Putting the Pieces Together
The convoluted documentation-and I hesitate to grace the planning and deployment guide with that much credit-almost ensures that initial installation will require a consulting gig. Written in the typically confusing Microsoft style of "before you do this, you need to do X, Y and Z"-rather than just saying do X, Y and Z as part of the installation process-the guide was one of my biggest challenges in test setup. However, after bulling my way through the docs, the first thing that became clear is that flexibility and large-scale deployment is the name of the game for App-V 4.5. The App-V sequencer captures not just the file and registry settings like I've seen in recent tests, including VMware's ThinApp product, but also enabled me to preset many end-user preferences. For example, I sequenced a couple versions of the Mozilla Firefox browser and was able to deploy the application without it bugging end users to import settings from Internet Explorer by answering that question "no" during sequencing.App-V enabled me to create sequenced application packages, but I needed a client on my end-user systems to get the package onto the appropriate desktop. First, I am not a big fan of desktop agents, but this is one of the facts of life that IT managers must accept if App-V is adopted in the organization. The agent manages the virtual environment on the end-user system, which is where the virtualized applications run. To get the applications, I first published them on my App-V Management Server (this could also have been on a specialized App-V Streaming Server), which enabled the end-user systems to run the virtual application. The publishing process puts the application icons on the computer so that the end user simply clicks to begin using the app. The application is then streamed in blocks to the client and cached locally. The Web and file servers can also be used as streaming servers so it isn't necessary to create a whole slew of new infrastructure to provide applications to client systems. The App-V sequencer does its best to ensure that the parts of the application that are needed first are sent first to speed up application start time. I was satisfied with my virtualized Office programs startup process. I updated from Office 2003 to Office 2007 during my tests and didn't see any difference in the performance of the product. One appealing aspect of using virtualized apps is the ease of keeping end users on the most current version. Deploying updated packages-in this case of Office 2007-was just a matter of sequencing and publishing the new product to my clients. eWEEK Labs Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The App-V sequencer provides detailed access to a variety of settings and should satisfy even the most fussy (and I mean that in a nice way) deployment technician. Registry and file system settings can be hand-edited to ensure that application packages are correctly customized for end-user systems. In addition, there's plenty of room for comments in the package file to provide hints and insight to future technicians who may need to make changes.