Microsoft Application Virtualization 5.0 is here!

Greetings! Last week, Karri announced the general availability of MDOP 2012, which included the release of two much awaited products: the new Microsoft User Experience Virtualization (UE-V), and one of the biggest releases in Microsoft Application Virtualization’s (App-V) history – App-V 5.0. Anthony Smith (A.J.) has already provided an overview of UE-V in his blog, so to build on that foundation, I want to provide a deep dive on the capabilities of App-V 5.0 and the benefits it will provide to our customers. The blog is broken out into three sections: how to use App-V 5.0 for a more flexible virtualization solution, how App-V’s integrated platform offers a more consistent experience, and powerful management.

Provides Flexible Virtualization

Customers who have deployed App-V like it so much that they want to virtualize most of their applications, but they often ran into problems virtualizing applications that demand a high level of integration. Let’s take the example where customers want to embed an editable Visio diagram into a Word document. We usually take this level of integration for granted, but when applications are virtualized, they are isolated and protected from each other, so this level of integration doesn’t work. For most applications, this kind of protection is helpful. It protects from things like the so-called “dll-hell.” For others, it can be a barrier to successful virtualization. App-V 4.6 let customers use Dynamic Suite Composition to let virtual applications share middleware components like Java, but full co-operation between applications wasn’t supported.

To address that customer need, we are changing the way virtual applications interact in App-V 5.0. With Virtual Application Connection Group in App-V 5.0, businesses can connect separately packaged App-V applications, enabling them to communicate with each other and with traditionally installed applications. This gives businesses the best of both worlds, providing isolation – reducing conflict and time spent regression testing – yet allowing applications to interact and communicate when needed. IT can virtualize more applications, even those that require tight integration, and users work with virtual applications the same way they did when applications were traditionally installed.

Let’s imagine a case where Contoso IT wants to package applications separately, yet provide a seamless experience when these applications are assigned to users. All users may have a standard email package assigned to them, but only the engineering department uses a project planning application. The users in the engineering department frequently embed detailed project plans into their email messages, so for these users, the two applications must communicate seamlessly. Contoso does not want to package the two applications together because that would mean that they would need to distribute both to all users.

By packaging the email and project planning applications independently and connecting them for users who need them, Contoso IT gives their users the same seamless user experience they’ve enjoyed in the past, but now can take advantage of App-V benefits such as conflict-free installs, no reboots and on-demand streaming.

Provides an Integrated Platform

Imagine you wanted to use a particular Media Player application across your company. Native Windows lets software like Media Players register capabilities with Windows, in effect to say “Hey, I can play media files!” When end-users click on music or video files, Windows looks for the default Media Player and just plays the file.

App-V 4.6 worked with Windows primarily by registering “file types.” For our Media Player, this means that if users clicked on particular files, like .WMV or .MP3 files, App-V would launch and play them in the virtual Media Player, but if another part of Windows wanted to play Media, Windows could launch an entirely different application.

With Virtual Application Extension in App-V 5.0, applications leverage Windows standards for a consistent user experience and work more like traditionally installed applications. Virtual applications can register their capabilities with Windows just like they do when they’re locally installed. This means that users don’t have to change the way they use an application just because it’s virtual. Looking back to our previous example of a virtual email application, now with App-V 5.0, it could “register” with Windows as the default mail application even though it’s virtual. This way, users have a consistent experience and can use the virtual application for email just by clicking an address in a document or web page. It also makes it easy for IT to work with virtual applications. Diagnostic messages provide meaningful feedback, helping users resolve problems on their own.

And App-V 5.0 doesn’t require a dedicated drive letter (Q: drive), a key piece of feedback that we received from IT because many drive letters are already allocated.

Provides Powerful Management

Out-of-the-box management has always been a strong-suite of App-V, and in App-V 5.0, it gets even better. With new, web-based management interface based on Silverlight, IT can manage applications without being tied to an installed management console. With just a few mouse-clicks in a web-based interface, IT can send new or updated applications to every user, no matter where that user accesses Windows: desktop, laptop, VDI or RDS.

App-V 5.0 is also designed to be easy and efficient to use in VDI environments, allowing IT to make the best use of expensive disk resources without changing the way they get their jobs done. Since VDI and RDS hosts are always in the datacenter, Shared Content Store in App-V 5.0 lets you stream applications on demand while writing minimal content to the disk – making efficient use of potentially expensive resources. Of course they’re your applications, so it’s your choice! You can always choose which applications to always stream and which applications to keep available locally. With Shared Content Store, IT can use Configuration Manager to manage this VDI environment the same way they manage corporate PCs and tablets. IT is able to provision, update and retire applications easily and also able manage the interaction of virtual applications.

Lastly, our more advanced customers would like to completely automate App-V, from the packaging to the server to the client. In App-V 4.6 this was partially possible but in App-V 5.0, the client and server components are fully automated with Windows PowerShell. We’ve also listened to feedback from customers who have told us they want to be able to scan virtual applications for viruses, and as a result, have added this ability.

Watch this overview video to go through all we talked about above:

  

Learn more on App-V Zone on TechNet, which has other videos and content to help you get started. Also, if you want to use App-V in a lab, you can download it from TechNet Plus and MSDN Plus if you’re a paid subscriber, and if you already own MDOP, then head over to the Volume Licensing Service Center to download the 2012 version.

More Insights to come

Over the next few months, we would be publishing a series a blogs aimed at providing you deep dive comprehensive information on the new set of features in App-V 5.0. These deep dive blogs would range from talking about the virtualization stack to the Office 2013 App-V package. Watch out the http://blogs.technet.com/b/appv/ space every week as MDOP engineering goes into the intricate details of App-V 5.0 and explains the App-V 5.0 internals – one piece at a time.