A couple of weeks ago I went to a three-hour-deep dive on VMware ThinApp. ThinApp is a really cool technology that allows users to virtualize applications and makes applications more portable. This portability makes it so the application does not rely on the underlying operating system. For example, if you need to run Internet Explorer 6 for some legacy application, it’s possible to do this using ThinApp and it will be an isolated (more secure) environment and can be run on Windows 7. Many applications can be run using ThinApp and it’s especially useful if you have VMware View or the new VMware Horizon, but ThinApp can be used outside those solutions as well.

VMware has recently come out with ThinApp Factory, which is a virtual appliance you can deploy on vSphere or VMware Workstation that simplifies the implementation of ThinApps. It will automate the packaging of applications, while also centralizing administration, and provide recipes to help administrators package even more applications. VMware has also teamed up with a company called Ninite that will be providing recipes in a feed. In this post I’ll take you through the initial install of ThinApp Factory and an example of how to use it.

  1. Download ThinApp Factory from http://labs.vmware.com/flings/thinapp-factory
  2. Extract the zip file into a folder
  3. On your vSphere Client, go to File>>Deploy OVF Template and browse to the AppFactory.ovf file
  4. Click Next through the wizard (while choosing the appropriate settings for your environment)
  5. Fill in the entire first section and all of the required fields of the network settings under the Properties tab at the end of the wizard (I recommend giving it a static IP so that you can easily navigate to it, and you must use a standard switch instead of a distributed switch)
  6. Access the management portal by browsing to the IP you assigned it. I noticed that even though I had a default gateway, I still had to be on the same subnet.
  7. Accept the EULA
  8. Right now there is no password configured, so you can just login with the username “admin”

This brings you to the very colorful dashboard (shown in Figure A).

Figure A

There is a flowchart that shows you how to get started creating your builds, a system data chart, and an alert window that can be pulled up manually. Now you must create a workpool, which is a pool of Windows machines that you’ve configured that will be managed by the ThinApp Factory. You need at least one workpool to create ThinApp packages. The role of the workpool will become clearer later.

  1. Click on Settings in the upper right corner and make sure the workpool tab is selected
  2. Fill in the Name and select to use either an existing VM or an .iso for creating the templates that will be used as “clean slates” for creating ThinApps
  3. Enter the necessary information (see Figure B for example using .iso) and click Save. Make sure you pick the proper install Type (ex: Windows 7 Enterprise). This may take several minutes, but if it completes successfully the status bar will be all green.
  4. Go back to the dashboard and select the Add Application Source icon from the workflow picture
  5. Browse for the installer file (ex: Java) and then fill in the name and version, select a datastore, and click Save
  6. Go back to the Dashboard and click on Select Application. The installer you just added should now be listed there
  7. Put a checkmark by it and select Capture
  8. Here you can select which workpool you’d like it to use, which ThinApp version and the project location.
  9. Click on Auto Capture (there is a Manual Capture option as well, if you’d like to make changes). After clicking Auto Capture, it will show you that the task is running as shown in Figure C. You will also see a VM appear in your vSphere client as it is being created from the workpool. This will automatically be deleted when the task is complete.
  10. When done, you can click on the Projects tab to see your finished ThinApp. From here you can publish your App to the ThinApp store (found at http://ThinAppFactoryIPAddress/store) where you can select the applications they want and then click on Get Applications.

Figure B

Figure C

Right now ThinApp Factory is just a fling, which means it’s not officially supported by VMware. However, I highly suggest trying it out if you’re looking for a good way to centralize and virtualize application deployment.