What’s new in App-V Scheduler 2.2

About App-V Scheduler
In short: the vision of App-V Scheduler is to reduce complexity and give you visibility and control over your App-V 5 deployment. If you want to learn more about the history of App-V Scheduler, please read more about the previous releases here and here.

What’s new in App-V Scheduler 2.2
Today we are excited to announce the latest version of App-V Scheduler which adds a lot of new features and improvements, in this post we will walk through the new features in version 2.2.
Lets start with the updated service configuration window:

Configuration Window

As you can see the configuration is now grouped which makes it much more transparent and easier to understand how the service works. The configuration is split in 2 main events:

Machine boot event
Here you can configure what should happen when the machine (re)boots, for example if the App-V cache should be cleared to always start with a fresh cache or if App-V Scheduler should detect the image state to see if the image is in read-only or read\write mode. The deploy cycle will always be triggered directly when the machine boots to make sure all packages are present when the users log in to the system. The application pre-launch functionality allows you to start selected (virtual) applications to improve the initial launch time of applications for the first users logging in to the system.

Deploy cycle event
One of the main tasks of the deploy cycle is to handle the deployment of new packages and connection groups by comparing which ones are already present in the cache with the ones on the source share. The deploy cycle can be triggered in three ways:

Lets summarize the new features that are now part of the deploy cycle:

Exclude configured directories on the source share
You can now select certain directories from the content share which should be excluded by the deploy cycle, for example this allows you to archive your old package versions in a directory called archive. But this option is also very useful when you use multiple machine groups looking at the same content share. For example they can share the same folders with common packages and you can configure Machine group A to exclude Folder B and configure Machine group B to exclude Folder A. This allows you to create a very flexible App-V deployment structure. You can configure excluded directories in the general settings of App-V Scheduler (see the above service configuration screenshot).

Timing information
An important part of your App-V 5 deployment is a good understanding on how much time it takes to deploy packages so you can plan accordingly. For example if you use a non-persistent image technology like Citrix MCS\PVS and want to load all packages when the machine boots in read-only mode, it is important to know how much time this process takes. App-V Scheduler 2.2 will exactly tell you how long the deploy cycle took to finish, but will now also show you the timing information per package. For example you can see how long it took to deploy a package:

Deployed Package TimeAnd if you configured the package to mount (pre-cache) inside the cache, it will also show you the time this process took per package:

Mount Package Timing

Besides timing information, App-V Scheduler logs every action in it’s own event log source in a very readable manner, this will not only make troubleshooting easy but also gives you a good understanding on how your App-V deployment is operating.

Support for deployment configuration files
After you created (sequenced) the package and want to make certain modifications to the package configuration when it gets deployed, you can make use of the deployment configuration file. We recommend to use the ACE utility from Virtual Engine which makes it very easy and transparent to modify the deployment configuration file. After you modified the file save it in the same folder as the package with the “Save as App-V Scheduler configuration file” option in ACE. This will save the file with the .appd extension and App-V Scheduler will process the configuration automatically for you when the package is added to the machine.

Remove packages and connection groups from the cache that are no longer on the source share
The deploy cycle can now automatically remove packages and connection groups from the App-V cache that are no longer on the source share. For example when you remove or archive older versions of a package, App-V Scheduler makes sure it also gets removed from the cache on the App-V client. This feature will make sure your cache is always in balance with the content on the source and is especially useful in persistent use cases where you don’t flush the whole cache when the machine boots but want to keep control of the cache size. This feature also allows you to drain a package :

Drain and exclude package option
Maybe this sounds familiar: You want to remove a package from the source share but the moment you try to move or remove the .appv file you receive the message that the action cannot be completed because the file is currently in use. There are different reasons why this happens, for example you use SCS mode where the App-V client on the machine keeps the appv file on the share open because it directly reads data from it. But this can also happen when you use the default stream option in App-V 5 where the package is streamed to the client on-demand. This can be very annoying when you want to remove or archive old packages but it won’t allow you. With this new option you can now select a package and simply select the drain and exclude package option. When this option is selected 2 things will happen when the deploy cycle runs:

  1. The deploy cycle will skip the package to prevent it from deploying again
  2. The “remove packages that are no longer on the source share” feature will believe the package is no longer on the share and remove it from all the machines in the group

Now that the package is drained you can easily archive or move the package to another location, all by using only one click.
This feature also allows integration with other products like AmberReef, which can automate the whole packaging, test and release workflow for you. For more information about this integration check out the better2gether video.

