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How to upgrade to Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.6 | February 23, 2010


Now that MS App-V 4.6 has been released, one of the tasks is to define an upgrade path for your SoftGrid 4.2/4.2/App-V 4.5 infrastructure to the new App-V 4.6 release.

If you already run App-V within your organsation, probably the new key feature – 64 bit Client support – is not that relevant for you. Howerver, you may plan to roll out Office 2010, you may plan to build an VDI envoronment or maybe you just waited for that release because you just want to upgrade you “old” SoftGrid deployment.

Upgrading to a new version always is a good time to consider and re-think your current installation:

  • How did the amount of users scale?
  • Do Subsidaries play a role in your infrastructure?
  • Do you want to use one of the new Deployment Solutions that are available with App-V 4.5/4.6?
  • Do you plan to migrate your base Operating System on Desktop computers, Terminal Servers (now RDS server) or hosted VDI environments?
  • How startegic will Application Virtualization be for your application deployment?

Some of the topics above are discussed in the Whitepaper “Choosing the right App-V Delivery Model (App-v integration: possibilities and impossibilities)” by my colleague Ment van der Plans.

Jeroen van der Kamp wrote a short summup at http://www.brianmadden.com/blogs/jeroenvandekamp/archive/2010/02/19/choosing-the-right-app-v-delivery-model.aspx.

So, let’s focus on some dry technical stuff

Compability – Will my applications work after an upgrade?

The basic answer is: They should, but you have to test them.
Beginning with the shift from SoftGrid to App-V 4.5, Microsoft implemented different changes to the “internal format” of App-V packages. One of the most visible advantages of these changes were the capability to merge different Virtual Environments during runtime – Dynamic Suite Composition (DSC). On the other hand, this changes also affected the virtualization approach. Starting with App-V 4.5, Microsoft basically does not support Virtualization of Dot.Net Framework except for XP workstations (see http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=123412).
With the introduction of App-V 4.6 and its 64-bit client support some additional changes may occur.
Microsoft published a Compability Matrix that shows that (essentially) indicates Support for older packages on newer Clients. However, you may (and I’m sure you will) see applications that have been packaged in the past that won’t run with you new infrastructure. This is esp. true for 32-bit applications running on 64-bit clients or XP-sequenced applications running on Win7 or W2008R2 RDS. I even expect that some applications will fail simply by upgrading the App-V Client (same OS, same platform).

Therefore: Test before you deploy!

Application Upgrade recommendations

So, what to do for the application upgrades? Formerly, it always was recommended by MS and Softricity to “Open & Save” each package in order to apply new internal optimizations, new parameters for the OSDs and others.
If you are moving from SoftGrid to App-V, I still would recommend this. According to the current experience with App-V during the TAP program I think re-saving is not required for 4.5 Packages (except for the “MSI issue” that we’ll look at in the next section).
However, some applications may need to be re-sequenced (either by Open-for-Upgrade and performing an MSI repair or by completely new Sequencing) but this should not be the case for lots of applications.
Community experience for the SoftGrd/App-V upgrade in the past differs from “we had to re-sequence lots of applications” to the much more frequent “only 1-2% of the apps had to be re-sequenced”. My feeling is that there might have been some very special applications or some home-grown issues with the first group

Migration Path – What is the right order to migrate?

This is a quite common question and has been discussed several times. The most important rule is

Clients first

Current App-V Clients support older Packages and can communicate with older App-V/SoftGrid servers. There is one exception if you use “Publishing MSIs” to unveil applications to the user’s working space. MSIs created with the old “MSI tool” by MS or with Sequencers prior to Sequencer 4.5.1.15580 (4.5 CU1) will fail on 4.6 clients because of a incorrect version check (maybe MS should “shim” the installer, right ;-) ).
There are two possible solutions for this: Create a new MSI with a “current” Sequencer Version (you may use the Sequencer’s command line options) or adjust the “old” MSI during installation by using a Transforms File (MST) that can be found here. [Addition 2010-02-26: The App-V Team Blog describes this more detailed at http://blogs.technet.com/appv/archive/2010/02/25/how-to-use-pre-4-6-msi-packages-with-the-app-v-4-6-client.aspx]
Do not only test the if the apps work with the new client. Also test the migration process itself.

Server second

In the second step, you usually should upgrade your Management Servers/Streaming Servers (formerly VAS). This is to support potentially new function that may be included in new App-V Packages (like for DSC in the past).
For the 4.6 Release of App-V, this is not necessary, because a 4.6 deployment essentially uses a version 4.5 server infrastructure.

Sequences third

The latest component to upgrade should be your production App-V Sequencer. However, I told you to test your applications with the new versions first, so you may already have an 4.6 Sequencer to re-sequence applications that require that.
Upgrading the Sequencer is a perfect situation to review the Sequencer Recommendations including Anti Virus, Microsoft Updates and Core Component Updates. This has been discussed briefly in my blog here.

Summary

  • Most of the old packages should work, however some may require re-saving or re-sequencing. Especially observe old Win2000/XP applications, .Net applications and 32-applications running on 64-bit clients
  • Test all you applications with the new Client
  • Test the upgrade Process itself (Client, Server)
  • Client first, then Server. Seuqencer last
  • Do not mix an App-V Upgrade with other Upgrades (OS, Office, other applications)

[Addition 2010-04-03: See also Microsoft’s “Application Virtualization Deployment and Upgrade Checklists” at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff361457.aspx]

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