It is with great enthusiasm that the Microsoft Application Virtualization product team announces the Release to Manufacturing (RTM) of App-V 4.5!!! App-V 4.5 represents a huge step forward for the product and is the result of many hours of hard work by all of us on the team. Our TAP customers (selected customers who work closely with us to deploy the product into production prior to its final release) and our internal Microsoft IT team have already successfully deployed the product in production to more than 70,000 seats! We are very excited that all of our customers will soon be able to use App-V 4.5 to improve the way that they distribute and run applications in their environments!
Since the RTM of SoftGrid 4.2 last year, we have been working to take that great release and expand upon it. Besides changing the name and making it the first Microsoft-branded release, we’ve done a lot in this release for those of you who are responsible for deploying and administering App-V worldwide in your enterprise. It includes new capabilities designed to help IT support large-scale virtualization implementations across many sites and provides multiple delivery options, including over-the-internet application delivery. Newly added support for eleven languages enables your users to work in localized environments with localized applications. Dynamic Suite Composition (DSC) provides administrator-controlled virtual application communication and interaction. Compliance with Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing and Secure by Default initiatives was also introduced in this release. Finally, integration with Microsoft System Center Management Products and infrastructure updates via Windows Update will make managing the product even easier.
What is App-V 4.5 all about?
There’s so much in this release that I can’t do it all justice in this blog post. Instead, I’d like to focus below on a few of the big feature areas we had with the release. For the complete details of what App-V is all about, especially if you are new to the product, please see the App-V product web page. Also look to this blog for future postings by the product team.
Scalable Infrastructure Options with Centralized Management
The key idea here is that we wanted to provide flexibility in the way customers can deploy App-V, allowing each customer to scale their implementation in the best possible way for their environment. We have retained the server product that existed in previous releases: we now call it the Microsoft System Center Application Virtualization Management Server. This Management Server serves two functions; it provides publishing information about applications (shortcuts, file type associations, etc.) and also is responsible for delivery of applications to clients via RTSP or RTSPS streaming. This server leverages both SQL Server and Active Directory.
An App-V 4.5 deployment could consist entirely of a single or multiple Management Servers. However, customers asked us for the ability to separate the publishing and delivery roles and we’ve provided that with App-V 4.5. With this greater flexibility, it also enables customers to use their existing investments in a Enterprise Software Delivery (ESD) system. Here are some of the features that enable this increased scalability and lightweight infrastructures:
· The Microsoft System Center Application Virtualization Streaming Server. This Streaming Server leverages RTSP or RTSPS for the delivery of applications to clients, but does not perform publishing. For customers who are used to the way the Management Server works, this Streaming Server will make it easy for them to expand their deployments to many sites and still retain the server-controlled Active Upgrade functionality.
· The delivery of applications via streaming from standard Windows file shares. Since Windows file shares are so prevalent in customer environments, the ability to stream from these servers, especially in smaller offices that don’t have multiple servers, will allow customers to more easily expand their deployments to their entire enterprise.
· The delivery of applications via HTTP from an IIS server (version 6 or 7). Again, IIS servers are prevalent in customer environments and the ability to stream from an IIS server will reduce the need for additional App-V servers in many cases. In addition, IIS scales well to very large numbers of users and customers will be able to leverage this functionality when planning their large deployments of App-V.
· The publishing and delivery of applications through a standalone MSI-based installer, which can be delivered offline via a CD/DVD or deployed via an existing software distribution mechanism that the customer currently has deployed.
· Additionally, the MSI-based installer has the option to just be used for publishing, without the need for a server, with application delivery occurring from one of the other scenarios described above.
· Full integration of App-V with Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr) 2007 R2. If a customer chooses to use the integration with ConfigMgr 2007 R2, then publishing and delivery of applications in handled entirely by the ConfigMgr infrastructure using native ConfigMgr capabilities. Customers do not need to deploy a separate App-V server infrastructure or database. For an experienced SCCM administrator, deploying virtual applications will seamless with deploying traditional applications.
