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Upgrade Microsoft SoftGrid 4.2 to App-V 4.6

A few months ago Microsoft released the last version of App-V with the release number 4.6. App-V 4.6 biggest improvements are fully 64 bit support, both for a 64bit App-V client as the possibility to sequence a 64 bit application (like Office 2010). Although this major improvement, this was not the reason for this customer to upgrade to this version. Actually 4.5 would fulfill their needs, but why wouldn't we upgrade to the latest version if this one is available soon.

Major reasons to upgrade to a newer version for this customer were:

  • Possibility to use streaming only, because the customer is also using a user management product (RES PowerFuse) assignment of application is already arranged in this product.
  • To solve the well know bug that a sequence cannot be updated after several updates (customer has an application that changes every month).
  • The possibility to link sequenced applications to each other (dynamic suite composition).
  • To use one of the latest versions available of the software product used in the infrastructure.



Plan of approach

As mentioned in the major reason to upgrade we would like to switch to streaming only App-V infrastructure, so the application doesn't have to be assigned twice (in the SoftGrid Management Console and the RES PowerFuse Management console). Therefore we decided to build two new servers (based on Windows 2008 R2) and install the server component of App-V on those servers. In this way we could test all parts independent of the current production environment. We decided to use MS NLB again for the load balancing between the two servers. Within the new content share all current virtualized application will be copied and test if those run well with App-V 4.6 (according to MS the packages could be used in this new version). Also we would like to a client by client migrating approach (customer is running Windows 2003 with Citrix XenApp 5 as front-end where the App-V client runs), so we should figure out how we can accomplish that (think of the settings for the location of the SFT files and the path where the client resides).

Building the environment

Installing the server on Windows 2008 R2 works like a charm; also the NLB configuration is a bit easier on this platform in comparison with previous operating system versions.  Then we started creating the automated installation of the App-V client. Unfortunate the client cannot be upgraded, so the current client should be uninstalled first, before the new client can be installed. While uninstalling the client the global cache and the registry settings are retained. We want/need to start without any history, so we removed this information as well. When creating the unattended the prerequisites are really tight. You exactly need the correct Visual C++ components, so the advice is to extract those out of the delivered app-v client installation executable. This customer is using the %SFT_SERVER% variable for pointing to the SFT location within the OSD's. Because we are already using custom ADM templates (delivered by Microsoft and Login Consultants) we created a new OU and changed within the GPO the SFT_SERVER variable to the new NLB cluster. By placing the server this OU he automatically uses the new App-V servers and who know exactly which server was using which SoftGrid/App-V infrastructure.

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While converting the first Citrix server we encountered that we used the default installation path for both clients. Because we would like to seamless integrate the infrastructure into the current one, we don't want to create separate published applications (via RES PowerFuse) for the Citrix server which were migrated. I created a custom ADM template in which I define a new system variable. This variable is mentioning the location of the client destination path (where the sfttray.exe can be found). Using the same OU structure the variable is pointing to the 4.2 client location or the 4.6 client location. The variable is specified within RES PowerFuse for each application to start the OSD file using sfttray.exe (this principle was already used for the 4.2 environment, so only the path of the executable is changed).

Note: when using RES PowerFuse you can also use the integration option to use sfftray.exe (displays progress bar), so you don't have to create the environment variable.

The results

The customer decided to only test the major applications with the new environment, because it was too difficult to get all key users available to fully test the applications. Till know no applications were found that does not function with the App-V 4.6 infrastructure. Also the migration of a server was running really smoothly, so the customer decided after a few servers that all servers were migrated at once during their maintenance window.

We already found one application that could not be virtualized in SoftGrid 4.2, can be successfully sequenced with the App-V 4.6 sequencer. Also the customer is satisfied that the update process of the particular application is simplified.

Because the customer still is using Windows 2003 32bit Citrix servers I cannot mention anything about the 64bit client yet. However another customer is thinking of Windows 2008 R2 with App-V so maybe another article about that topic will be published soon. As this is the first real life experiences article I very interested in your opinion about this kind of articles. Is it useful, are you missing information (and so what would you like to read) or any other comments are really appreciated.