Greg Butterfield, the president and CEO of Altiris Inc, has flagged a forthcoming Windows software virtualization product as offering the company some “huge” potential for growth in that it is seen as a “significant add-on” product, not only by its own customer base, but also by sites that have deployed competing software management suites.
Its latest move into software virtualization, an approach that decouples the application from the operating system, will see it apply the technique in a way that promises to ease the task of remote installation and reinstallation of problem software.
Over the past five years the Altiris portfolio of systems tools has been extended through product development and acquisition to handle most aspects of the lifecycle management of desktop assets. The use of its toolsets ranges from asset management to software image deployment, patch and vulnerability management, to service desk automation.
With the new Altiris Software Virtualization Solution, which is being readied for commercial release for the end of the first quarter, desktop applications are run as virtual software packages, allowing them to be turned on and off to reduce conflicts and reinstalled remotely in a way that does not affect the base Windows configuration.
It works by deploying the software to a part of the file system that is normally hidden from Windows. Consequently, the resources that are used by applications like Microsoft Word are kept in their own sandbox, isolated from the operating system or other applications that might have conflicting drivers.
When the program runs, the operating system only sees a pointer rather than all the DLLs that the program uses. That pointer goes to the protected space, and the program is loaded into memory where it operates normally. Altiris claims there is little if any performance hit with this approach.
Application virtualization should also allow organizations to deploy applications and fixes more quickly. That should improve overall application reliability, and ultimately could help drive down support costs.
The installed Altiris customer base is an obvious first target for the new product, but the potential market is much broader than that Butterfield said. It is seen as relevant and usable by any organization running Microsoft SMS for systems management, or products like Novell’s Xenworks or LANDesk’s software, he claimed. We see it as a significant add-on product for any of those sites. It will be the most ubiquitous footprint of any product in our history, he said of the $29-per-desktop software system.
The company, which is based outside Salt Lake City, Utah close to its rivals Novell and LANDesk, said the software virtualization product will be sold as a component of Altiris Client Management Suite. Butterfield said the company can tap into the 1,000 or so certified reseller partners that already sell Altiris products, and will look to further prime the market by signing ISVs to build the virtualization technology into their own solution sets.
In 2004 Altiris grew revenue 68%, at the time making it one of the fastest growing companies in the IT industry. But last year sales slowed slightly, and against the previous year’s numbers of $166m, revenue for 2005 dipped to $142m.