York finds a conflict solution

Vito Palmeri says PeopleSoft Financials 7.8 has given him and his staff at the City of York their fair share of headaches.

For starters, due to registry conflicts, it never worked well with Windows XP. Nor did it entirely agree with the thin client-operating environment Palmeri is helping to set up at the city, a region covering dozens of communities north of Toronto.

“We knew the problem was with local drives,” he said. “It was looking for local drives.” Simply put, “it’s difficult to get this version of PeopleSoft to work,” he said. Other Windows-based programs experienced similar problems.

But when Palmeri realized that only one user could be using PeopleSoft at any one time using Citrix, he decided to conduct some research. Packages such as Citrix’s MetaFrame and Microsoft Corp.’s Terminal Server allow administrators to better control desktop software. But both also require added middle layers, and neither accounts for software conflicts.

So Palmeri opted for SoftGrid from Softricity, which lets users virtualize applications; that is, place ISV application processing on the user’s PC without ever having to install the application itself on it. Instead, users can access the estimated 10 to 15 per cent of an application’s capability from the server — the parts that are used routinely — regularly, leaving the full version to download only when updates are required.

Because executing doesn’t occur on the OS, the problem of registry conflicts is also dealt with. It comes in three parts: the Sequencer, or the installer module, which contains the DLLs and registry changes; the Server, which streams applications to the client device; and the client agent, which provides the virtualized runtime environment, ensuring the app runs without DLL conflicts.

What does that mean? “It still interacts to the operating system, it just doesn’t install to the operating system” said David Greschler, co-founder and vice-president of marketing at Softricity. “It enables most instances of the same app to run at the same time.”

It works in a standalone format or as an add-on to Citrix and Microsoft Terminal Services. It works only with Windows-based software.

Dan Kusnetzky, vice-president of system software with IDC, said the implications of five-year old Softricity’s technology are potentially enormous. “What would it be like if you could take an existing application apart, and make it (ready for) grid computing?”

Palmeri is so impressed with SoftGrid that he plans to virtualize more than 100 applications for York’s 1,000 users.

Removing applications from the constraints of the underlying architecture is still a relatively new field. However, in January, Veritas Corp. acquired fellow Mountain View, Calif., firm Ejasent Inc. and its UpScale technology. Using an abstraction layer, UpScale enables administrators to shift applications from one server to another on the fly without disrupting or stopping it, maintaining all its current settings in the process.

“When you start to think of the utility model and high efficiency…(we) now have the ability to move applications around, and right-size servers to the load,” said Charu Gupta, senior product manager at Veritas. Veritas is including UpScale in its Cluster Server upgrade due out early next year.

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