The App-V community has long been a very giving group of professionals, going back to the old Softricity days. We post on the forums and share recipes on how to sequence apps. Some of us post on blogs and even produce instructional videos. And while I don’t tweet, I certainly see signs of a lot of sharing happing via twitter.
One of the things that Softricity, and then Microsoft, has always said about sequencing is that you cannot sequence the internet explorer itself. Plugins that reference and use the local client IE yes, but not IE itself.
I have always felt that this was incorrect. That the components all are in user space and that given sufficient effort, one could figure out what to put into the package and get a virtualized IE. Until recently, I never saw a compelling enough reason to want to put in such effort.
But now with Windows 7 we have an OS that ships with IE8. Many companies are moving to this new OS from XP. On XP, they had a choice of IE browsers. 5.5 shipped with the original version, but 6.0 comes with the more reasonable service packs in use. You could upgrade to a higher version on XP if you wanted to. There are some browser based apps and plug-ins that are designed to work with IE6. The plug-in won’t load into IE7 or 8, or the browser app doesn’t run either. This was OK because they still had an option to build their XP images with IE6.
With so many companies moving to Windows 7, they are now realizing the bind that they put themselves into by not addressing these browser version specific issues while the people that wrote them were still around. They now are faced with either finding a replacement, standing up an IE6 terminal server, using MED-V, or maybe virtualizing IE.
Microsoft, which finds itself in a bind caused by the “IE is an integral part of the OS and cannot be separated” stance a few years back is (at least publicly) not interested in solving the issue. There also remains a question of whether IE6 (because it is part of the OS) can be used on Windows 7 from a license perspective. I think most people might be comfortable due to the down-rev rights permitted (If you buy version X you have the right to install version X-1), but it is unclear how Microsoft feels about this.
So hearing of this need in the enterprise customers, several of the competing application virtualization vendors created a virtualized IE6 and started touting this. I, as well as several friends who are also App-V MVPs have been hearing from customers wondering if Microsoft will come out with a recipe (or if we might have one). I, and others, have made some half-hearted attempts but none of us have been able to spend enough time to produce a good working version yet.
Recently, http://www.css-security.com/ , a security company based in Ohio, has posted on TechNet’s App-V Sequencing Forum a note about having an App-V solution, and later a YouTube video showing IE6 and IE7 running on Windows 7. While we don’t know enough about their solution to know if it is complete and stable enough for real-world deployments, we are none-the-less quite disappointed that they chose not to disclose their recipe. I’m sure that they put a lot of work into it and probably deserve to make some kind of return on their investment, but as far as I can tell they really aren’t in the sequencing or consulting about sequencing business. In fact, it seems quite odd that a security company would even want to help customers put a far less secure browser on their machines!
Here’s hoping that CSS will do the right thing and post their steps to produce the package. In fact Microsoft now has a forum just for posting recipe information. I expect that it won’t be perfect, but the recipe is like an open source project. We all can poke and prod and improve upon it until we get a solution that works well for everyone.