Turning to a Wise Choice for Installing Application Software

Hands On Review: Wise Solutions Inc.'s InstallManager

Wise Solutions Inc.'s InstallManager suite is the complete tool for administrators who need to create and manage the redistribution of application packages to end users. It also serves as a powerful installation builder for application developers.

This easy-to-use product requires no scripting knowledge or programming skills. That’s not to say that programming skills aren’t useful, as those with experience will find InstallManager a comfortable scripting environment that could be used for nearly any scripting task.

Using a six-step process to point-and-click, a setup creation only takes a few minutes. InstallManager includes all of Wise's installation functionality: WebDeploy for safe, effective Internet and intranet installations; SetupCapture for the "repackaging" of existing installations; SmartPatch for creating the smallest possible installation; and ConflictManager, a database application for screening files, icons, and registry keys across several applications to help avoid file conflicts.

We’ve been working with application distribution tools for a number of years. In our estimation, Wise InstallManager blows away all the competition when it comes to repackaging an application for mass distribution in an enterprise environment. Using SetupCapture, application repackaging becomes a quick and easy process.

We started with a Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 4 workstation. Only Wise InstallManager was installed. We created a disk image using a disk-imaging tool, which enabled us to roll back the workstation to this "steady state" time after time. We then started InstallManager’s SetupCapture. SetupCapture scanned the workstation for all the installed files and registry settings.

After installation of the application software we were repackaging, we made the other configuration changes that we wanted to globally apply to all the target workstations and restarted SetupCapture. On the second pass, SetupCapture created an installation package that included a script to make the appropriate modifications to install the software. After going through the installation script line by line, we found few lines that needed manual modifications. Most were due to specific configuration issues our network presented.

We then took on the job of repackaging Microsoft Office 97 to create a customized, silent installation script to be installed on hundreds of workstations across a large enterprise network. InstallManager was able to do this install in less than 10 minutes. Our previous installation method, using Novell Application Launcher (NAL) took anywhere from 24 minutes to an hour. Other applications that we repackaged had similar results. The Wise script enabled us to have more control over what we were deploying than any other product we’ve tried.

Resolving Conflicts

Wise's ConflictManager is designed to help administrators identify file and registry conflicts before they occur. Applications with more recent versions of .DLL files may conflict with the existing DLL’s, causing unpredictable outcomes for applications dependent upon these files. ConflictManager looks for these problems by creating and maintaining a database of installation components from all the installation packages created with InstallManager.

After using InstallManager we ran our installations through ConflictManager and were able to find problems that we might have introduced to our workstations had we not used the conflict finder. It was an eye-opening experience as we were able to modify our installations to handle the conflicts in a graceful way.

Documentation & Training

The manual for InstallManager with ConflictManager comes on a CD in PDF and in two versions. One version is for use online and the other is a printable version. Although we found a reference manual for this product to be generally unnecessary, it was nice to have and even nicer to be able to print it out.

For those that need more than a manual, Wise Solutions recently created a series of training seminars, which we also highly recommend. The value added by the instructor of this course was measurable, even though our experience with the product was probably the most extensive of any of the attendees that day.

Deployment

It’s important to understand where InstallManager fits into the big picture. The Wise product is not a deployment agent. It does not automatically update workstations when updates are needed. It does not collect inventory information about applications that are on workstations. InstallManager is an Installation Scripting Language with an intelligent GUI wizard that creates a portable, standalone .EXE file. Any deployment agent, such as SMS or NAL, can deploy these installations.

InstallManager does include the ability to serialize installation scripts and can post information to a Web server. As a test we wrote an installation script that queried a Microsoft Access database to find out if the installing user was allowed to run a particular install. Using an HTTP post command, we posted to an active server pages script running on a Windows NT 4.0 IIS server that returned a unique code that indicated approval or rejection to the InstallManager script.

Wise InstallManager
Wise Solutions Inc.
Canton, Mich.
(734) 456-2100
www.wisesolutions.com

Price:
InstallManager Suite: $1,799
InstallMaker: $199
InstallBuilder: $399
InstallMaster: $799

+ Easy to use interface
+ Fantastic for repackaging existing applications
+ Powerful scripting language
+ Supports Uninstall

- The included image editor is poor.
- Lack of a CASE statement makes complicated scripting more difficult
- Lacks an integrated deployment agent.