Hendrik Schober wrote:
> I have been assigned the task to find out whether it is
> possible to distribute trial versions of a rather complex
> and hard-to-install software using virtual machines. That
> is, instead of the lengthy, error-prone, and quite support-
> intensive installation process of a trial version at a
> customer's we would like to distribute a virtual machine
> that has everything pre-installed and pre-configured. The
> guest OS needed is Windows Server 2003.
> The virtual machines should be easy to install, but I don't
> see how simple cloning could work, since the trial software
> is time-limited.
> And am I allowed to distribute an installed, but not yet
> activated Windows? If not, what about Windows trial versions?
> If those neither, are there other ways to do this?
> I cannot believe I'm the first one to tackle this. Anyone
> having some knowledge and ideas to share?
Rather than distribute a huge image that contains the OS, why not use
software virtualization to distribute a virtual layer for the
application (with possible different versions of the layer for when it
is installed on different version of the OS)?
Altris SVS has their software virtualization product. There is a free
version but I don't think you can use it for commercial purposes. The
idea is to have employees retrieve the pre-configured virtual layer for
an application from the company's server and use that image on their
host. It doesn't include an OS, just all the files and folders (in a
virtualized environment) for the application, so you need to install
their SVS client on the user's host. In fact, using virtual app
layering, you could install multiple versions of the same product
without any conflicts (you would only activate one layer at a time;
i.e., the layers for the multiple versions would be mutually exclusive
and you load just one version). The user could bounce between different
versions of, say, Winzip or a web browser without the user doing any
install of the Winzip apps or each version of it.
While software virtualization allows controlled images of those apps to
run on the user's host, allows multiple version access, and reduces
helpdesk overhead (just have the user reload the layer's image), and
although "virtualization" is involved in this process, once a layer is
activated it appears to exist on the real host just as if you installed
the application on the real host. That means you do not use SVS to
isolate your apps from your host in an anti-malware scheme. Once
activated, there is no isolation between OS and apps on the real host to
the virtualized app.
Altiris got swallowed up by Symantec. www.altiris.com
leads you to a
Symantec site. The free stuff is at http://www.svsdownloads.com/
don't know if the free version has kept in sync with the commercial
stuff from Symantec (I suspect not). Rather than distribute a large
image with OS and app, you might be able to distribute a much smaller
image of just the virtualized app layer.
I think xenocode.com is trying to come with something similar (I noticed
SVS is involved in their product as a technology but not necessarily
associated with Altiris or Symantec). This, I think, has you store your
apps online and the users get it from there. For example, they have
web page where you download and
install their plug-in that runs a virtualized environment on your host
into which a compact version of the app is ran. If you can put your app
on the web and have it run in a virtualized environment on the user's
host, you don't have to include the huge disk space for an OS and users
don't pollute their host with your app (which also makes it easier for
you to slide in new versions as they become available, as is also
possible with SVS which can push new versions to users' hosts that have
subscribed to the app's layer).