New features in the App-V Scheduler Central View console
If you don’t know App-V Scheduler Central View yet, it’s the center piece of your App-V Scheduler deployment. Central View is a lightweight management console which gives you real-time insight and control in your App-V 5 deployment. Central View doesn’t need a dedicated server and can be very easily deployed as App-V package along side the rest of your management tool set. Lets run down the new features in Central View:

It’s now possible to create and manage connection groups directly from Central View :

CentralViewConsole

Deploying a connection group is very easy : Select 2 or more packages and click on new connection group then optionally change the priority and the name and click on save. It will now be saved automatically to your content share where the deploy cycle will pick it up and deploy it for you. Below a screenshot of the new connection group window :
New Connection GroupCentral View allows you to control all machines in a machine group at once or on individual machines by clicking on the icons in the machine header. It’s for example very easy to invoke a deploy cycle on all machines at once or only a selected machine. This is also the case for connection groups, you can view the deployed connection groups on all machines in a single view or only the connection groups on a selected machine:

Connection Group Overview

You can also select and remove connection groups directly from here.

The update connection groups option, allows you to update existing connection groups on the source share so you don’t need to manually edit or create new ones. It is especially useful if you update a package which is part of an existing connection group, the only thing you have to do is deploy the updated package, select it and click on the update groups button:

Update Connection Groups

Central View now has real-time filters to quickly see all packages that are in use or to easily search for a package, for example if you type the first letter of a package the view is filtered in real-time:

CentralView Filters

The package options have been moved from the App-V Scheduler GUI on the machine itself to the Central View console to give a more central configuration experience. Simply select a package and click on package options :

Package Options

Here you can configure if the package should be fully mounted inside the cache, or if you want to drain and exclude the package. Also you can select an application entry from the package to pre-launch to make sure the virtual environment is already loaded one time before your users log in to the system improving the user experience. It also gives you a quick overview of the package details and access to the command line hook switch which you can use as parameter for native applications to run inside the virtual environment of the package.

A few examples of validated App-V Scheduler deployments
The following examples can give you some insight into how App-V Scheduler can be configured. This configurations are validated to work, but they are only intended to give you an idea of the possibilities. They can be used as guide line but are not written down here to serve as best practice or recommended configuration.

Example of App-V Scheduler deployment in combination with non-persistent machines (like MCS\PVS)

  • Move the App-V Cache to a persistent drive (for example the same one as the write-cache)
  • Configure App-V Scheduler to detect the image state (don’t deploy packages when in read\write mode)
  • Configure App-V Scheduler to clean the cache after reboot (needed because drive is persistent)
  • Configure App-V Scheduler to remove packages that are no longer on source share (keep cache in balance during run-time and easily allows draining of packages)
  • Use SCS mode in combination with the mount specific packages option (mount packages that either perform better when fully cached or if you want them to be higher available) the combination gives you the best of both worlds
  • Set the deploy cycle timer to manual and use Central View to invoke the deploy cycle remotely. You can do this on a test machine first. After tests are performed and application functionality is verified invoke the deploy cycle on the production machines (by selecting the invoke deploy cycle on all machines in the group option)

Example of App-V Scheduler deployment in combination with persistent machines

  • Keep the App-V cache on the default location
  • Don’t clean the cache at machine reboot
  • Configure App-V Scheduler to remove packages that are no longer on source share (keep cache in balance with source)
  • Use SCS mode in combination with the mount specific packages option (mount packages that either perform better when fully cached or if you want them to be higher available) the combination gives you the best of both worlds
  • Set the deploy cycle timer to manual and use Central View to invoke the deploy cycle remotely. You can do this on a test machine first. After tests are performed and application functionality is verified invoke the deploy cycle on the production machines (by selecting the invoke deploy cycle on all machines in the group option)

For more information about supported App-V 5 cache combinations with App-V Scheduler, please read the Administrator guide which is part of the download.

