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Softricity Enters Web Services Agreement with Microsoft

A software startup with a server-based technology for pushing applications down to Windows clients and running them cleanly has entered an agreement with Microsoft to extend its new solution to a Microsoft .NET-based service.

Softricity Inc. and Microsoft position the new solution as a way for corporate IT managers to more easily handle software deployment, enforce upgrades and ensure license compliance. Despite the "service" monikor, in many cases the solution would be one an enterprise would keep within the confines of its own firewall.

Softricity recently rolled out an innovative approach for deploying and managing software on Windows infrastructures. Softricity sells SoftGrid for Windows Desktops and SoftGrid for Terminal Server. The server-based product does two things:

First it deploys software on an as-needed basis. For example, a user looking to launch Word for the first time would receive 4 percent to 10 percent of the application over the network from the SoftGrid server -- just the components necessary to launch the application and begin working. Only when the user needs more advanced functionality, would other components of Word move over the network pipe. Each component of an application only moves across the network once. The next time the user launches Word, the application starts locally from a cache.

SoftGrid converts applications into streaming software by running an application through what Softricity calls the Softricity Sequencer. The sequencer analyzes the application for components called during startup and turns them into a download sequence that gives the user the parts needed for starting up an application. The process works for packaged and home-grown applications.

The other thing SoftGrid does is run the application on the desktop in a sandbox called SystemGuard. SystemGuard creates a virtual environment that stands between the original application and the registry or DLL files. The approach allows applications that might ordinarily conflict to run side by side on a system, and allows users to run multiple sessions of an application not designed for multi-session use.

SoftGrid for Windows Desktops directly serves applications to end-user systems. According to Softricity documentation, the approach is more scalable than terminal server-style approaches because processing is performed locally. However, central control is maintained because administrators can use the approach to distribute upgrades, such as from Office 2000 to Office XP, and track license use.

SoftGrid for Terminal Server sits on servers behind Windows 2000 Servers with terminal services enabled -- treating the Windows terminal servers almost the same way that the desktop version treats desktops. That way change control can be handled at the SoftGrid server and distributed to a farm of terminal servers.

Under the new agreement with Microsoft, Softricity will use core technologies of Microsoft's .NET Framework in a joint marketing partnership. .NET My Services Notifications would be used to alert users to new versions of software available for use, while Passport authentication would be used to authenticate external users. The solution also involves using XML, SOAP and UDDI, core technologies of .NET and Web services, for passing information around the network and discovering services.

Softricity has a white paper about the solution at www.softricity.com/products/softricity-net.asp.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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