Evalaze Application Virtualization 2.1

By Rory Monaghan

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Evalaze Application Virtualization is an application virtualization technology which is available for use on Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 Operating Systems, whether they be 32-bit or 64-bit. The product offers a simple solution for those who wish to adopt application virtualization in their environment with providing some of the benefits which are common across all app virtualization technologies. e.g. isolation, the ability to run multiple versions of the same application side by side, simplified packaging process etc. If you have used application virtualization solutions such as Microsoft App-V and Symantec WorkSpace Virtualization you will likely be familiar with the benefits of streaming, Evalaze currently does not offer streaming capabilities. If you have used a product like ¬†Cameyo you may be familiar with application virtualization technologies which do not provide streaming capabilities but just like with VMWare ThinApp they offer the great benefit of app virtualization and the ability to make your applications ‘portable’. By this, I mean your application are self contained .exe files which can be executed from your machines drive or even from a USB key as there’s no installation required and most importantly, unlike with App-V and WorkSpace Virtualization, there’s no requirement to first install a client or agent on a machine in order to run the virtual application you create. This provides great flexibility to those, possibly in small to medium size businesses who are not interested in the extra cost of setting up an expensive back-end infrastructure in order to stream applications and perhaps are not a Software Assurance customer with Microsoft or a are not a ‘VMWare ‘shop’.

As I just alluded to. Evalaze does not require any expensive back-end infrastructure in order to enable you to use the virtual applications you create. Because of that the setup is simple. All you will need is a capture machine which should be in a clean state. It’s best to use a virtual machine for performing application captures, this is, because you want the machine to be re-usable in order to quickly perform more captures. You want the ability to setup a clean virtual machine, install the Evalaze product and then take a snapshot. You can name it Clean, Base, whatever….After creating a virtual application, you can copy the outputted files to a share, revert the machine to your ‘Clean’ snapshot and do it all over again for the next application. The clean snapshot ensures the machine you are using is less likely to result in unwanted non-application related files being captured as part of your applications and enables a quick, efficient and re-usable process for creating virtual applications. For Evalaze, you need to have .Net Framework 2.0 installed on this VM. One you’ve got that installed you can go ahead and run the Installer. For more information you browse the Evalaze website: HERE

Setup1

Select your language and click OK.

Setup2

Click Accept after reading the License Agreement

And the Evalaze Toolkit should allow you to install and use the product.

The Evalaze Application Virtualization Capture Tool

The Capture tool provides a few different settings\options. As you can see here:

Settings

You can modify the language you choosed during the setup phase. You can toggle the UI colour scheme between blue and black. You can allow the product to check for updates on startup. You can allow to provide feedback to the Evalaze Development which I would guess most paying customers would uncheck. You can also choose to Save Projects automatically. The greyed out option (likely because I used an eval license) show you can save a pre-scan automatically. This means you can ensure on your VM snapshot that the pre-scan is already complete, so basically when you capture an application, all you’d have to do is install the app and then choose to complete the capture. You can disable the Welcome Screen at startup, which is a no brainer and finally you can pass any company proxy settings that may exist in your environment, may be important for certain apps which require some connectivity.

Home

On the home screen you can see some of those options already discussed appear. You can also see there’s buttons with links to some product information. The buttons under Start new Project offer you the ability to use the Wizard or to run the product without the wizard.

Virt1

If you choose the Wizard screen you’ll get the above display and can Click Next on this informative screen.

Virt2

On the dialog screen you’ll want to enter the name of your application. If you are doing this for a company, you’ll want to standardize on a sensible naming convention in order to keep things consistent. Next you can browse or enter the location you would like to save your virtual application to. If you click on Select Scan Range you can browse the out of the box exclusion list and modify this accordingly, the list of pretty well refined which not all virtualization products have, so that’s a plus, for sure! As this can ensure a higher rate of success for virtualization applications. You can also view the areas on your system which will be scanned and the registry locations being excluded. Click Next to proceed.

Virt3

The screen above provides info on the next process to be run, which is the pre-scan. This will scan your system and basically capture a baseline.

Virt4

You can now see that the pre-scan was completed and a prompt appears to install your application. You can click Select Setup to run an installer or you can just install without select the button. I always just try to do it myself rather than use any product provided button as it allows me to run any post install configurations after the installer completes. Once you’ve installed your app, launched and possibly configured. You can click Next.

