Marrying SCCM R2 and SoftGrid 4.5

The first news to me is the rebranding of SoftGrid. I kinda thought it was a cool name but I guess when you acquire a product you’ll always, if not necessary, to rename it. So what’s the brand spanking new name?… Microsoft Application Virtualization!!. Funky? Well.. I’ll let you thrive on your own opinions :)

The good news however is that the upcoming version 4.5 will be tightly integrated with System Center Configuration Manager 2007.

One of the primary goals of SCCM R2 is to be able to manage virtualized applications just like a physical application for example, asset inventory or deploying.
If you’ve used or tried SoftGrid 4.0 or 4.1, you’ll know that in the application virtualization world, it doesn’t really exist therefore SCCM or SMS could not perform inventory on those application. So 4.5 addresses this now.
The 4 core integration is:

  • Packaging and distribution of virtual applications. – (Being able to create a virtual application ‘package’ and distribute it to the DP)
  • Deployment of the virtual application – (Advertise the package to clients)
  • Launching and running in a connected or disconnected environment
  • Inventory and Reporting (ability to perform inventory and report on packages application and usage)

If you’re trying out the BETA, the typical deployment to get this functionality is

1. Deploy the Softgrid Clients to the clients (this can be done manually or via SCCM’s Application Distribution

2. Sequence applications to output the native SFT package format {Sequencing is a method used my SoftGrid to re-package an application into a readable package}
3. Enable Virtual Application Distribution Point (This is done through the SCCM Site Roles)
4. Configure the Advertised Program Client to allow for Virtualized Application (This is done through the Client Agents configuration node)
5. Import Virtual Application Package (yes. A new available option in SCCM) in SCCM 2007 R2

If you notice from the screenshot above, there is a new orangy package icon. This denotes a Virtual App.

When you right-click the Packages node, you’ll see an option to Import a Virtual Application Package. Then you’ll walk through the wizard as follows:

6. Update the Distribution Points with the Package


7. Advertise the package to collection of users or computers (it will have the ability to select “Stream from DP” or “Download and Run”. the difference is explained further down this blogpost)

The architecture of how this works is detailed in the following picture


The following are sample screenshots of a client manually downloadding and running the Virtual Application:



There are 2 application delivery and launch methods:

Streaming delivery
Pros

  • Uses HTTP:// with IIS
  • App shortcuts invoke connection to the server
  • Great for highly connected clients
  • Updates are applied to the server so new versions are fast and seemless

Cons

  • Requires a minimum of 2 copies of the SFT on the DP. The first makes an assumption that the client as an active connection called the streaming copy. This is due to the fact that no revisions can be applied to a streaming package. The revision has to be applied to the static copy
  • Not that great in unreliable networks and offline scenarios
  • Does not support Internet facing client, workgroup client and slow network boundary

Local Delivery (Download and Execute)
Pros

  • Standard DP functionality like BITS
  • Entire package content are delivered locally to the client
  • Application shortcuts will be available once the pacakge is completely downloaded
  • Great for slow networks due to BITS
  • Uses Remote Differential Compression to send binary deltas when content has changed

Cons

  • Requires twice the disk space (dual cache)
  • For RDC, needs 3X the disk space temporarily while calculating differences

When talking about upgrading a package, as how SoftGrid works, you would do a Sequence update. You would then need to update the content of the source and update the distribution points. To get the clients to use this upgraded package, you would need to re-run the advertisement.

How is this going to work with OSD? You can select a Task Sequence Action of either ‘Run from DP’ (streamed), ‘Download and Execute’ or ‘Download on Demand’ to publish the virtual application after the OS has been applied

As mentioned earlier, there will be inventory information in the RC version available through the root\microsoft\appvirt\client WMI Namespace and also an integration with Asset Intelligence Reports!

The following are screenshot of some of the reports:



For troubleshooting purposes, Virtualapp.log (events on registration and publishing)and VAppLauncher.log (events Vapp user launch) are 2 new logs that will be available

When? When? When? Well.. According to the source at MMS 2008… The release of this is Summer of 2008

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