Login Consultants releases App-V Client ADMX 1.0

Having a healthy application virtualization infrastructure platform involves configuring the App-V client with the appropriate settings. Today there are two main ways of configuring the client, either during the initial client installation process or afterwards.

Benefit of configuring the client during installation is that the client is fully operational in the shortest amount of time and can be used directly after the installation. Configuration can be done through one of the many command line parameters. If command line configuration is not preferred, settings can also be captured in a Microsoft Transform file (MST) and applied to the original installation.

The downside however to applying your setting at installation time is that is does not cover changing any of the configuration items after initial deployment. Configuration changes like additional user permissions, a different client log level or advanced communication configuration are very likely to change during the life cycle of the App-V client.

Login Consultants has delivered additional configuration methods since the early days of SoftGrid and continued to do so through means of Group Policy ADM add-on when Microsoft officially released an ADM template for App-V 4.5 because that template didn’t cover all settings. App-V Group Policy ADM templates allow administrators to centrally manage settings of the App-V client through Group Policy Objects. If you want an overview on which settings can be managed by which template be sure to check out this great article by Login Consultants’ Falko Graefe.

Although ADM templates bring great benefits to administrating the client configuration, they have been replaced (or upgraded if you will) by ADMX and ADML templates since Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. Since we see most of our customers are (at least) running these operating system versions, shouldn’t we be using the administrative tooling that come with those versions?

That’s what Ruben Koene thought, which is why he created the first App-V Client ADMX template which is available from the Login Consultants website today.

Ruben was very familiar with the settings that can be managed through the ADM template because he was the creator of the current add-on ADM template. Since ADMX files are structured in a very different way, he had to migrate the original template to the new structure setting by setting.

So I decided to sit down with Ruben and talk to him about the new release.

Why did you decide to create an ADMX template?

Koene: I work a lot at App-V customers. Usually they are running at least Windows Server 2008 in their domain, but still are using the ADM templates to manage their App-V clients, while ADMX and ADML templates have some great benefits over the older templates. Since Microsoft isn’t officially offering an ADMX template for the App-V client, I decided to create one of my own.

What’s the difference between the ADM and the ADMX templates?

Koene: ADM templates come in a proprietary format, while ADMX files are XML bases. It took me a little while to figure out the format but then I was able to migrate the App-V client settings one by one.

What are the benefits of using ADMX files?

Koene: When you use ADM templates, the ADM file itself (which can be several MB’s) is placed up inside the GPO. Because GPO’s are placed on each Domain Controller you end up using a lot of storage on the DC’s and consuming unnecessary bandwidth during replication. This does not only apply to the App-V template but also to ADM templates from other vendors, including the ones from Microsoft in the operating system. When the ADM file is not available the GPO can’t be edited. Organizations who have a lot of GPO’s run into a scenario which is known as a “SYSVOL bloat”. ADMX files don’t cause SYSVOL bloats because they are stored centrally and not in the GPO itself. The ADMX template remains centrally stored also when the GPO is edited.

Besides technical, are there any other benefits?

Koene: Yes. I work a lot with international customers and in some countries more than other administrators appreciate localized versions of their software, including their administrative tools. ADMX file have the benefit that specific languages are stored in a separate language (ADML) file. We are releasing with the default English (en-US) language file, but will be releasing German and French soon after because we have many customers in German and French speaking countries. We might rely on the community for additional languages.

Will this be an add-on as well?

Koene: No, it will not. Since Microsoft hasn’t released an ADMX template and we haven’t received any news that they will, we decided to merge the two templates back together. Settings from both templates can now be managed through a single file.

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How should customers install the ADMX template?

Koene: The template installation process is very straightforward and comes with a Windows Installer installation method. There are two flavors in the installation process: complete and custom. Complete, which is the default installation, installs everything into C:\Windows\PolicyDefinitions making local Group Policy Editing possible through GPEDIT.msc. The custom installation allows you to install into a different path, like your central store. Make sure you enable the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) on your machine if you want to be able to manage Domain policies through GPMC.msc). It also allows you to select either one of the available template files.

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So there are again two template files?

Koene: Yes, but not for different settings. Because the location of the App-V client settings in the registry depends on the platform you are running on (32bit or 64bit) we made sure we created an ADMX template for both platforms. Don’t worry, you can still manage them from a single console and install them through a single installer.

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Last and most important question: what’s the price?

Koene: Login Consultants has a reputation in the market for delivering the best and finest free tooling in this market space, therefore the ADMX client will also be freely available from our website www.loginconsultants.com/download (registration is required).

Server App-V beta available as part of SCVMM 2012 Beta!