What’s next for App-V Scheduler
New features are added frequently to App-V Scheduler and feature requests are always welcome!
For the next release we are also adding user publishing support in App-V Scheduler. The current versions of App-V Scheduler are based on global deployment, this means the package is published on a machine level. When you use global publishing you need to manage application access for example with GPO’s or UEM tools just like they where installed natively on the machine. User publishing is also often used to control application access by only publishing an application to a group of users, this is a good way to separate application access if you don’t use UEM tools for example. App-V Scheduler will also support user publishing in combination with global publishing so you can get the best of both worlds.

Availability
App-V Scheduler 2.2 is now available on the App-V Scheduler website.

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App-V 5 Scheduler, an easy way to deploy App-V 5 applications to your machines

app-v-5-scheduler-logo

Please note : App-V Scheduler 2.0 has been released, read more about it here

Introduction

I think it didn’t escape you but Citrix is leaving the application virtualization space, they announced that they will not further enhance and support their streaming technology on newer platforms (that is XenDesktop 7 and Windows 2012\8). A lot of customers are starting to look at App-V 5 as a replacement, but also new and customers currently on App-V 4.X are looking to benefit from the latest improvements in the App-V product. App-V 5 can be deployed and managed in the following 3 ways:

  • App-V 5 Full infrastructure (Management, Publishing and optional a report server)
  • System Center Configuration Manager (SSCM) integration
  • Standalone

The first 2 have their place and advantages, no doubt about that, but they also come with their prerequisites (like full SQL etc) and need to fit in the customers environment. Most customers I work with are using UEM (User Environment Management) tools and most of them from RES Software (Workspace manager). They want a simple method to deploy and upgrade their virtual applications and manage them with RES Workspace manager. They don’t want an extra management layer, that overlaps in functionality and adds complexity, that’s why I often used the streaming only method in App-V 4.x and with Citrix application streaming (while it had its limitations) it was even more simple : just place the profiled application on a share and import it in RES Workspace Manager, that’s it.

With this in mind I created App-V 5 Scheduler, which extends the standalone deployment method by allowing you to automatically deploy packages and connection groups on machine level with a configurable time interval. But it can do more, I will dig deeper in App-V 5 Scheduler in a sec, but first I want to note you on another great tool that’s build around the App-V 5 standalone method by well-known App-V guru Tim Mangan. This tool is called App-V Self Service and provides users with a self-service portal where they can select and deploy packages (without needing admin rights), App-V Self Service can also deploy packages automatically at user login based on AD group membership.
If you are looking for a solution to deploy packages to users and don’t want to implement the App-V 5 full infrastructure, I would highly recommend looking at this tool.

App-V 5 Scheduler takes a slightly different approach, where App-V Self Service uses deployment based on users and is triggered when a user logs in, App-V 5 Scheduler uses machine level deployment and therefore fits best in environments that uses UEM products like RES Workspace Manager to control and manage the applications and the users workspace.

App-V 5 Scheduler can also remove packages on machine start-up to keep the package installation root clean and in case you use Citrix Provisioning Server (PVS) or Machine Creation Services (MCS) it can detect when the image is in private mode so it will not deploy packages filling up your image accidently.
To keep it simple I made App-V 5 Scheduler scenario driven, it’s only necessary to select the scenario that fits your environment best. I will explain the scenarios later on but first a quick look at the base of App-V 5 Scheduler, App-V 5 Scheduler consists of 2 components : 

The App-V 5 Scheduler GUI

The GUI will allow you to see which packages and connection groups are currently deployed to the machine, it will also allow you as an admin to do some troubleshooting steps like opening CMD or Regedit inside the virtual application context (or bubble or sandbox, whatever you like to call it ;). The GUI also displays basic information about the App-V client configuration and will allow you to configure the App-V 5 Scheduler Service. Below is a screenshot of how the App-V 5 Scheduler GUI looks like:

App-V 5 Scheduler GUIThe App-V 5 Scheduler Service

The service will deploy new packages and connection groups which are added after the last system start-up based on a configurable time interval. Depending on the selected scenario the service can detect when the image is in read\write mode to prevent the deployment of packages. Below is a screenshot of the App-V 5 Scheduler Service configuration dialog :

App-V 5 Scheduler Service dialog

Scenario 1 : Non-Persistent image with shared content store mode enabled

Select this scenario if you use Citrix Provisioning Services (PVS) or Citrix Machine creation Service (MCS) for single image management and you want to leverage the Shared Content Store (SCS) functionality of App-V 5 to lower the storage needed for package content. This scenario will configure the service to do the following :

  • Remove packages and connection groups at machine start-up to keep the package root clean
  • Deploy packages and connection groups after machine start-up
  • Deploy only new packages and connection groups based on the configured time interval
  • Publish packages and connection groups globally on the machine
  • Don’t remove or deploy packages when the image is in private mode

In this scenario you can redirect the App-V package root location outside the image (write cache disk for example), but since you are leveraging the App-V Shared Content store mode, a minimal amount of storage will be used in the package root so you could decide to keep it in the primary location.

