How to integrate App-V with SCCM without losing the features you care about


One of the most anticipated features of SCCM 2007 R2 is “App-V Integration”. We have recently tested the end-to-end scenario for this integration and we can say with confidence: it BLOWS :-( . In a nutshell, by integrating App-V with SCCM you lose App-V’s best features and reduce the solution to something that’s even worse than SCCM by itself!

So what happens when you enable the App-V/SCCM integration feature in the SCCM Management Console?

  • Control of the App-V client is seized by the SCCM client. If you had App-V running on its own before you enabled the integration, you’ll notice that all App-V apps that are published through App-V’s Publishing Server are now rendered invalid. On launch you’ll get a “Unable to initialize package information (0×00000000)” error.
  • You must now publish your App-V apps through SCCM as “Virtual Application Packages”. This works by importing the .XML file of the App-V package. SCCM will distribute the packages to its Distribution Points and you can enable those Distribution Points for HTTP(S) streaming.
  • To get the App-V apps to your clients, you’ll have to create SCCM advertisements. Basically SCCM advertisements replace the App-V Publishing Server. The behavior of getting App-V apps to your desktop now becomes eerily similar to SCCM’s way of installing applications. No more getting your shortcuts immediately upon logon (like you get with App-V); you will have to go get a cup of coffee and hope that SCCM is willing to give you your apps today.
  • If you created non-mandatory assignments, then you’ll have to go to Add/Remove Programs yourself and click “Run” for all the apps that you want. However clicking “Run” doesn’t actually run your app, it only registers the App-V app with the local App-V client. Don’t expect to see any progress bar or visual feedback that the registration actually happened; just keep scouring around in your Start Menu in hope of finding the shortcuts for your new app.
  • If you created mandatory assignments, you’ll get one or more notifications from SCCM (after some time ofcourse) that SCCM has App-V apps for you that it would like to register with the local App-V client. It will do that on *every* desktop you logon to. Prepare to spend quite a bit of quality time with the SCCM Client…
  • If you’re using either Windows Terminal Services or Fast User Switching in Vista, you’re SOL because the SCCM Client is allergic to terminal sessions. You’ll get a message telling you that “No programs are available to run from a Terminal Services session”. How nice. If you happen to be running the console session, you won’t notice this limitation because at the console session, everything works just fine. So make sure you also test your solution via a terminal session so you won’t get caught by surprise.

As a result of the findings described above, we were pretty disappointed with the solution and decided to reverse our decision to integrate App-V with SCCM. However we did like the idea of using SCCM Distribution Points to stream App-V apps from. So we had a go at doing a manual integration of App-V with SCCM so that we could use just the SCCM parts we wanted. The idea was inspired by Tim Mangan’s article which included this diagram:

In his article he never got around to actually testing if it was possible to stream an application that was published by App-V’s Publishing Server from an SCCM Distribution Point. He only verified that is was possible to install the App-V app through an MSI with SCCM. So we ventured to get HTTP streaming working against SCCM Distribution Points, with the shortcuts still being provided by an App-V Publishing Server. In a nutshell: it works! You do have to setup a few mechanisms to get load balancing working though.

Here is how it works:

  • First and foremost: disable the App-V integration with SCCM. To do this, go to the SCCM Console -> Site Database -> Site Management -> <Site> -> Site Settings -> Client Agents -> Advertised Programs Client Agent -> Properties and make sure “Allow virtual application package advertisement” is NOT selected.
  • Enable your SCCM Distribution Points for BITS, HTTP and HTTPS content transfer. To do this, go to the SCCM Console -> Site Database -> Site Management -> <Site> -> Site Settings -> Site Systems -> <your DP> -> ConfigMgr distribution point -> Properties and select “Allow clients to transfer content from this distribution point using BITS, HTTP and HTTPS”.
  • We found that (at least in the RTM version of SCCM 2007 R2) you don’t have to enable “virtual application streaming” on the “Virtual Applications” tab of the distribution point to be able to stream from a SCCM DP when using our manual integration. The added benefit of this is that you can now also use Secondary Site DP’s as streaming servers!
  • Set up an App-V Management Server on any server you like. You can even set it up on a SCCM server, it doesn’t matter. Use the default installation settings for the entire installation. After installation, set the Default Content Path to the following: http://%SFT_SOFTGRIDSERVER%
  • Add an App-V package to SCCM for distribution and streaming:
    • Go to the SCCM Console -> Site Database -> Computer Management -> Software Distribution -> Packages -> New -> Package . Enter the information about your package and click Next. Select “This package contains source files” and set the Source Directory to the location of your App-V package and click Finish. Note that you import the App-V package as a normal SCCM package and NOT as a Virtual Application Package. Importing it as a Virtual Application Package will cause the .SFT file in the App-V package to be renamed and cause the .SFT file to be added to not 1 but 2 locations on each SCCM Distribution Point, doubling storage requirements.
    • When the package is added to SCCM, find the Package ID and use it to update the streaming location in the App-V OSD files. For each OSD file in your App-V package, update the HREF statement to HTTP://%SFT_SOFTGRIDSERVER%/SMS_DP$/SMSPKG/<your SCCM Package ID >/<name of your SFT file >
      (If you are using a File Share Distribution Point, the IIS vdir may be different than SMS_DP$. Verify the vdir name in IIS Manager and ensure that all DP’s are either standard DP’s or File Share DP’s.)
    • Now add some SCCM Distribution Points to your package so that SCCM can distribute the App-V content
  • Import the same App-V package into the App-V Management Server so that you can distribute the shortcuts and set permissions:
    • On the App-V Management Server, go to the App-V Management Console, go to Applications
      -> Import Application and go to the same App-V package folder. Select the .SPRJ file and click Open. Perform your regular App-V import steps and finish the import.
    • The imported applications in the App-V Management Console should now show the correct http:// paths to both the OSD file(s) and the SFT file(s).
  • That’s it! Now just configure your App-V Clients on the desktops to use your newly setup App-V Management Server by configuring a Publishing Server and use Group Policy to set the %SFT_SOFTGRIDSERVER% to the name of a SCCM Distribution Point nearby. We set this variable to DNS name that uses DNS Round Robin to distribute the load to multiple DP’s.

