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Category Archives: Application Virtualization

Azure RemoteApp and App-V sequences: does it work?

Last year when Azure RemoteApp was announced at a conference, I asked the speaker about support for App-V 5 sequences running on the Azure RemoteApp platform. While the speaker actually questioned my question, I wasn’t really sure if App-V sequences are supported by Microsoft.

When Microsoft states a certain configuration is not supported, then they basically state two possible scenarios:

  1. The scenario has been tested and it really doesn’t work, a KB article will state why
  2. The scenario has never been tested at all

I wasn’t able to find any statement by Microsoft, this leaves me to believe it has never been tested.

Other projects limited my time to figure it out. This was fine as long as it was in Preview which allowed me to sit it out for a bit, until now…

Recently I was asked to deliver a masterclass regarding application provisiong using Azure RemoteApp. One of the participants asked me if App-V 5 sequences could be used. One of the other trainers, Alex Sweserijnen  (@AlexSweserijnen on Twitter), also started a healthy discussion with me about this feature. Since I’m more focused on application deployment than application scripting using MSI or App-V which is more Alex’ cup of tea, I am a strong believer in using App-V.

However, I am talking about App-V client in stand-alone mode because of my ConfigMgr background. I’m not so familiar with App-V streaming infrastructures. Since Azure RemoteApp is just a ‘black-box’ RDS server I see no technical limitations to run App-V 5 sequences as long as the following requirements are met:

  • App-V 5 client for RDS is configured in stand-alone mode, no streaming or ConfigMgr whatsoever
  • App-V 5 sequences are loaded and published prior to uploading the .vhd to Azure RemoteApp

Alex had a few small App-V 5 sequences available I could use for testing. I’d like to thank Alex for delivering them so I didn’t need to create them myself.

So I decided to find out if this scenario works. I used the following lab setup:

  • 1 VM configured as an RDS Session Host server which meets the requirements mentioned at https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/articles/remoteapp-imagereqs
  • On the VM I installed App-V for RDS 5.1 in stand-alone mode
  • I added and published the App-V 5 sequences delivered by Alex, I used the following cmdlet for each sequence: Add-AppvClientPackage <whatever location>\package.appv | Publish-AppvClientPackage -Global
  • I shut down the VM using sysprep to prepare the .vhd for uploading

After uploading the image I created a RemoteApp collection by using the Quick Create option and I selected the image uploaded before. After taking a lunch break (provisiong takes quite some time) the RemoteApp collection was ready. So now I need publish some apps, the result is shown below:

PublishedApps

As you can see , Azure RemoteApp is perfectly happy to publish applications sequenced in App-V 5.I adde some  The next question obviously is if they will actually work. So I need to test it on my client. So let’s start my Azure RemoteApp client.

RemoteAppapp

So here are my apps published. Let’s start PuTTY to see what happens.

Putty

We can clearly see PuTTY is started as a RemoteApp.

notepad++

Notepad++ works fine as well.

These test results show Azure RemoteApp is perfectly happy working with App-V 5 sequences. Keep in mind that applications sequenced must be able to run in a RemoteApp (basically RDS) environment. I can answer the question with YES: App-V 5 sequences can be run on Azure RemoteApp

I was kind of expecting this result since I see no technical reason why this shouldn’t work in the first place.

Feel free to play around with this yourself. The Azure RemoteApp environment allows you to test the environment by publishing the apps to a limited set of users before publishing them to all users who need them.

 

Thoughts on optimizing Application Deployment in Configuration Manager 2012 SP1/R2…

In many organizations where I introduce Configuration Manager 2012 SP1 (and/or R2 soon) customers ask me how to deploy applications as efficiently as possible. Configuration Manager 2012 provides administrators a ton of options on how to achieve this. Unfortunately, I’m not able to explain what would be THE solution but after thinking this over I believe I can provide a recommendation that comes close.

For the sake of this blog, I limit my thoughts on deploying applications on the following environments:

  • Fat clients (I consider a tablet with Windows 8/8.1 Enterprise a fat client)
  • Server Based Computing (SBC)
  • Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

The first goal organizations should achieve, is to virtualize as many applications as possible using App-V 5.

Application Virtualization allows administrators to deploy applications to end users, the application can be started on the desired location but it doesn’t require an installation (.msi does). This is particularly convenient in SBC and VDI environments. SBC environments requires an installation which would disconnect user sessions (change user /install and change user /execute), with application virtualization this is no longer required.

For a while I was struggling to figure out how to deploy these applications as efficiently as possible, but then it hit me: Shared Content Store Mode. It took a while for me to understand how it works because I couldn’t find out where the content is actually shared. You can enable Shared Content Store Mode but you’re unable to configure its location. I figured out that the distribution mechanism tells the App-V client where the content is available. The Configuration Manager client is responsible for retrieving the required information using a Distribution Point, this makes the DP the Shared Content Store location effectively. All you need is to configure the deployment to stream all the content from the DP, a very small set of files (just a few KB) will be downloaded to the client machine to allow the application to be started (shortcuts etc.).

