Parallels RAS integrates with Microsoft App-V

What Is Microsoft App-V?

Commonly known as Microsoft App-V, Microsoft Application Virtualization is a component of Windows server operating systems. It provides separation and isolation capabilities for applications running on the operating system.

The App-V Server provides a centralized console to manage the App-V infrastructure and deliver applications to Windows servers.

Most organization desktop applications can be virtualized with App-V. There are some restrictions, and situations that might work but best to avoid.

Organizations won’t be able to deploy 100% through App-V, so some things will go out through another method. Maybe they will be in the master image for the operating system, maybe you’ll use SCCM (or other ESD solution) to deploy MSIs for native install, maybe you’ll use a masking (FSLogix) or layering (UniDesk, etc) product. App-V can probably support a much higher percentage of your applications than any one of the other techniques, so most customers will start with looking a virtualizing new application requests with App-V first and using another method as a fallback.

How App-V Works

Applications are prepared for virtualization using the App-V Sequencer tool. The App-V Application server hosts the virtualized applications and streams them to the clients, where they are executed. The App-V client software is installed on the client computers and it presents the virtualized applications that the user is authorized to access. There are two different clients, one for Windows Desktops and one for Remote Session Hosts.

The App-V technology is powerful, but it’s not simple. It involves a number of components, including:

The machine that contains the server contains can be Windows Server 2003/R2 or Windows Server 2008/R2. The Sequencer, which you need if you want to package (sequence) your own applications, is installed on a separate machine. Virtual application packages are different from traditional installers – because they deliver the application without actually installing it.

Packaging applications can be a complex operation because you need to be very familiar with the application itself and with the Windows Registry, user profiles, environmental variables, application troubleshooting and VB scripting. The App-V virtual environment that creates a virtual Registry for each application and thus keeps the applications from conflicting with one another is called SystemGuard. Another App-V feature, Dynamic Suite Composition (DSC), can merge two SystemGuard environments so that two virtualized applications can access one another’s virtual Registries and file systems.

The App-V client can be installed on XP, Vista or Windows 7 (32 bit only). The App-V management server handles the publishing requests from clients. The management server checks the App-V XML cache, which lists all the App-V applications, file associations, and policies, to get the user’s application list, and creates an XML document that contains the information for that specific user. The client then uses that document to determine configuration information for the application. The XML cache is permanently stored on a SQL database, which can be on a SQL Server or SQL Express.

A nice feature of App-V is that administrators can control the file associations so that you assign which program will open files with a specified extension. Even if a user manually overrides this and sets a different application to open that file type, the virtual application will associate itself with the file type and overwrite the change whenever the client computer requests a publishing refresh.

Deploying App-V

Your first step in devising a deployment plan for App-V in your organization is to which applications you need to virtualize. That means you’ll need to collect and analyze information regarding the applications that are being used currently, how, by whom, and how often.

When we talk about how the applications are being used, that includes whether users are using them on-site or remotely. How many telecommuters or mobile users do you have? What type of work are they doing with the applications? The best design for your App-V deployment will depend on the answers to these questions. You can deploy App-V in any of the following ways:

Note that streaming applications across a wide area networking connection can result in performance problems. It’s better to obtain only the application authorization from the central server across the WAN and have Application Source Root (ASR), Icon Source Root (ISR) and OSD Source Root (OSR) files streamed from a local server.

You can find detailed information and instructions for each of these deployment models in the excellent book Mastering Microsoft Virtualization by Tim Cerling et al and published by Sybex.

App-V and Remote Desktop Services

Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services (RDS) replaces Terminal Services and offers a way to deliver virtualized applications to users who are using either thin clients or full-featured PCs. As mentioned previously, App-V itself is not a thin client solution nor a replacement for RDS. However, it can be used in combination with RDS. You can deliver App-V applications to your RDS servers and then use RemoteApp to present them to your thin (or thick) clients over RDP.

Since the Windows Server 2008 version of Terminal Services, we’ve been able to deliver individual applications via RDP using the RemoteApp feature. However, sometimes problems arise with application conflicts in RDS deployments. If applications conflict, they must be run on separate session hosts (the RD session host is equivalent to the former Terminal Services application mode server).  This results in a form of server sprawl and managing many RDS silos is expensive and takes a great deal of administrative time and effort.

Using App-V for Remote Desktop Services, you can reduce or eliminate software conflicts, since different applications run in their own isolated virtual environments. You can also run multiple versions of the same application, and you can run many applications that didn’t work with Terminal Services/RDS. Because you don’t have to worry about application conflicts, less testing is required before deployment, which makes for faster deployment and lowers administrative overhead/cost. You can consolidate RDS servers and get a better return on investment from your RDS servers.

A really big advantage of using App-V with RDS is that it makes application deployment so much easier and faster. Previously, when you installed a new application on a Terminal Server/RDS Server, you had to log off all users and change the mode. With App-V, you can deploy applications without having to log users off or reboot the server. Likewise, it makes it easier to install application updates.

The App-V license is included in the Windows Server 2008 R2 Client Access License (CAL) so no additional client license is required.

Parallels RAS and Microsoft App-V

Parallels RAS integrates with Microsoft App-V, allowing administrators to publish packaged applications and reducing the need to remediate application conflicts that rely on App-V separation and isolation capabilities to run applications on the operating systems. Application updates can be delivered from a central location, streaming the delivery directly to the servers. In addition, the use of App-V’s structure RDS CALs are automatically included in the license; no separate license for RDS CALs is required.

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