The article originally appeared in:
Software Development Times


Zero G: A 'Fundamental Shift' in Installer

By Alan Zeichick

June 15, 2002 — Zero G Software Inc. has introduced a major new version of its InstallAnywhere installer, with an emphasis on supporting software built by geographically dispersed development teams, as well as installing complete software suites.

“This is one of the most fundamental shifts in InstallAnywhere we’ve ever done,” boasted CEO Eric Shapiro. “We don’t even see the competition on the radar any more.”

According to Shapiro, the biggest installation pain point in big companies is distributed team development. “They have these larger teams that do development of different components of their software, in different organizations, in different parts of the world, and they want to be able to build up an installer for the entire mass of products… InstallAnywhere’s previous incarnations have always been geared to the individual software developer.”

The solution in InstallAnywhere 5.0, he said, was “we put in something new called ‘source path management,’ which allows you to add files to your project in a way that uses variables, or macros, that will get substituted depending on your development system. I can have a completely different development system than you, and we can share the exact same project files, because your source path variables will point to files on your system, and mine will point to files on mine.”

For the suite installers, said Shapiro, “we take the individual installer components [for each part of the suite] and merge them together into a single master installer. The feature is called Suite Installer, but the methodology is something we call ‘merge modules.’”

Shapiro explained that “a developer will create an installer [for one part of the suite] and save it as a merge module. The merge module is actually a self-contained installer module that contains all the instructions for installing all the features of that particular software component. Then the person who is creating the suite installer will pull all these merge modules together and merge them into a master project.”

Shapiro compared that with how it worked in previous versions: “You’d have to have the individual teams designate one person that would be doing all the installation. This is typical of all the other installer products in the market today: They’d have one person who’s the ‘installer guy,’ and he’d put all these things together. It’s a real pain in the neck.”

Shapiro said that Zero G’s merge-module concept lets one developer create templates for graphics, license agreements and look and feel, and send that around to other developers as a merge module that they can use to build other modules. Also, he said, “developers can send merge modules to their OEM partners or their customers’ IT departments, so they can customize the installer before it goes to the end user.”

Finally, said Shapiro, “we are building up a library of merge modules from third-party vendors. For instance, the first thing we’ve done is create a merge module for [Apache’s] Tomcat that’s available from our Web site. If you’re creating an application that needs to have Tomcat, you don’t have to figure out how to install Tomcat; you can take this merge module, add it to your project, and Tomcat will be installed.”

Shapiro said that Zero G (www.zerog.com) has so far created merge modules for Tomcat, IBM’s Cloudscape database, Sun’s J2EE and the JBoss app server.

Available now, InstallAnywhere 5 comes in two versions, a Standard Edition for $995 targeted at desktop applications, and a $2,995 Enterprise Edition that can add an application-specific Java Virtual Machine and install to developer-specific locations, and offers other features for installing server applications. Both are available for Linux, Mac OS X, Unix and Windows.