Introduction to the Application Compatibility Toolkit v5

Deploying a new Operating System or a new version of Internet Explorer is no easy task at the best of times in a heterogeneous environment.  The problem becomes exponentially more difficult when you consider the myriad of third-party applications in the typical enterprise.  We’ve posted some information about Application Compatibility in general, but we haven’t covered our own Application Compatibility Toolkit … until now.  This is going to be a multi-part post, so let’s get started.

First, let’s look at what the Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT5) offers.  ACT5 has several features to help administrators manage their application portfolio:

  • Analyze applications, web sites and computers
  • Evaluate OS Deployments, the impact of OS Updates and Web Site compatibility
  • Manage Compatibility Evaluators and Configuration Settings from a central location
  • Add and manage application compatibility issues and solutions
  • Deploy automated mitigation fixes to known compatibility issues

Before we move on to the installation, let’s take a look at the ACT5 Architecture.  The diagram below (available in the ACT5 Configuration and Troubleshooting document) illustrates the interaction between the various ACT components


So what do each of these various components do?

  • Application Compatibility Manager (ACM): Allows you to collect and analyze compatibility data so that issues can be addressed prior to the deployment of a new OS, updating the version of IE or deploying a Windows Update
  • Data Collection Package (DCP): An executable file created via the ACM that is deployed to client computers.  Each DCP can include one or more compatibility evaluators depending on the scenario
  • ACT Log Processing Service: The service that processes the ACT Log files uploaded from the client machines.  The ACT Log Processing Service adds the data returned from the clients to the ACT database
  • ACT Log Processing Share: A file share that is used by the ACT Log Processing Service to store the log files that are processed and added to the ACT database
  • ACT Database: A Microsoft SQL Server database that stores the compatibility data, including information on applications, computers and devices.  The information stored in the ACT databases is accessed through the ACM
  • Microsoft Compatibility Exchange: The Compatibility Exchange is a web service that propagates application compatibility issues from the server to the client and enables client computers to connect to Microsoft over the Internet to check for updated compatibility information

Now let’s look at four different deployment topologies.  The diagram below from the ACT5 Configuration and Troubleshooting documentation shows the supported deployment scenarios for ACT5.  Many organizations with geographically dispersed locations implement a scenario where distributed logging is used with centralized rollup logging.  In this instance, it is important to remember that the files must be moved to the ACT Log Processing share before the actual processing can occur.  The files can be moved manually, via scheduled task, through the use of Distributed File System Replication (DFSR) or any similar technology.


So how exactly does ACT5 work?  There are three distinct phases in the ACT5 cycle:

  • Phase 1: Data Collection – The first step in mitigating application compatibility issues is to collect an inventory of what is in the organization and the associated compatibility issues. 
  • Phase 2: Data Analysis – Now that you have the data, it needs to be organized and analyzed.  This includes the categorizing and prioritizing the issues so that you can begin the next phase
  • Phase 3: Testing and Mitigation – In this phase, you can test the application and determine whether or not the problems are organization specific.  Creation of mitigation packages to be deployed to clients for application compatibility issues would occur in this phase.  The use of other developer tools provided with the Application Compatibility Toolkit such as the Internet Explorer Compatibility tool, the Setup Analysis Tool and the Standard User Analyzer tool are also used to address issues.

OK – now that we have an understanding of what ACT5 is and how it works, we’re ready to set up an ACT environment.  In our next post we’ll walk through getting a simple ACT5 environment configured using a Windows XP machine as our client and a consolidated server.  In addition we will create and deploy our first Data Collection Package.  Until next time …

Additional Resources:

CC Hameed