Spoon is very unique in terms of it’s application virtualization solution. Spoon offers such a wide variety of features and has some truly unique components, in short Turbo.net is pretty damn cool. If you look at the different pricing options on their website, you may notice that you can pay for storage space, that’s because you can get the virtual applications you create, hosted by Turbo.net on their cloud service by publishing your application to their site, on their storage. Of course not every company wants to rely on a vendor like that due to security concerns, so you can setup your own Private Cloud and leverage the Spoon Server to publish applications internally, you can even publish applications to your own custom web portal or just use the one provided, depends how much get up and go you have.
The beauty of Turbo.net is the fact there’s already hundreds of applications available for use. So you’re not just paying for a product when you purchase or use Turbo.net, you are getting a service. If you look at the wide range of application virtualization technologies out there today, you may notice the majority of offerings create, what I and most call ‘portable’ applications, this is not necessarily a bad thing but with other solutions that create virtual applications this way can be very lacking. VMWare ThinApp has to be the most successful and widely used solution which creates applications in this manner. Well something Spoon has provided that others who use this method do not, is the ability to convert ThinApp applications to the spoon format. This to me, is incredibly progressive and smart as Turbo.net provides much more capabilities than ThinApp while providing the other benefits that already exist. The current ThinApp users may be the perfect market to pitch this product to. Spoon not only offers the possibility of using portable applications and applications published via the Turbo.net site or your own private website, but also offers the possibility of using their streaming profile capabilities to stream applications. Which would eliminate the need for installing your virtual application via an MSI, which is always a plus and to me is the real benefit of App Virtualization.
The setup for Spoon is not very difficult but possibly compared to others, it may seem to be, just because there’s a lot of moving parts. You’ve got the public website Turbo.net which you can use upon registering to not only access the hundreds of applications which are readily available but also to upload your own applications, upload files and even desktops for use. Now, you don’t need to use the website, which of course would not be very enterprise friendly. You can install or deploy a plugin on desktops which allows you to access whatever is uploaded to the Spoon cloud and/or your private cloud depending on your setup. You also may have the Spoon Server if you are going to leverage your own backend server and cloud service. This being the obvious choice for enterprise with security concerns. And of course you may use the Spoon Virtual Application Studio which can be used for creating virtual applications in an advanced manner, providing more flexibility and ‘advanced’ features. The studio is pretty cool. In this blog post, I intend to provide an overview of each of these ‘moving’ parts.
Firstly the setup of the Spoon Server is very simple. We’ll cover that quick.
After launching the setup. Click Next>
Obviously accept and verify that you read the terms of the EULA then click Next>
Enter a different destination folder for the install. I left the default as above and Click Install.
You’re going to need to enter the Administrator email address and select the Portal and Administration ports. These ports will need to be different. I used the defaults.
Once you’ve got the setup complete you’ll want to login to the web portal using the Admin account.
Once you get in, depending on how you want to use the Spoon Server, you may want to connect it to your Domains Active Directory which you can do very easily.
Navigate to Add Service and enter your AD information. You’ll need to know the structure of your Active Directory to ensure you select the correct options
Next you may want to go your Administrative Settings and set your company logo, authentication type etc.
After this you may want to Manage your users and groups. If you have synced up your Active Directory the window above will be populated with some users and groups.
You should of course see the Server you are working on in the server list. There’s also an option to add more servers, which you may want in a medium to large size environment.
Props go to Spoon for the Reporting capabilities of the tool. The out of the box reports are much better than some products I have used.
If you browse to the Apps section on the top menu. You may notice some apps are already in there. If you open one up to edit, you can get an idea of the information required\possible to set for each virtual application you create in Spoon. I really like the possibility of setting an expiration date, that’s again something not every product has. I’ll touch on the Apps section of this Server piece again later down the post when I cover Spoon Studio.
Where would you be without the possibility to create your own virtual applications? With Spoon you can do this using their Studio software which is very impressive and filled with multiple ways to create virtual apps. The setup is also very straight forward. Like any other capture tool, you may want to installed this on a virtual machine which you can take a snapshot of, in order to be able to revert to a clean state in between each capture. Personally, I select to install this on my target platform i.e. I use Windows 7 x64 as my primary OS, so this is what I capture on. To install, launch the installer on your VM of choice.
Click on the radio button for “I accept the terms in the License Agreement” and Click Next >
I like usual, installed to the default location and clicked Next >
Click Finish to complete the Installation
You should be presented with a pop up screen with options for creating virtual applications with different options. I will cover this further down. For now I will focus on the features within the main application interface itself.
When you get into the Studio itself, you’ll see a bunch of options, menus and tabs. You should see a Runtime tab which contains common middleware and share dependencies which are common across all organizations already provided by Spoon! All you need to do is select to add to an application which requires the middleware, there’s multiple versions of .Net. Good Job!