The Shared Content Store Mode is extremely useful for SBC and VDI environments, I can imagine you would consider using it on desktop machines as well. Laptop and tablet devices are less likely candidates to use Shared Content Store Mode since they will most likely leave the building which might prevent access to a DP using a fast LAN. For those environments I would actually recommend downloading the virtual application locally and run it from the local disk.

SBC and VDI environments are often configured by a provisioning mechanism such as Citrix Provisioning Services (for SBC), for VDI the most likely configuration is pooled VMs.

If you use OSD to deploy Operating Systems, then you don’t need to install these applications when the Task Sequence is running (just leave them out of the TS). This can make your Windows image very thin and will significantly speed up OSD deployments. Keep in mind though that laptop and tablet devices need time to download the virtual applications locally…

Finally, using application supersedence allows administrators to quickly replace virtual applications with newer versions (even revisions of the same virtual application), replacing a few KB of data is something that end users would barely notice.

Keep in mind though, this blog is aimed at App-V 5. The scenario’s here can’t be used for App-V 4.6, you can do something with a read-only cache but this is pretty complex. You should consider converting 4.6 sequences to 5 using the instructions displayed at the following location:

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj713472.aspx

I can conclude that so many options are available, the rich features offered by App-V 5 offers with Configuration Manager 2012 are quite powerful in my opinion…

 

ConfigMgr 2012 SP1: Superseding virtual applications…

In a recent blog post I explained how to supersede applications in ConfigMgr 2012 (SP1). Thanks to the improved Application Model, it is easy to replace applications by a different one. Application supersedence allows you to automatically uninstall the superseded application and install the application that supersedes the superseded one.

This blog is essentially the same, but virtual applications using App-V 5 are used instead.

I used a Windows 7 client equipped with the App-V 5 Client to demonstrate the process…

021413_1558_ConfigMgr201.png

The screenshot above shows Microsoft Office 2010 is installed on my client.

In the Start Menu, you can see its shortcuts.

021413_1558_ConfigMgr202.png

 

The App-V 5 Client’s cache location is C:\Programdata\App-V. Each virtual application is represented with a GUID folder as you can see here, you can actually browse the folder and locate its contents.

021413_1558_ConfigMgr203.png

 

Now let’s import Microsoft Office 2013 (also sequenced with App-V 5) and configure it to supersede Microsoft Office 2010.

021413_1558_ConfigMgr204.png

Let’s deploy this Application…

After some waiting the application was deployed.

021413_1558_ConfigMgr205.png

 

Office 2013 shortcuts are there as well…

021413_1558_ConfigMgr206.png

 

Starting Word to check if the application starts…

021413_1558_ConfigMgr207.png

Oh oh. Word fails to start, most likely I sequenced on a 64 bit Windows 8 machine and this is 32 bit Windows 7 and I didn’t use a sequencing recipe.

But no App-V error so it’s an internal problem inside the sequence. Ah well, the deploying part worked J

 

Microsoft App-V 5: first impressions…

For the last few months I’ve been heavily involved with System Center Configuration Manager 2012 SP1. Not only with the beta, but deployments with the RTM of SP1 as well. Since most of these projects are focused on deploying infrastructures, many features regarding Application Management got less attention from me.

What is new in ConfigMgr 2012 SP1 is distributing virtual applications based on App-V 5. In this context, I’ve decided to get some impressions regarding App-V 5 and compare it with the previous version 4.6 SP2.

One of the first things to check is the Sequencer. I built a machine with Windows 8 and installed the Sequencer to see how it works.

I noticed a couple of things:

  • There’s no virtual drive required anymore. In 4.6 a separate drive had to be present (default is Q:\) in order to sequence an application
  • I don’t see any references to the previous vendor anymore, a.k.a the ‘old’ SoftGrid system
  • Two manifest files are created with the actual sequence, a file with the extension .appv represents the sequence completely

For the rest, the actual sequencing isn’t much different than its predecessor.

I ignore the App-V Server implementation since I’m not interested in this. In most cases, I facilitate deploying App-V 5 sequences using ConfigMgr 2012 SP1.

Next impression is installing the client. The client needs to be configured in stand-alone mode since ConfigMgr 2012 SP1 is responsible for distributing the applications.

On Windows 7 SP1, the following software requirements need to be met before installing the client:

  • .NET 4 or .NET 4.5
  • Windows Powershell 3.0
  • Update KB2533623

More information is available at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj713458.aspx

My first impression tells me that App-V 5 is easier to use than its predecessor…

If you’re entitled to use the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack 2012, then App-V is available to you. Feel free to play with it yourself…

 
 
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