Wise Solutions Wants to Relieve DLL Hell

Wise Solutions Inc. (Canton, Mich., www.wisesolutions.com) has announced a product that promises to minimize what even some Microsoft Corp. execs have termed "DLL Hell."

InstallManager is designed to enable administrators to spot file and registry conflicts before they occur, and streamline the process of installing Windows applications.

Wise has been developing software installation tools to distribute Windows applications to end users via floppy disks, CD-ROMs, networks and the Internet. InstallManager is Wise's first product specifically designed for systems administrators. Where this product differs is that it is designed for use as an alternative to the installers that come with other application programs.

"DLL Hell" refers to the conflict that occurs when application installation programs place dynamic link library files into the system subdirectories. New applications may have more recent versions of .DLL files and conflict with the old ones already in place, potentially causing unpredictable outcomes for applications depending on these library files.

"You can install two applications with the same exact version of the same exact file and still have conflicts because [the developers] give each application a unique identity," explains John McMillan, vice president of research and development at Wise Solutions.

"Administrators want an easy, bulletproof way to install applications over a network without file and registry conflicts," says Bill Thomas, CEO of Wise Solutions. "With InstallManager, they can identify and resolve most file conflict problems before installation. They can also create a complete installation script...without writing code."

InstallManager is actually a suite that includes five programs: ConflictManager, SetupCapture, Wise Installation System 7.0, WebDeploy and SmartPatch.

InstallManager kicks into operation when an administrator loads an application into a central database where ConflictManager scans the files for potential conflicts before the applications are actually installed. McMillan says the central database is stored on a central server. It knows where each application bumps others, where they share files, where they share directories and where they share registry keys.

Once the data is imported and ConflictManager has detected any conflicts, the program gives the administrator a list of possible fixes and allows him or her to choose which solution should be utilized. Options can range from changing file names to deleting old, unused files, but McMillan says that most often the best solution is just moving the DLLs into separate directories. Changing file names can cause more problems when the registry is a shared resource.

Macmillan Publishing USA (Indianapolis, www.mcp.com), a print and multimedia developer, has been using Wise's existing Installation System product for five years as part of the company’s application installer. John Warriner, lead software development specialist, says the Installation System helps him give users of Macmillan CD-ROM products the ability to take the files from the CD-ROM and place them on the users' hard drives. Warriner also comments that the Installation System is customizable. "We start writing the application with [Wise's] Installation Wizard and then we go inside the source code and tweak the code if we have an extraordinary circumstance," says Warriner.

Glenn Garafano, senior software consultant at Garafano Noll Associates Inc. (North Andover, Mass.), an information consulting firm, has experience in developing his own software. He's been using Wise's existing Installation Service for five years and describes an incident when the product came in handy: "We had a hugely complicated release one time, and we sat down and put it together and out of 800 users who received the software, we got one call concerning a problem with installation."

Garafano was also pleased with the speed with which he was able to use the Installation Service. In one instance, it took him 30 minutes to work in the installation program and another time it took him 10 minutes. "As a comparison, I've tried two similar products over the years. I've never gotten past trying them because it was so much more difficult and time consuming," says Garafano.

InstallManager Includes:

  • ConflictManager, a database application that screens files, icons and registry keys across multiple Windows applications to spot potential file conflicts that may occur during installation.
  • SetupCapture allows users to "repackage" any Windows application with a Wise installation, even if the application has a built-in installation program, and users can standardize their installation process across all applications.
  • Wise Installation System 7.0 is Wise's marquee product that encompasses its installation technology.
  • WebDeploy is a tool for quick and safe installations from an Internet Web site or an intranet to end-user desktops.
  • SmartPatch is a feature that creates "patch" installations containing only the differences between two or more versions of an application.