The Advanced screen provides different options for your streaming profiles. You can merge the configurations or capture of a virtual application on one platform e.g. Windows XP and merge it with a capture completed on Windows 7 and have this as one configuration. That way you don’t need two configurations for the one application, both OS’s are supported and represented using the one. You can also set the Connection Speed for streaming purposes. Click on the profile to create the profile for your application by browsing to the .exe and obviously selecting to Build Model.
On the virtual application tab which is the home screen for the UI. You can see a few options along the ribbon bar on the top of the tool. To the top left we can see the Capture before which does as it suggests, it will do a before snapshot to allow you to do a capture of an application install. Build will Build the virtual application after you have completed your capture and configured as you wish. Startup file is for assigning shortcuts in your application, you can select one or many (by clicking on multiple). The output file will be the name of your standalone .exe, your entry point for your virtual application. You can choose to generate a diagnostic mode executable for the purposes of troubleshooting. Configuration Wizard brings up the initial pop up screen you would have seen when launching the app and which I will explain briefly but it’s basically a screen which allows you to pick between the different options for capturing an application. Sandbox merge is to merge the settings or configurations made when you launch the virtual application and test it. You can merge this to be part of the app and something all users will get. Import Configuration allows you to convert ThinApp applications into a Spoon virtual application. And finally there’s an option to Publish your application to Turbo.net, for you to use online from your Spoon account via their website.
On the side bar you also have a few menu options. Firstly File System which you can see in the above screenshot is a tree branch view of your applications file system. I really like this presentation and it’s simplicity. Likewise you’ve got the same for Registry. I will cover Settings in the next paragraph. Components allows you to import svm files which are snapshots. So you can create snapshots of patches or whatever and add them to your application. This is a pretty nice way of updating applications with critical updates without needing to go through a full capture again. Setup allows you to choose a location to save the setup files to. You can select to automatically create this MSI upon Build. You can also add Product Info such as Product Name, Product Version and Company Name to be added to the MSI. You can choose to automatically upgrade any earlier versions of the app that may be deployed or allow side by side versions. You can also select if the install should be a user install or an install for all users which would obviously require Admin rights. You can also populate extended properties for your MSI package, set File Type Associations and ProgIDs
Settings provides you with some capabilities like you locking down an application to a certain Domain And\Or AD Group membership. You can assign a Shim for app compatibility purposes. You can create your own custom splash screen and set it to appear for a certain time. Importantly you can also pass command line arguments, change the working directory for the shortcut. View Environment variables or Virtual services, exclude child processes if required (very useful!) The list goes on and on here, Spoon did a great job in giving you a lot of control on how your virtual application behave. I won’t cover these all because this blog will be even longer and I like this product so much that I would rather people go out and try it to see for themselves, it is really great. But for an example you can choose to delete the sandbox on application shutdown which, if you are all about Non-Persistent Desktops is a win for you. You can also lock down the virtual environment to be read only, so the app cannot even write into the virtual file system, let alone locally. Also you can choose to emulate elevated security privileges!!
Finally on that side bar you will see Expiration. If you read my blog post on Symantec Workspace Streaming, you may remember I was very impressed with it’s capabilities for managing expiration in a very granular and effective way. One of the common concerns with Application Virtualization is license control. Microsoft always used the Use AppLocker excuse and eventually made a rather limp attempt to provide a license section in the App-V console but it fell short. They aren’t the only offenders, XenApp Profiling and ThinApp also neglecting the license control part, at least in my eyes. As you can see above. Spoon have provided the ability to set a ‘time bomb’ on applications and to tie the app to a web server. You have similar capabilities when using the Spoon Server for deploying your applications as not only can you set the ‘time bomb’ for your apps but as your see further down in the Add Apps section, you can lock apps down in other ways too. Ok, enough of expressing my undying love. Let’s get onto capturing applications.
Creating Virtual Application with Studio
There’s a few different options to pick from for creating your virtual applications within Spoon Studio. On startup you may receive the above window, if not you can browse to the Configuration Wizard on the Home Screen to bring it up. With the First in the list, allows you to build an application from a set template you may have already created, a template may contain company applied standards and/or application specific settings pre-configured into a template format to streamline your packaging process. Last in the list you can see that you could manually configure, which would involve adding folders, adding files, registry etc. via the FileSystem, Registry menus etc. on the home screen which. This was illustrated above. Something which is unique with Spoon Studio is the ability to scan your desktop for installed applications, it’s suggested that if you use XP and Windows 7, you should scan your XP Desktop. You can then build virtual applications for applications found in the scan.
The scan does take some time to complete. I also found that it wasn’t completely successful. Unfortunately one of the shortcomings I have found with Spoon Studio is pretty fundamental. The capture capabilities. The Desktop Scan is a great idea. I would be raving about it, if I had more success using it. But I won’t dwell on that. Upwards and Onwards to the Snapshot, which you can select from the Wizard or from the Home Screen as shown Below.
