Building a case for upgrading to App-V 4.6 SP1

Microsoft released the Service Pack 1 upgrade to the App-V 4.6 Sequencer and Client in March 2011 as part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) for Software Assurance 2011.  This release did not affect the Management and Streaming Server components of App-V; therefore the latest release of both products is still 4.5 SP2.

There is no significant impact of SP1 on the App-V Client. Most of the changes are reflected in the App-V Sequencer which includes newer features to mainly simplify the sequencing process. The features of the SP1 are:

  • Improved User Interface: The user interface has been further simplified with a step-by-step guide during all phases of the sequencing, thereby reducing the know-how required to sequence non-complex applications. In addition, the sequencer also informs you of processes that might be running that may likely interfere with the sequencing operation.
  • Installation Report: The feature provides reporting on potential compatibility issues that might prevent successful App-V virtualization. This is similar to using the virtualization modules in  AppTitude by AppDNA and ChangeBase AOK, but with one application at a time.
  • Package Accelerators: They allow you to convert traditional applications into App-V packages without manually sequencing the application. Microsoft has released package accelerators and other vendors are following suit. This will reduce the level of know-how required to sequence applications.
  • Settings Templates: They let you re-use of commonly used settings which can reduce the time period for the completion of sequencing.
  • Command Line Sequencer: The command line sequencer has been enhanced to better support applications that may not allow for the execution of the sequencer graphical user interface (GUI).
  • Auto Preparation of the Sequencing Environment: The creation of the dummy ODBC connection and the sequencing drive are both automated, thereby reducing the time required to setup a sequencing machine.
  • 8.3 Limitation: The 8.3 limitation on the App-V Asset Directory (Primary Virtual Application Directory) no longer applies.

These aforementioned features offer tremendous benefits. Some of these benefits are:

  • Reduction in Sequencing Efforts: The Improved User Interface, Built-in Diagnostics, Package Accelerators and Setting Templates do significantly reduce the amount of time taken to sequence applications.
  • Better Diagnostics for difficult to sequence applications: Although, tools like Dependency Walker, Process Monitor and Process Explorer will still be useful to diagnose issues when sequenced applications malfunction, the diagnostics provides an insight into potential problems when sequencing specific applications, in places where tools like AppTitude and AOK do not exist
  • Cost of Sequencing: A reduction in the time taken to sequence applications will reduce the cost of application provisioning as packaging (sequencing) contributes to a significant chunk of the application provisioning process.
  • Supportability: Having the latest version of the components helps with support by Microsoft.
  • Security: The service pack includes all released hotfixes thereby increasing your protection from security vulnerabilities.

 Despite the numerous benefits provided by the upgraded components, there are impacts of upgrading and these are described below:

  • Training Cost & Time: Support personnel and application packagers may need to be re-trained in order to get them acquainted with this new version. This is not expected to be significant. Those already familiar with sequencing should be able to become proficient in using App-V 4.6 SP1 Sequencer in 3 hours.
  • Change to Sequencing Standards: Sequencing (Packaging) standards may need to be redefined in organizations willing to benefit from the removal of the 8.3 limitation on the Asset Directory naming.
  • Change to Sequencing Processes: The auto-preparation of the Sequencing Environment during the installation of the App-V 4.6 SP1 Sequencer may change the way the sequencing machines are prepared.

 Every change does introduce some level of risk. Some of the risks associated with this change are presented in the Table below:

Description Impact Assessment Probability Countermeasures
Packages created in earlier versions of the App-V Sequencer may malfunction on the new client Small.Applications created in versions of the sequencer pre-dating version 4.2.2.15 will be the main risks. These applications may have to be opened up in the Sequencer and saved, or completely re-sequenced. Low Test applications created in earlier versions of the Sequencer pre-dating version 4.5
The Client cannot be deployed to computers with more than 64 processors Small.Most desktop systems do not have up to 64 processors Low Perform a hardware inventory of your enterprise and provide applications using other application provisioning systems e.g. RDS to users of workstations with more than 64 processors
User folder names do not correspond to the package names on the App-V Client when the Asset Directory is longer than the 8.3 format Small Low Stick with the 8.3 limitation for the Asset Directory naming
Sequencing a plug-in with side by side components may fail when expanding the parent package Small Low Some registry keys should be deleted after expanding the package.
Path from package template may be lost if it does not end in a forward slash (/) Small Low Use a trailing forward slash (/) in the HREF path.

                                                                                Table 1: Risks

Although a detailed investment appraisal with a payback calculation cannot be done as each environment will be different, the following factors should be taken into consideration: cost of re-training, cost of testing virtual packages created in earlier version of the App-V Sequencer pre-dating 4.5, cost of re-sequencing some virtual packages, cost of updating processes and sequencing standards, cost of upgrading the App-V Client etc.

Overall, there are significant benefits and very little risk to upgrading to App-V 4.6 Service Pack 1.

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