Symantec advances its workspace virtualization layers and streaming technology

Symantec's virtualization suite has two new features worth exploring: the new Layer Patch feature and the streaming SDK.

Symantec jumped into the virtualization game with both feet and put together a nice suite offering called Symantec Endpoint Virtualization Suite.  The cornerstone technology in this suite comes from the solution formerly known as Symantec Software Virtualization Solution (SVS).  To complete the suite, Symantec added in technology from the AppStream and nSuite acquisitions.

One of the areas within Symantec Workspace Virtualization (SWV) 6.1 that deserves some attention is the new Layer Patch feature.

[ Listen to this InfoWorld Virtualization Report podcast to find out more about what Symantec is doing with endpoint virtualization | And find out what Symantec is doing in their R&D lab with the virtualized browser ]

When exploring the new Layer Patch feature of SWV 6.1, Symantec developer Karl Bunnell explains it best:

Symantec Workspace Virtualization 6.1 contains a new "Layer Patch" feature that makes updating an existing virtual application (a.k.a. "layer") much more efficient than previous methods.  Prior to the introduction of this feature, the process of updating an existing layer involved updating the layer, exporting it as a VSA, then redeploying the entire package application to all client nodes.  The down-side of this approach is obvious - Small, incremental, updates to a large application such as Microsoft Office requires that the entire application package, plus updates, be deployed.  For an application package that approaches 600-700 MB or greater in size this is a expensive proposition given the cost in bandwidth utilization and storage, not to mention the time involved for the layer packager.

The "Layer Patch" feature allows only the binary difference between an original and updated layer to be packaged into a virtual patch archive (VPA) file and applied to the original layer on client nodes.  This greatly reduces the size of the package deployed to the client node to provide an update to an existing virtual layer.  Rather than deploying an updated VSA some 700 MB+ in size, a VPA containing only the binary difference between layers may only be a tenth the size (70 MB or less).

Bunnell goes on to describe how layer patching works, the process for creating and applying a Layer Patch, the best practices associated with the new feature, and then concludes his discussion with a list of frequently asked questions.

Another piece of the Symantec virtualization suite is its Workspace Streaming technology acquired from AppStream back in April 2008.  This streaming technology advances the company's virtualization offering by providing the on-demand delivery mechanism and centralized license management that is so greatly needed.  And following the lead of other virtualization solution providers, Symantec quietly released an SDK for its Workspace Streaming 6.1 offering.  The SDK becomes important for those organizations integrating Workspace Streaming into a larger automated workflow.

One of the technical writers at Symantec, Jacob Hammons, provided the following explanation around who should use the new SDK and why:

Since the SDK uses WSDL and web services, you don't need to be an advanced programmer to use it (I'm definitely not!). You can let your development tool do the heavy lifting by generating proxy classes, then you can access the Streaming functionality the same as any other library (you can even rely entirely on intellisense like I do). This is a big change from the days when you needed C or Java experience to write to a product's SDK.

So, what exactly can you do with the SDK? You can assign applications to users, update package values and provisions, view current sessions, generate reports, and about every other task you perform in your day-to-day management. More importantly, you can integrate these tasks into self-service portals, scripts, and workflow tools to save time.

If you want to get started with the SDK, Hammons offers the following resources:  The Symantec Workspace Streaming 6.1 SDK Guide, a video to help walk you through the basic steps required to set up Workspace Streaming, and a link to download the Workspace Streaming SDK (click Trialware).