Scenario 2 : Non-Persistent image with shared content store mode disabled

Select this scenario if you use Citrix Provisioning Services (PVS) or Citrix Machine creation Service (MCS) for single image management and you want to deploy the packages in its full size to the App-V package root location. This scenario will configure the service to do the following :

  • Remove packages and connection groups at machine start-up to keep the package root clean
  • Deploy packages and connection groups after machine start-up
  • Deploy only new packages and connection groups based on the configured time interval
  • Publish the packages and connection groups globally on the machine
  • Pre-Cache (mount) the package inside the package root location
  • Don’t remove or deploy packages when the image is in private mode

In this scenario you can also redirect the App-V package root location to another location (outside the image for example), this is advisable if your write cache location is limited and you want to keep it small.

Scenario3 : Persistent image mode

This scenario is very similar to scenario 2 only it will not check if the image is in private mode or not, select this scenario if you have persistent machines where you want to deploy App-V 5 packages to.

This scenario will configure the service to do the following :

  • Remove packages and connection groups at machine start-up to keep the package root clean
  • Deploy packages and connection groups after machine start-up
  • Deploy only new packages and connection groups based on the configured timer interval
  • Publish the packages and connection groups globally on the machine
  • Pre-Cache (mount) the package inside the package root location

Which scenario is best depends on your environment, key factors are the size of your packages and the amount of storage you have available. Scenario 2 and 3 will give you the best overall performance because the applications are fully mounted to the machines lowering bandwidth consumption and eliminating network bottlenecks. That’s why I would recommend this scenarios when you use a shared platform (RDS\XenApp). Besides better performance it will also make the virtual application higher available since they don’t rely on the content share after being deployed. Since scenario 2 and 3 mounts the package there is no load time at all when users start the application.

Below you will find a high level UML diagram of the App-V 5 Scheduler Service :

Service_UML

Deploying connection groups with App-V 5 Scheduler

Connection groups are basically XML files filled with information of which packages that can connect to each other, Tim Mangan created a very useful tool to create connection groups called App-V DefconGroups. With this tool you can easily select packages that you want to connected to each other. You can save the output file (with the AppG extension) somewhere on the package source location and App-V 5 Scheduler will deploy it to the machine (globally) for you.

Logging

App-V 5 Scheduler Service logs its actions in the event viewer and will give you information about the packages that are removed or deployed and the status of the service. For troubleshooting purposes it’s the place to look at because all other operational events are logged there as well. Below is an example message in the event viewer when private mode is detected :

Events


Conclusion

App-V 5 Scheduler, in combination with an User Environment Management tool like RES Workspace Manager, is a powerful and simple way to deliver packages to your machines without the need for a full App-V 5 infrastructure model. Just place the package on a share and App-V 5 Scheduler will do the rest for you. If you use the App-V 5 integration in RES Workspace Manager and you have imported the application once, it will look up the newest version of the package automatically. You only have to place the updated package on the share and after App-V 5 Scheduler deployed the new version to the machine it’s immediately available to your users, they only need to close and reopen the application to get the latest version. App-V 5 Scheduler GUI will give administrators an overview of the current deployed packages on the machine and allow them to open CMD or Regedit to perform basic troubleshooting steps inside a virtual application.

What’s coming

To complement App-V 5 Scheduler, I will also release a tool called App-V 5 Central View. This tool allows you to select an Active Directory group (with machine accounts) and it will give you an overview of the currently deployed applications on that machines. In combination with some basic management tasks, this tool will give a central point of view of which applications are deployed through your environment. App-V 5 Central View is in depended of App-V 5 Scheduler and can also be used without it, but will form a great combination together.

Availability

App-V Scheduler 2.0 has been released and has a lot more features and enhancements, click here to read more.