VIR305: Creating App-V Packages with App-V 4.6 SP1

Application virtualization is one of the “new” areas of virtualization I’m very excited about. App-V has been around for several years, in various forms, formerly known as SoftGrid. Server App-V is just around the corner, and I think more exciting than client virtualization, but that’s a topic for another blog post. App-V basically wraps up an application into a self-contained package, which you can deploy via various means.

Unlike a traditional software package, the application is not directly installed into the client. There’s a level of abstraction between the software and underlying operating system. This let’s you, for example, have multiple versions of Microsoft Office or Java, on your computer without conflicts. App-V is one example of SaaS (Software as a Service). Other benefits include centralized servicing, centralized patching, tigh version conrol, and better software metering. You may of also heard of VMware ThinApp, which is similar in concept.

This session covers the enhancements made in SP1 of App-V 4.6. These enhancements include:

  1. No 1990s era 8.3 file name restriction for directory paths. Yipppee!
  2. New sequence diagnostics now proactively warn you of potential problems with a software package before you get to the end, start testing, and find out something is broke. Issues like having anti-virus running, software that includes device drivers, or other issues that make application virtualization harder.
  3. An XML report is generated with each package showing all of the diagnostic data, so if you do run into issues, you have documentation about the packaging process to help you troubleshoot the issue. Report includes excluded files, drivers, COM+ objects, system differences, SxS conflicts and shell extensions.
  4. Diagnostic alerts include pending reboots, VM not reverted, services enabled like defender or SMS, etc.
  5. Dynamic Suite Composition (DSC) allows you to more flexibly package several applications or components (such as plug-ins or middleware) so the suite of software works properly. Office plug-ins are very common.
  6. The major news about SP1 are package accelerators. Previously everyone that wanted to package up an application, say Office 2010, had to go through a somewhat lengthy and tedious process. No more! With package accelerators you point App-V to the install files, the accelerator files, click a few times, and viola, out the other end is a sequenced application.
  7. Depending on the application, there may be a little more work required to use the accelerator, but it still eliminates a vast majority of the trial and error associated with sequencing. Microsoft, third party vendors, and the community can create and release accelerators. Ones for Office 2010 and some Adobe products already exist.
  8. Project templates let you pre-populate sequencer GUI settings, or access settings that you can’t via command line automation.
  9. New CLI package optimization features let you launch all short cuts, control timeouts, and other features.

App-V 4.6 SP1 is already out, released back in March 2011. So you don’t have to wait to use the new time saving features such as package accelerators. You can download a lot of them from here. If you haven’t looked at application virtualization, you really should. Physically installing applications on clients these days is so yesterday. LOL. Now not all apps can be virtualized, but many, many can.

FYI, SCCM 2012 is tightly coupled with App-V, and has great in-depth support. So if you are a Microsoft shop, have SCCM, then you really need to look at App-V. Other application virtualization platforms just won’t have the level of integration that you may want. See my SCCM 2012 posts for more details.  Even if you don’t use SCCM, App-V still can provide you some significant benefits. VDI environments almost require App-V, if you want to follow best practices and maintain very clean/minimal base images.

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