Deploying custom applications in the enterprise

I just received an invitation to an Enterprise Management Associates Webinar on “Developing, Deploying, and Managing Custom Applications 2010”. In the pre-amble, it says that their research revealed custom applications outnumbering packaged applications in the enterprise by 10%. I’m not sure how they generated the figures – is MS Office one application or four? – but irrespective of that uncertainty, this was a lot higher than I expected.

It goes some way to explaining the ongoing popularity of easy-to-use, flexible, silent software distribution as an important item in the sysadmin’s toolbelt. 

Those of us with enough grey hair can remember when there were some software distribution ‘products’ that relied on before and after snapshots of PC file and registry contents to create a script that would replicate the supposed installation onto other PCs. This was horrendously susceptible to minor differences in system configurations across the target PCs, and the presence of other applications, or newer/older versions of DLLs, rendering the cloned application unstable or unusable.

Silent software distribution

Fortunately at that time we did not have the resources to try to create one of this class of solution to get on the bandwagon, but opted for the less glamorous but rather more useful approach of enabling kits built with industry standard tools, such as Installshield at that time, and then later the new Microsoft MSIs, to be silently and reliably deployed across large populations of PCs, without interfering with the logged on user privileges, and with stage-by-stage status and completion feedback. I think this fortuitous decision has stood the test of time. Although working with the massive changes in security mechanisms with the Vista platform mopped up a lot of precious resource, the kit distribution capability still looks the same to the sysadmin, and works just as well.

So in-house developers can get on with maintaining and enhancing their innovative applications and leave distributing them and updating them to our stuff. I don’t usually indulge in un-ashamed product plugs, but I don’t think Software Distribution gets the air time it deserves.