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Making short work of software deployment

Need a guide throug the Windows Installer Service maze? InstallShield steps in with a software repackaging and distribution tool that takes on WIS.

Preparing an application for distribution throughout an enterprise is no walk in the park. Besides the fact that software has to be customized for various user groups, any small mistake in repackaging the application is multiplied when the software is distributed. No wonder, then, that Schaumburg, IL-based InstallShield Software Corp. has been able to build a thriving business by creating solutions that help both corporate development shops and system administrators stroll through the software installation, distribution and deployment processes without breaking a sweat. Now, InstallShield's new AdminStudio 2.0 promises to help system administrators jog through their first encounters with another time- and cost-saving software distribution and deployment technology, Microsoft's Windows Installer Service (WIS). Steve Schmidt, an InstallShield senior product manager, talks about the advantages offered by WIS and the new AdminStudio product in this interview with searchWindowsManageability.

searchWindowsManageability: Why is it difficult to prepare applications for enterprise-wide distribution?

Difficulties associated with preparing applications for deployment include capturing too much or too little information during the repackaging steps, having no time to repeat the packaging process for each department or user group, missing application conflicts before rollout, and having to deal with the details of the new Windows Installer Service. AdminStudio addresses all of these issues.

searchWindowsManageability: Why do system administrators need a tool that helps them repackage applications for distribution?

System administrators typically repackage applications to control the end-user experience and make their desktop environments more manageable. With the advent of the Windows Installer Service, most traditional setups (previously repackaged or new ones) must be repackaged into the new Windows Installer format (.msi files) to leverage such cost saving features as application auto-repair, installation rollback, and install-on-demand. AdminStudio helps system administrators repackage and roll out applications by bundling a number of pre-deployment capabilities--packaging, customizing, authoring, and conflict-solving--into one solution. It's easy for system administrators to use because the interface is wizard- and/or checklist-driven. We distilled the key functionality required into the interface right up front, but users can go much deeper by using advanced views.

searchWindowsManageability: Where does Microsoft's Windows Installer Service fit into the software distribution scenario?

Organizations that are moving to Windows 2000 and XP want and need to leverage the technology offered in the new Windows Installer Service, the new installation management service that is now included with Windows operating systems. The Windows Installer Service offers cost-saving features such as application auto-repair, advertising, rollback, install-on-demand and other capabilities that have been hard to implement in the past. It's very helpful in reducing cost of deployment. WIS is a technology that is becoming a de facto standard. It's been available for a couple of years now and has already made a significant impact on organizations' ability to effectively and efficiently deploy Windows operating systems.

To use the Windows Installer Service, the system administrator needs to repackage most traditional setups (.exe files) into the new Windows Installer format. AdminStudio 2.0 provides the tools that help them get applications into the WIS format and help them follow the guidelines set forth by Microsoft for that format.

searchWindowsManageability: How does AdminStudio help system administrators repackage setups?

AdminStudio's Repackager feature helps administrators collect before- and after-snapshots of an application's installation sequence. In doing this, they capture all critical system changes such as registry modifications, shortcuts, file additions, environment variables, driver changes, and NT services. Using the snapshots, they can create a new Windows Installer file. They can repackage multiple installations into a single Windows Installer package, saving valuable time.

searchWindowsManageability: Are other vendors offering products that make it easier to distribute software?

One other solution is the Wise Application Integration Suite. AdminStudio, however, leverages InstallShield?s expertise in creating reliable installations. It also offers greater customization capabilities than the Wise product. For instance, the output of our packaging process is in a text file format, which allows the system administrator to modify it directly if he/she chooses to do so. AdminStudio also has the ability to create new conflict identification and resolution rules. The value equation is much stronger if one compares the price and cost of ownership of the products.

searchWindowsManagability: Does AdminStudio also make it easier to distribute applications in enterprises that run multiple operating systems?

AdminStudio's customization capability enables someone who has repackaged any type of application to modify the application for various groups (running different operating systems). They could create a variation for different departments and/or different user needs without repackaging multiple times. That's a significant savings in time, effort, and cost over previous mechanisms, which didn't allow this kind of customization.

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