As you can see there’s a Capture Before button which will bring up the before capture, which will scan the directories on your machine and take a snapshot which
You will then need to install and configure your application. You will notice the Capture and Diff button is now enabled. Click this button when you are finished with your install and config.
You will be prompted to browse to a folder. This is for the output of the tool. Which we will cover further down.
You will now see that your Spoon Studio FileSystem and Registry etc. will be populated (hopefully) with the contents of your application. Unfortunately I also had mixed fortunes with this. For a few applications, it did not capture some folders.
Wherever you selected to save the output, you should see a snapshot file and a files folder. The Snapshot contains information pertaining to the folder isolation settings for the application, also the registry and environment variables.
The files folder will contain a mimic of the file system with only the folders required for the applications files.
No matter what way you capture your applications you will want to pick your startup file(s) and your output. You may also want to modify the Settings for your Setup and App specific metadata, depending on your environment.
Above you can see an example of clicking on a folder captured. You can see the level of isolation and different options which can easily be applied right through the studio interface. You may want to remove folders or files from the application if you notice any ‘noise’ e.g. unwanted Installer files. You may wish to change isolation settings on certain folders.
Finally, if you like, you could choose to publish the application to the Turbo.net website, so it can be accessed via the web. Remember, you can publish your application for streaming from your own custom web portal.
If you have setup the Spoon Enterprise Server, you can easily Add Applications for use by browsing to your website and logging in. Then go to Apps and select to Add.
You then need to provide information as in the above. It’s pretty self explanatory, I believe. An important point of interest is the Licensing section. Here you can add to the ‘time bomb’ I covered earlier, which would restrict access to an application after a certain period of time. Well here you can restrict the applications further, you can ensure that only a certain number of users can concurrently use an application, or even lock it down to a certain number of users or devices. Most of the other info is just useful for tracking. Fill in the fields and click Next.
Here there’s more information you can fill in. Here you can browse to your Snapshot file. The instructions on the screen likely are detailed enough, so I won’t ramble on 🙂
You can also Add Applications via the Spoon Console plugin. Which I will cover next.
Spoon Website and Console Plugin
Let’s cover the Console first. You will need to download and install the plugin.
Click Save or run.
Next you will need to login with a valid Spoon login. If you used Active Directory with a Spoon Server and Managed via AD Groups, this could be Active Directory logins.
Once in the Console you will say an array of applications which are all available to Run and use. If you Added your own Applications they should also appear.
To add an Application you can choose to Install an application.
Next you can browse to an Installer.
This should upload to the Spoon Server. Note this took a long time when I tried it on a couple of applications.
The application stayed In Progress for quite a while.
I could also view that it was in Progress on the Spoon Website.
When the install is complete. My Application are available to use on the Site.
I won’t cover too much about the site because it is free to register and get your 2GB limit, so I would advise everybody to at least discover that much for themselves. When you register you can use the large inventory of applications which are currently there and with the Plugin you can upload your own. Also if you want to try out the Spoon Server and Studio for capturing and publishing application in your own environment there’s a 30 day trial available for download.
For all of this visit Spoon.net For a lot of technical information on the product, try HERE The Application Virtualization Smackdown 2013 whitepaper also has a great feature matrix which features Spoon, Which can bee seen HERE
I’ve been using App-V for nearly 7 years at the time I post this. I have used various different application virtualization solutions and have certainly found many better than others. It would be naive of me to think that Spoon could knock App-V off the top spot. Microsoft has a lot of clout in the Enterprise world and rightly so. App-V is also a mature product which has progressed nicely, there’s also very importantly a solid Online community, which is great for support. If Spoon is lacking in anything, it is probably the lack of information. Don’t get me wrong. The Docs link which I posted above is very useful and detailed but there doesn’t seem to be a strong community out there for help. The publishing time to the Spoon website was very long for some reason, I’m not sure why. It was kind of odd. I had mixed success with performing captures. For a few applications, I need to manually add files before I could build a complete functioning package. Which is a little disappointing as that’s really the meat and potatoes of creating a virtual app. But overall, I have to say. Spoon.net is right up there with App-V in my estimation and in fact does a lot of things better. App-V 5.0 has made a lot of strides towards enabling the virtualization of more apps. But it’s also not without it’s problems just like any other solution. The Desktop scan concept in Spoon is great. The license control is great. The interface for modifying the files\folders\registry etc. is great. The granularity of control through the settings is great. The ability to convert ThinApp application is great. Being able to easily add patches through Components\SVM files is great. The End User presentation and user friendliness is great. The reporting is great. Spoon Application Virtualization IS GREAT! Two Thumbs Up!