Finally everyone can get their hands on Server App-V and start to learn how to leverage this new technology of decoupling server-side applications. You can find some guidance in the Microsoft Server Application Virtualization Beta documentation.

The binaries are actually available after you have installed System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 Beta evaluation.

Immidio AppScriber 3 released!

Today Immidio released AppScriber 3 in two editions, Express and Enterprise. Immidio AppScriber 3 is an Enterprise app store for corporate environments and is an excellent add-on for App-V.

The Express edition is free to use with unlimited amount of users!

The following main features are new to Immidio AppScriber 3 Enterprise:

  • Custom Item Types - Allows the creating of other resources besides applications, like Printers, shares, etc…
  • Multilanguage user interface - English, German and Dutch
  • Optional 2-level workflow - Introduces a mid teer Reviewer. Configurable on a per application base
  • UI customization - To optionally create company look and feel

See Immidio AppScriber 3 Enterprise in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xF7e5cc71mA

For more information and download please visit: http://immidio.com/appscriber

 

Diagnostics in the App-V 4.6 SP1 Sequencer

About 12 months after the initial release of App-V 4.6, Microsoft released the first Service Pack of version 4.6 of its Application Virtualization product. App-V 4.6 SP1 covers many exciting new features and the most interesting part of it is that practically all of them are around the sequencer! As far as I know this is the first time in the history of App-V that so much effort and improvement is done only in the tool to transform traditional applications into virtual ones. In this post I will address one of the features I like the most and have been asking for and talking about for years: internal diagnostics.

Most organizations turn to App-V because they want to reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of their IT infrastructure. For App-V this cost efficiency lies in the fact that the process of creating virtual applications is simplified compared to traditional applications. Traditional applications are more difficult to create because they make assumptions about their execution environment and make changes to the target system, which could potentially decrease the stability of the system or cause other applications to malfunction. Virtual applications however never make changes to the system and their dependencies can be either virtualized together with the main application or suited as a separate virtual application.

But as with any piece of technology, App-V also has its limitations. Some applications, or parts of an application, may not work correctly when they have been virtualized. Applications that are tightly integrated with the operating system or for example use COM+ or kernel-level drivers, contain components that are not supported with App-V. The issue with all previous versions of the sequencer is that to know that an application has such components, you’d have to virtualize and test it on a target machine. This means that you’ve already went through the entire virtualization process.

Service Pack 1 of App-V has been altered just for this scenario. When the sequencer notices that the applications uses unsupported components it will bring this to your attention during the sequencing process. This way you don’t have to go through the process of testing and troubleshooting the application only to find out it can’t be virtualized. The following possible issues are detected by the sequencer:

  • Drivers
  • COM+
  • SxS Conflicts
  • Shell Extensions

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Picture 1: 7zip uses shell extensions which were reported by the sequencer.

Another great addition to the sequencer’s intelligence is that it also gives you an extensive report of files and registry keys that were excluded from the package. With earlier versions you could spend a lot of time figuring out why the application was running on your sequencer machines and wasn’t running on your target machines. This information is not only presented during the sequencing process but it’s also saved as report.xml in your project directory for later reference.

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Picture 2: Google Chrome installs its main executable in an excluded directory, which was reported by the sequencer.

When you are updating an application and the sequencer notices that the machine you are currently running on does not have the same baseline as the one you created your sequence on, it will give you information about these differences. System differences might influence the way the application is behaving, which is not preferred. If you think the application might have issues with these differences, you can change the system accordingly. The sequencer looks in your Add/Remove Programs control panel applet to find installation differences.

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Picture 3: The .NET Framework was updated compared to the version that was installed on the machines where the sequence was created on.

Improving the success rate of virtual applications can also be done before the sequencing process. Microsoft has summarized many best practices in the whitepaper [Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.6 Sequencing Guide; http://bit.ly/SeqWp46Sp1]. However more than once, inexperienced people are not familiar with these best-practices and run into trouble during the rest of the process. The App-V 4.6 SP1 sequencer checks most of the common best-practices prior to starting the sequencing process.

It will warn you when certain services are running that can negatively influence your virtual application because they can lock certain files (like Windows Defender or Windows Search) or because they may update your system in the background (like Windows Update or the Configuration Manager client). If these changes accidently end up in your sequence it may become unnecessary large, slow or even unusable. But also pending reboots, non-reverted virtual machines or other running applications are reported.

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Picture 4: Pending reboots, Windows Defender, Windows Search, Clean Machine, Disk Defragmenter, Configuration Manager Client; all were detected by the sequencer prior to starting the virtualization process.

Like I said in my introduction, I’m very excited by these new features because it will improve the predictability and success rate of App-V virtual applications. It definitely saves a tremendous amount of time troubleshooting applications because of malfunctioning.