App-V 5.0 is a pivotal upgrade to Microsoft's application virtualization technology. With this upgrade comes a reworked App-V package format, improved streaming, easier connectivity among virtualized applications and side-by-side support for existing 4.5/4.6 packages. Other key features of App-V 5.0 include mounting of App-V applications to folders instead of the Q: drive, removal of size limitations and streamlined integration of virtualized applications with other desktop applications via extensions.
Many companies are actively looking at incorporating application virtualization within their environments. Because virtualization alleviates many application-to-application compatibility issues, it's an attractive solution and, when done correctly, there is a significant cost advantage. In addition, many of the trappings of preparing a deployable, packaged application are unnecessary when generating a virtualized application. If you currently use App-V in your environment, you'll find a lot to like in this release. If you've been holding off on App-V adoption, App-V 5.0 is worth a second look.
AdminStudio Suite is the quickest way to take advantage of App-V 5.0. AdminStudio includes specific enhancements for identifying suitable candidates, creating App-V packages, converting your existing App-V 4.5/4.6 packages, editing App-V packages and deploying App-V 5.0 packages. Whether you have a legacy installer, an .MSI package or an App-V 4.5/4.6 package, AdminStudio can make the creation and conversion process simple. Let's take a look.
Qualifying App-V Applications
The first thing you'll want to do is verify the application's suitability for App-V 5.0. A prerequisite for testing is importing the applications into the Application Catalog through the Application Manager. Importing applications is done through the Catalog tab of the Application Manager. Importing consists of reading the tables and summary information from the Windows Installer package into a SQL Server database. Reading this data into the database allows the Test Center to not only access that data directly, but also run comparisons against all other packages.
The Test Center contains hundreds of application tests that range from operating system compatibility to best practices. This test suite includes specific tests for operating system compatibility and best practices for App-V packages. After importing the application into the Application Catalog, move to the Test Center tab and use the 'Select Tests to Execute' option to identify the tests to perform. By default, all tests are enabled. You can disable tests that are not applicable to your environment. When the Test Center has finished, you'll have a detailed report on the package suitability for virtualization. From this report, you can drill deeper to find out the exact issues that prohibit virtualization.
Creating App-V Applications
After you've identified a suitable candidate, the next step is creating the App-V 5.0 package. You can do this in one of three ways. If you're converting from a legacy installer, you can create the App-V 5.0 package during the repackaging process through the Repackager or through the InstallShield Editor. If you're converting a Windows Installer package, you can use either the InstallShield Editor or the Automated Application Converter (AAC). If you're starting from an App-V 4.5/4.6 package, then you'll use the App-V Upgrade Wizard within the Application Manager.
Although it's becoming less common, you may still need to convert a legacy installer to the Windows Installer format. Along the way, you can also create the App-V package. Creating an App-V 5.0 package from a legacy installer follows the standard repackaging process. After reviewing the repackaged results, the option to create the App-V 5.0 package is shown within Repackaged Output view. Selecting this option and selecting Build generates the App-V 5.0 package within the repackaging project folder. Another option is to create the InstallShield project file from within the Repackager view and convert the subsequent .MSI.
If you have an .MSI package (from a vendor or created through repackaging), you can convert it directly to App-V from within the InstallShield Editor. Open either the .MSI or .ISM within InstallShield and move to the Microsoft App-V tab. The icons across the bottom guide you through the options as you configure your App-V package.
The above processes for both repackaging and .MSI conversion can be done in bulk or batch mode through the AAC. For bulk import, nothing is quicker than using the AAC. Point the AAC at a folder and, if necessary, a virtual environment and turn it loose. The AAC evaluates each package. In most cases, the conversion happens directly. If additional work is needed, it's handled automatically: AAC spins up the virtual environment, converts the package to remove any limits to virtualization and creates the virtualized application. This process occurs with no intervention on the part of the packager. The AAC processes each package until all are virtualized.
After conversion, the final output .APPV file, as well as any intermediary files, are located in the package source folder. These intermediary files are useful if you need to modify the package is required.
Migrating App-V 4.5 / 4.6 Packages
Up to this point, we've talked about converting an .MSI install image to an App-V 5.0 package. AdminStudio also migrates App-V 4.5 and 4.6 packages to App-V 5.0. Using the App-V Upgrade Wizard from within the Application Manager, you identify the App-V 4.5 or 4.6 package, right-click and select Launch Upgrade Wizard.
Editing App-V Applications
For App-V packages that require more finesse, the Virtual Package Editor (VPE) is available for editing .APPV packages. While the new .APPV file format is editable after decompression, changes to the package do not result in a usable package. The VPE resolves this issue by allowing editing as well as saving the results.