power of InstallFree once you understand it.

"If you're running ZENWorks then you're an idiot..  Novell died many years ago.  Instead of bandaiding your network, look at upgrading it to something in the 21st century."

 That's the only "brain dead" statement I have read here. Ignorance at it's finest. Please pull your head from your backside and find out what Zenworks is all about. I realize that your MCSE class didn't cover Zenworks for you, but still, that is no excuse for such stupidity.

Thinstall is a great product, but it does need a full featured delivery platform inlcuding a web based interface for users. Hopefully, VMware will not bundle it only and still provide it as a stand alone.

how to configure gruopwise for single signon. GW is asking three times to enter password. How can I configue GW to use with the thinstall <a href="mailto:skp786@gmail.com" target="_blank">skp786@gmail.com</a>


Also there is a new solution: http://boxedapp.com/


Also there is a new solution: <a href = "boxedapp.com/">boxedapp sdk</a>


Also there is a new solution: <a href="http://boxedapp.com" target="_blank">boxedapp sdk</a>


I've got the same problem.
With the package in "writecopy" it's the same.
The only thing i found is to rename notify.exe and GWsync.exe in ex_ before make the build.
When i run GW now i have only one password..... But if i launch the adressbook... One more password.
I've tried to rename addrbook.exe but Thinstall doesn't like ^^

I found those files in the sandbox in weird directory (4000001800002i)

Thanks for your help.