Wither SoftGrid ZeroTouch?

My colleagues and I have been hearing a lot about Windows Server 2008 and Terminal Services RemoteApps. Very cool stuff: it’s a great way to publish applications to your users (thin or thick clients) especially if you’re not ready to make a heavy Citrix investment. But, a few of us are refugees from the old Softricity days, where we fell in love with a web-based application provisioning workflow called Softricity ZeroTouch. It was sweet: log into a website, and self-provision SoftGrid apps to yourself, basically. In a former incarnation, I installed this application as a matter of course on engagements where SoftGrid was a component – it just made too much sense not to.

Microsoft, soon after, and rightly, acquired Softricity and its products. In that process, SoftGrid has become Microsoft Application Virtualization, but due to an internal decision, ZeroTouch was retired. This, for old SG hacks, was a sad day. ZeroTouch was a great customer story, and remains so today. Today, however, we have to say that “such an app could easily be written” rather than “let’s install ZeroTouch on a pilot server and see how you like it.”

After our own experience with Server 2008 builds, and a few presentations in Redmond, a couple of us noticed that some of the screenshots of TS Web Access stunningly resemble the old ZeroTouch interface:

 Terminal Services RemoteApp Web Interface


 Softricity ZeroTouch Screenshot

Server 2008 TS Web Access


Softricity ZeroTouch

With all of Microsoft’s strategic force in the virtualization market, it’s good to see that they are including presentation virtualization and self-service provisioning portal technology into their out-of-the-box Server 2008 experience.

But, I’m still left with a nagging nostalgia. Bring me both. I love TS Web Access. But, bring me self-service AppVirt(SoftGrid) ZeroTouch. Or make some more noise on USSP with Microsoft Deployment – it’s gone pretty quiet, or else I’m reading the wrong blogs. I’m hoping that TS Web Access is only a harbinger of a unified solution.

If I had to guess, I’d say that this unified SCCM/AppVirt/TS application provisioning workflow is in the works, and we mere mortals just don’t know about it yet. I’m hoping that someone’s reading this post, and has the time to point out something that I’ve missed. I know it would be a pretty easy thing for some of my crack ASP.NET developers to write, since app provisioning in SoftGrid/AppVirt is as simple as adding/removing users from AD security groups (or now, in 4.5, modifying ACLs on SFT packages) but this product already exists, and I hate the thought of reinventing the wheel.

Time will tell, and if a solution doesn’t come from the mothership, one is bound to come from the cloud. That’ll be a good day for us all.

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