Late last week, I had the pleasure of speaking to Alon Yaffe, the Director of Marketing at InstallFree.com, the maker of a snazzy tool for application virtualization. In particular we talked about InstallFree 7bridge, an application compatibility solution that addresses the kinds of problems that can pop up when legacy or homegrown applications don’t run properly (or at all) in Windows 7. InstallFree 7bridge is particularly good at dealing with the kinds of issues that changing Windows compatibility settings in Windows 7 doesn’t fix, or when there are out-and-out conflicts, mismatches, or missing bits and pieces that prevent apps built for older Windows vesions from running in a native Windows 7 environment.
Rather than launching an entire virtual machine (VM) to encompass and support a customized runtime environment that supports necessary functionality, InstallFree 7bridge runs in user mode, and creates a bridge between the application runtime and a virtual and physical interface into the Windows 7 host environment. Special filter drivers and what Yaffe jokingly called “special voodoo” come into play in the virtualization environment that handle COM, DCOM, the registry and various object requests that the application (or applications) need to work properly. The application launches in an environment called the PowerGuest Sandbox where it is equipped with all the parts and pieces it needs on the fly, including application dependency items, the application itself, application updates, and application add-ons or expansions. Everything binds together inside the sandbox so the user sees normal application behavior, and a special user data layer introduces statefulness and personalization to this otherwise generic but custom-crafted runtime environment. InstallFree 7bridge even handles GPOs including user rights, access rights, security controls, and so forth as if the app were running its native host Windows environment.
The key to the voodoo part, apparently, is that InstallFree has a special tool it uses to bundle all the necessary runtime elements (except the user data part, which gets bound in at launch time) into a purpose-built runtime file that can be accessed via a fileshare across a network. Organizations and companies that need application specific runtime instances can get them built for $4K at InstallFree, then pay $25 a seat to push the custom runtime to as many simultaneous users as they care to pay for. The package and encapsulation toolset used to build the custom runtimes is also available (for $10K) and per-seat charges for packages customers build themselves go up to $50 (but the number of packages is unlimited and presumably customers won’t want to take that route unless the economics of buying on a per-package basis are more expensive than the general purpose solution with packaging/encapsulation and as many custom packages as are needed).
This technology is incredibly slick, and offers a low overhead way to deliver completely seamless application compatbility. In fact, inside the app, even built-in Windows interfaces reflect whatever version of Windows is used to generate the custom runtime package, so users absolutely maintain the original computing experience. This one’s worth checking out, and digging into, and offers the kind of compatibility (running multiple versions of JRE, IE 6, or older Office versions are no problem at all). Check it out at the InstallFree 7bridge product page.