Book review: VMware ThinApp 4.7 Essentials


Last December I was fortunate enough to win a free copy of Peter Björk’s ThinApp Essentials book thinapp_essentialsthrough a contest on Duncan Epping’s blog (http://bit.ly/V5QiZ2). Thanks to Duncan’s world-class comment-picking skills, I received the book in my hot little hands in a short amount of time.  The book’s publisher, Packt Publishing, was kind enough to get the book to me quickly, though with my schedule and list of things to learn for my new gig, I’m just now getting around to writing down my impressions of Peter’s work.  So without further ado my technically-savvy internets friends, my review of VMware ThinApp 4.7 Essentials: Learn how to quickly and efficiently virtualize your applications with ThinApp 4.7.

The first thing I did when I received the book, after showing it off to my not-so-impressed-that-I-have-another-technology-book wife, was to thumb through the table of contents to see what goodies it had in store for me.  And wow…this was going to be something I could appreciate.  First, it starts out, fairly enough, with an introduction to application virtualization in general – certainly good for those that need it.  But right a way, I could appreciate Peter taking the time to familiarize his readers with ThinApp vocabulary.  I can remember my college physics days (after my nutty professor got off his rocket chair) when it was continually beaten into our freshmen mush-like brains that if we were to be successful engineers, we need to use the correct terminology: don’t ever use a scalar when you mean a vector.  For one, you’d be completely wrong. And two, you’d confuse the poor folks trying to understand you.  Like our professor always said: *someone* has to design cardboard boxes. Don’t let that be you (because it’s so simple and boring, you see?).  And as my good buddy once said to me, “If you’re giving directions, you’ve both got to start at the same place.”  So thank you, Peter, for giving us a baseline so we can all start from the same place.

From there, the entire second chapter is devoted to packaging an application while Peter thankfully points out common pitfalls in the process.  For instance, when walking through his scenarios, I knew my application required the Java Runtime Environment version 6 and Adobe Flash. So I paged around and found that, indeed, application dependencies and recommended practices are addressed and JRE, specifically.

The amount of detail and insight into ThinApp processes and workflows included in this book seem almost overwhelming – not in a bad way, though.  For someone who can appreciate the intricacies and complexities involved in virtualization, such detail is required in order to design and build reliable and useful computer systems that are as user-friendly as possible.  Explanations of how ThinApp manages the varying file and folder paths within an OS is one example.  For instance, the difference in operating system architectures (32-bit vs. 64-bit) and the problems presented to virtualized applications is explored along with a detailed explanation as to how the problem can be solved.  This is just the tip of the iceberg that is ThinApp.  How do you want your users to execute the apps? How are you going to get them to end user devices? How do you manage them once they’re released?  How can you update them?  What about troubleshooting?  All of these topics are covered in, what I mean in the best way possible, excruciating detail.

We’re standing up a VMware View environment in our Solutions Center right now to show off to customers.  I’m working through the book to make sure the capabilities of ThinApp are put on display and this book has answered my immediate questions.  Like what, exactly, an entire package consists of, how, where, and why to modify the package.ini file, and how the sandbox is used.

I’ve essentially used it so far as a reference book, rather than reading it cover to cover.  In that capacity, it has served me well, and I’ve been able to manipulate packages to suit my needs.

I can recommend this book and say that it offers tremendous detail into the inner workings of VMware ThinApp 4.7.  It gives one a perspective for when and where to deploy virtualized apps and how to optimize them for production environments.  As a reference, it has been instrumental in helping a server virtualization dude get started with application virtualization easily.  At the same time, it’s definitely more than a simple how-to (although it could be used for that) because it explores the back end processes and file system manipulation used by ThinApp, giving the packager the required knowledge to administer their environment.

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