Configuration Manager Service Pack 1

Jeff Wettlaufer: Today we release Configuration Manager 2007 SP1!
It is amazing to see that this was not a release based in bug fix, quite the opposite, there are hardly any hotfixes included in this release. This is a reflection of changes such as the ship of Windows Server 2008 and Vista SP1.
With some engineering cycles aligning, we have added some additional features that were ready to go at this time, details are as follows:<

As a recap SP1 specifically contains:
1. Complete support for management of Windows Vista SP1 and Windows Server 2008. 
2. Support for Configuration Manager 2007 Server Site roles on Server 2008. 
3. Integration with Intel VPro technologies.  
4. Asset Intelligence 1.5 

You can find additional details, and information for download on our product homepages, located here. 

Also, we will have a full Technical overview at the upcoming Teched USA in Orlando June 10-13th.  We have a full breakout session , and we will be running SP1 (and R2 previews ) at the Microsoft pavilion pod area.  Also, we have a Technet webcast on Configuration Manager 2007 SP1, you can find that here.

Microsoft Office Visio 2007 Pro SCOM & SCCM Connectors

Download the Visio add in and the web server component to connect and generate datasets to connect to your existing diagrams or auto generate your diagrams for your infrastructure monitoring needs. See your data from OpsManager and ConfigManager live in Visio diagrams.

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.

Continue reading

SCCM: Dell Server Management

Michael Kelly was invited to stage at the annual Microsoft Management Summit to demonstrate how System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) will manage the physical datacenter layer. Kelly talked about the Sequencing possibilities in SCCM and about the partnering around SCCM with Dell. The integrated dell server deployment will provide a sequencing step to configure the hardware when Windows PE will be booted; for instance — like RAID configuration. The beta version of this software will be available in the coming weeks on the Dell website.

SCCM Dell Sequence

Kelly also talked about the Configuration Manager 2007 R2 that will be coming out in the future. Multicast will be added to the features of SCCM to deploy multiple servers at once, while keeping the network traffic as low as possible. With this and the other SCCM OS deployment features, Microsoft forsees SCCM as the main means to provide the hardware layer with the OS layer.

SCCM 2007: Start to Finish Guide

Want to start with System Center Configuration Manager 2007? The blogcast repository has a good section with all kinds of blogcasts describing how to start using SCCM 2007.

We have spent a great deal of time to bring you the videos you see on this page and site for free. We sincerely hope that these help you in you process to upgrade from SMS or adopt SCCM into your organization. The videos have all been tested and internally documented for accuracy. However, your organization may have unique server settings that may affect the what we describe a process in the Blogcasts.

Visit the Systems Center Configuration Manager 2007- Start to Finish Guide


Download links for the 88 files that System Center Configuration Manager needs during install

When installing System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM aka SMS v4), it is not always possible to give internet access to the server involved. I like to have everything I need beforehand whenever doing an install.

When SCCM setup launches, it tries to download the from here. Overall it is best to allow SCCM to grab all the files it needs automatically because the ConfigMgr.Manifest.xml file inside the file can be updated by Microsoft to point to new locations when these files are updated or moved.

With that said, here are the links contained in ConfigMgr.Manifest.XML as of 12-15-07 for the RTM release of SCCM 2007, broken into groups:

Microsoft Remote Differential Compression Library
(x86, x64, ia64)

Windows Update Agent
(x86, x64, ia64)

(x86, x64, ia64)

Windows 2000 – KB 842773

Windows 2003 – KB 923845
ia64: (DEU, ENU, FRA, JPN)

Windows XP – KB 923845

Save all of those files into a directory, and simply point SCCM to that directory for the updates instead of attempting to download them all.

If you are looking for a text file that just has all of the HTTP links inside for use with a downloader program, you can right click and ‘Save as’ the text file here.


Guide to Desired Configuration Management in Configuration Manager 2007

Stefan Schörling has published a nice guide:
“I wrote a brief introduction on Desired Configuration Management (DCM), the article contains information about what DCM is and some guides for importing configuration packs and assigning them. I hope this will bring some light to thoose of you who want to get familiar with DCM.”

You can read my article here: