WSA Updates in WS 2016 TP5


In Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 4 we introduced a new installer: Windows Server App (WSA). WSA is important as it is the officially supported Server Installer going forward and is the only installer available on Nano Server.  WSA is a significant shift from the traditional MSI installer technology (for more background read the blog posted in TP4).  In particular, WSA has no Custom Actions which means that it is purely declarative.  In a recent interview, our Technical Fellow Jeffrey Snover called MSI Actions “the portal to hell” for servers. WSA’s declarative architecture enables us to meet the demanding needs of server scenarios.

To increase reliability of an application’s uninstall and upgrade, we have added support for several new APPX extensions in Technical Preview 5 (TP5).  These extensions replace the old MSI way of using custom actions for creating performance counters and ETW providers, making them first class citizens that are handled by the WSA installer. Below is the current extension support:

  • NT Service – released in TP4
  • WMI provider – released in TP4
  • COM classes/Interfaces/AppIDs – released in TP4. However, the COM extension is subject to further breaking changes for Windows Server 2016 RTM and beyond.
  • Performance counter – new in TP5
  • ETW provider – new in TP5

In addition to Nano Server, WSA is now also available for the Server with Full Desktop Experience SKU.  This enables server applications to use a single, uniform WSA package regardless of which Windows Server installation option was used.

Try it out! Let us know your feedback.

TP5sample-AppxManifest

Comments (7)

  1. Tilak says:

    @Xumins, the updated TP5 Appxmanifest is not compatible with the Public Windows 10 SDK (1511). The Extensions like NTservices and WMIprovider throws error when creating the appx package. So far there isn't an SDK released publically for TP5. We are able to modify the extensions to the TP4 version and get the package created, but when install them on the TP5 build it fails to install.

    I can successful install this package on a TP4 build but fails on TP5. I am happy to share any logs or error if you need any to look into this failure.

    1. Xumins says:

      We are aware of the issue. there is the version mis-match between the TP5 WSA manifest and the SDK. could you point me to the SDK version you are using?

      1. Xumins says:

        Ok you will need to install the 14332 version of SDK. Please register to the "Windows Insider Program": https://insider.windows.com/Home/Index. And go to "For developers" section, download the "Windows SDK" which is build version 14332. However, you will need to remove COM extension from the WSA appx manifest in order to get it work.

  2. Bill says:

    Will TP5 run as an update to TP4. We have a lab server set up and would like to update, but it looks like the TP5 installer will only do a fresh install.
    Is TP5 going to be upgradeable to an RC, or even RTM?
    Would really help our testing/planning to know these things.

    1. Xumins says:

      There are breaking changes from TP4 to TP5. I suggest you to re-install the Nano server and the apps. Again, before RTM, there will be another breaking changes on COM extension. I suggest not to use this extension for now.

  3. Roman Kozchenko says:

    Hello.
    I have some troubles with changes in AppxManifest . Looks like that my version of the MakeAppx.exe tool (version 10.0.10011.16384) doesn't support the "windows.ntServices" category. Could you please clarify what I should do with this error:

    MakeAppx : error: Failure at appxFactory->CreateManifestReader(inputManifestStream.Get(), &(manifestResourceInfo->appManifestReader)) - 0x80080204 - The specified package format is not valid: The package manifest is not valid.
    MakeAppx : error: Error info: error C00CE169: App manifest validation error: The app manifest must be valid as per schema: Line 35, Column 34, Reason: 'windows.ntServices' violates enumeration constraint of 'windows.ntservice windows.wmiprovider windows.com'.
    The attribute 'Category' with value 'windows.ntServices' failed to parse.

    MakeAppx : error: Failure at (ProcessOptionsForManifestGeneration(parameters, manifestResourceInfo, parametersValid)) - 0x80080204 - The specified package format is not valid: The package manifest is not valid.
    MakeAppx : error: Package creation failed.
    MakeAppx : error: 0x80080204 - The specified package format is not valid: The package manifest is not valid.

    Maybe the update for MakeAppx tool exist?

    1. Xumins says:

      You have used an older version of SDK. Please register to the "Windows Insider Program": https://insider.windows.com/Home/Index. And go to "For developers" section, download the "Windows SDK" which is build version 14332. However, you will need to remove COM extension from the manifest in order to get it work.

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