Virt5

You can now click Next to perform the Postscan which will do the ‘Delta’ capture. This will compare to the ‘baseline’ capture you did earlier and will detect any differences between the two captures. These differences will make up the contents of your virtual application. As anything modified or added during the installation will be the differential between the snapshots. Click Next.

Virt6

On the Choose Application screen you can select the ‘entry’ points which are relevant to your application. Capture tools are not an exact science and so you may notice entry points get created that are not valid as in the above. Just select the entry point you want. You can also Add Entry point or edit if one doesn’t quite look right. You may want to add ‘Debug’ entry points. By click Add Entry and browsing to C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe or maybe IEXPLORE.exe or REGEDIT. These shortcuts provide an entry into the virtual environment to check the virtual registry keys as captured in this process and/or get in through the command line to check the files captured or execute a .exe which maybe for some reason is not working. It can also allow you to execute troubleshooting tools inside the virtual environment, rather than the physical environment.

Virt7

Next you can select the level of isolation which is pretty clear on the above dialog. If you have used VMWare ThinApp before, this should be familiar. I believe it’s good practice to use the highest level of isolation first. If the application does not work, you can then try a less restrictive level of isolation. At this point, it’s worth mentioning that upon completion of the capture you can also modify isolation levels on an individual folder level which provides with greater flexibility and assurance of keeping at least the majority of your application isolated from both physical apps and other virtual apps.

Virt8

In this dialog you can set the location of you ‘sandbox’ which once again even the terminology is very similar to ThinApp. The Sandbox is the ‘cache’ location for your application to leverage during runtime. You can check the box to ensure that the sandbox is cleared each time the application is closed if you don’t care about speedier launch times and prefer a more non-persistent desktop scenario. You can also check to make this application portable to ensure it’s completely self contained to be used anywhere. The concept of portable sometimes confuses people. People think that they can take their virtual windows based application and run it from their favorite MAC or iPad. This simply is not true. A Windows based application, even when virtualized still requires to be run on the operating system as it is developed based on the Windows architecture. May call Windows System files, rely on the Windows File System, registry etc. Portable means your app is self contained and can be run as it is, from a USB key, a CD, a DVD, Copied to any Windows machine and run with no need for any installation.

Virt9

Here you can modify the output and the project location and name. The project file is like your .ism for Installshield, .sprj for App-V 4.x etc. it’s your entry point to modify the contents of your application. It’s your application workspace, if you will.

Virt10

Next you can either click exit or open the output folder to continue but now, your virtual application is created.

OUTPUT

As you can see in this screenshot the output is essentially a mimic of the windows file system, you can see the project file in this screenshot. My self contain .exe is contained in the Output folder and this is what I can deploy to my users, put on my USB key and use on any Windows system I desire.

Conclusion

Evalaze is so simple, a non-technical person could easily create their own virtual applications. Just like with any other virtualization technology, once an application doesn’t work, a little bit of expertise is required. Interestingly, Evalaze website suggests that they support the virtualizing of 16-bit application for use on a 64-bit platform which is something that not every vendor can say. I have drawn many comparisons between this product and VMWare ThinApp. Well, the truth of the matter is that the majority of application virtualization technologies such as Cameyo, Spoon, Evalaze and ThinApp are all very similar to one another, in process, ease, benefits and for the most part limitations. What I find interesting is that Evalaze do support virtualizing 64-bit applications which currently as of this post, VMWare ThinApp still does not support (which is shocking in this day and age!). I expect VMWare to release a major upgrade of ThinApp in the coming weeks or months but in my opinion with viable and cheaper alternatives out there like Evalze and Cameyo they will need to do something to set themselves apart because Evalaze certainly is competition. I respect the fact that Evalaze provides out of the box exclusions set, which is something ThinApp also does not have. Cameyo which I have blogged about here would still my preference due to it’s low cost solution but perhaps for a business Evalaze would be the winner in this fight as the Vendor provides support. In a final conclusion, as I have said this, right now is a worthy foe of ThinApps and could easily slot in as a viable virtualization solution for a small to medium sized company.

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