· With these new abilities that allow workstations to receive their publishing and delivery information from different sources, it was important that we make it easy for administrators to control which server a particular client should connect to. We introduced the Application Source Root (ASR) configuration to allow this for the delivery of the .sft file itself (usually the largest part of a package). When the ASR is configured on a particular client, it will override the server information contained in the OSD file for each application on the workstation and instead direct the client to the server specified for downloading the file. This will be extremely important especially in large deployments, where there may be slow network links and administrators want to ensure that clients connect to their local server for the application data itself. Likewise, we created the OSD Source Root (OSR) and Icon Source Root (ISR) to similarly control where clients will download their applications’ OSD and icon files from.
It is important to note that App-V can still be used in Terminal Services deployments as well and we’ve updated our Terminal Services client with this release as well!
Customers now have the flexibility choose the publishing and delivery of applications that makes the most sense for their environment. Centralized management via built-in App-V components, ConfigMgr 2007 R2 integrated with App-V or an existing PC Lifecycle Management solution will allow customers to scale to the size they need in their enterprise.
Dynamic Application Virtualization
A core benefit of application virtualization is that each application is isolated from other applications on the workstation. This eliminates the possibility of the applications conflicting with each other and causing user down time. This in turn eliminates the need for IT administrators to test all of their applications together to identify these conflicts. However, sometimes it is desirable for applications to be able to interact with each other. Most often this is true with the case of plug-in or middleware software that is used with another piece of software.
Previously, the only solution would have been to suite both applications together into a single package, allowing the applications to communicate. However, with many different combinations of different software being used together in an enterprise, this became very difficult to manage. With App-V 4.5, we have introduced a feature called Dynamic Suite Composition (DSC) that is targeted at solving the plug-in and middleware issues specifically. This feature allows an administrator to dynamically suite different plug-in and middleware application packages together with a primary application so that the applications can interact with each other, while maintaining only a single package for each application and reducing total package sizes. Updating packages is now much easier as there is only a single package to update for each application instead of many. We think this feature will be very valuable to our customers, who want to minimize the cost of deploying plug-in and middleware applications and also leverage the benefits of application virtualization.
In addition, in order to simplify the process of creating virtual applications, we have improved and simplified the user interface of the Sequencer. There is now a single wizard for creating a new package and advanced settings have been put into an optional screen. Also, enhancements have been made that will make editing packages even easier.
Support for Microsoft Standards
A large part of this release was a focus on features that are important to Microsoft’s enterprise customers. Here’s some of those features:
· App-V 4.5 is the first version of the product to be developed according to the Microsoft Security Development Lifecycle. The product now has the Microsoft standard Secure by Default configuration out of the box.
· With RTM, the product is now localized into 11 languages other than English. This will enable many customers worldwide to see the App-V interface in their native language.
· Applications written in any non-English languages (except complex script languages) can now be successfully virtualized and deployed via App-V.
· Management of the product has been improved with the addition of several new features:
o An OpsMgr 2007 Management Pack will allow customers to centrally monitor an App-V infrastructure.
o An Active Directory ADM template will allow customers to centrally manage settings on client installations.
o A VSS Writer will improve the process of backing up and restoring an App-V infrastructure.
o Windows Update will be used to deploy hotfixes for the product infrastructure components.
o Reporting has been improved such that a new WMI provider is used to collect offline application usage data and then the offline data is sent back to a Management Server (if one is being used in the infrastructure) when the client comes back online.
· App-V 4.5 is now compliant with Section 508 accessibility standards and the product’s Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) will be placed on our website for customers to review.
How to Obtain the RTM and Receive Support!
The RTM version of the product will be generally available through the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack and Microsoft Application Virtualization for Terminal Services. Please contact your Microsoft Account Representative for details. Also, support for App-V 4.5 will be available through Microsoft Product Support Services.
All of us here on the product team are really excited to have reached this milestone! We’d like to thank all of you that tested the product before we released it, especially our TAP customers. Without your help, we could not have created such a great product!
– The App-V Product Team