ConfigMgr 101: Virtual Applications

In my opinion, one of the most fascinating features in ConfigMgr 2012 is the introduction of much better support for virtual applications sequenced using the App-V Sequencer. This latest post in the ConfigMgr 101 series looks at how this feature works, how it is different from ConfigMgr 2007 and how we use it.

What is App-V?

Before we kick off this post in anger and really get into the details what exactly is App-V? We can describe App-V with the following bullet points.

  • Ability to sequence applications for delivery to client machines
  • Actions and operations are controlled by a management server and applications streamed via streaming points
  • Allows for rapid deployment of applications

It removes the need for local installation of the applications. Instead, only the App-V client needs to be installed on the client machines. All application data is permanently stored on the virtual application server. Whichever software is needed is either streamed or locally cached from the application server on demand and run locally. The App-V stack sandboxes the execution environment so that the application does not make changes to the client itself. The basic concept of App-V is really as follows (this is very high level).

App-V in ConfigMgr 2007

Now we have a basic understanding of what App-V does, let’s have a look at how we used App-V in ConfigMgr 2007. We ran App-V as a standalone system and enabled the use of virtual applications in ConfigMgr 2007. The configuration was less than elegant if truth be told, not a huge amount of people configured the integration or at least configured it, saw what they lost from App-V as a standalone product and removed the integration.

The following diagram shows how the infrastructure would look when we configured the integration.

As you can just see from looking at the above graphic, we needed to keep the majority of our infrastructure. Essentially you were managing two systems for one output and just using the distribution methods of ConfigMgr to deploy the content. However, things changed in ConfigMgr 2012.

App-V in ConfigMgr 2012

So as we are in ConfigMgr 2012, the streaming technology which makes App-V great is now built into the distribution point role out of the box, no additional configuration is required. We still require the App-V client to be installed on endpoints but this is now installed in standalone mode and is now just responsible for managing the virtual package which is delivered by ConfigMgr. Like App-V standalone you can still selectively publish features in the application known as feature blocks. Now is a good time to revisit the above diagram but for ConfigMgr 2012.

Again, just by looking at this diagram you can see how much simpler the integration is. We remove the need for the App-V infrastructure. This is where you would normally expect a load of screen shots on how to set the system up, not in this case. All this functionality is out of the box, just install the App-V client locally and then sequence your application as normal. Okay so not strictly true you need a distribution point but nothing out of the ordinary! To import your manifest XML file, create a new application and select Microsoft Application Virtualization from the drop down, drop the UNC path to the manifest and continue through the wizard.


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About Martyn

Martyn is one of the Senior Cloud Architects and DevOps Team Leader at one of the worlds leading Cloud Transformation Specialists Inframon. Martyn is responsible for the architecture of some of the largest Azure deployments in EMEA and is a advisor to a many businesses on their strategies. Martyn is a regular speaker at Microsoft events and community events on Azure and DevOps, giving his insight to a growing number of audiences.

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