MSIX app attach using VMware App Volumes 4 (2009)


Introduction

As you may have already read or seen the many announcements recently about MSIX app attach for Windows Virtual Desktop. I though it would be useful to explore the wider offering and why MSIX app attach simplifies application delivery and further more, the use outside of WVD.

MSIX app attach is Microsoft’s Dynamic Application delivery capability that uses a existing MSIX package. MSIX has been around since 2018. Microsoft have provided the vehicle for a MSIX package to be added and removed from a operating system (attach/detecting) without any impact or interference with the underlining operating system its self.

This article provides a overview on how to implement MSIX app attach on VMware App Volumes 4.2.

*This article only covers the use of MSIX app attach with App Volumes 4.2.

Pre-requisites

So to use MSIX app attach, you need to make sure that the client operating system is Windows 10 build 2004 or above. The lab I am using is contains three virtual Machines, a Domain Controller, App Volumes Manager server and a Windows 10 Client machine (build 2004).

System requirements

ComponentDetails
DatabaseApp Volumes Manager requires one of the following versions of the Microsoft SQL database:
– SQL Server 2019
– SQL Server 2017
– SQL Server 2016 SP2
– SQL Server 2014 SP1 and SP2
– Support for SQL server 2014 Enterprise SP3 64-bit

For High Availability, App Volumes supports the following database features:
– SQL Server Clustered Instances
– SQL Server Mirroring
BrowserUse App Volumes Manager on one of the following supported browsers:
– Internet Explorer 9 or later
– Mozilla Firefox 28 or later
– Safari 7 or later
– Google Chrome 21 or later
App Volumes Manager– Microsoft Windows Server 2019 Datacenter and Standard
– Microsoft Windows Server 2016 Datacenter and Standard
– 4 vCPU required
– 4 GB RAM
– 1 GB disk space
App Volumes Agent (client OS)– Microsoft Windows 10, version 20H2 Enterprise and Pro
– Microsoft Windows 10, version 2004 Enterprise and Pro
– Microsoft Windows 10, version 1909 Enterprise and Pro
– Microsoft Windows 10, version 1903 Enterprise and Pro
– Microsoft Windows 10, version 1809 Enterprise and Pro
– Microsoft Windows 10, version 1803 Enterprise
– Microsoft Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2019 (version 1809)
-Microsoft Windows Server 2019 Datacenter and Standard
– Microsoft Windows Server 2016 Datacenter and -Standard
– 64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows only
– 1 GB RAM
– 1 vCPU
– 16 GB disk space
Hypervisor (if using VMDK)VMware ESXi and vCenter Server 6.5 or later (ESXi and vCenter Server must be the same version)
File share (if using VHD)SMB version 3
DirectoryMicrosoft Active Directory domain, 2003 functional level or later. Read-only account access.
ComponentPurposePort number
App Volumes ManagerAgent and Manager communicationsTCP 80 (HTTP)TCP 443 (HTTPS)
App Volumes SQL DatabaseDatabase communicationTCP 1433 (SQL)
You can find VMware’s system requirements here: https://docs.vmware.com/en/VMware-App-Volumes/2009/app-volumes-install-guide/GUID-5C1CFB43-1311-4E0D-B0E2-9E45165A5353.html

App Volumes 4 Components

ComponentDescription
App Volumes Administrator or UserActive Directory (AD) or organizational unit (OU) account to which Application Packages and Writable Volumes are assigned. User must have local administrator privileges.
App Volumes ManagerWeb-based interface integrated with Active Directory (AD) and vSphere. Consists of services that orchestrate application delivery and interface the vSphere environment. You can use App Volumes Manager for the following tasks:Manage assignments of volumes to users, groups, and target computers.Collect Application Packages and Writable Volumes usage information.Maintain a history of administrative actions.Automate assignment of applications and Writable Volumes for agents during desktop startup and user login.See Install App Volumes Manager and the Configuring App Volumes Manager in the administration guide.
App Volumes databaseA Microsoft SQL or SQL Server Express database that contains configuration information for Application Packages, Writable Volumes, and users. See System Requirements.
App Volumes agentSoftware installed on all Windows desktops where Application Packages and Writable Volumes are assigned. See Install App Volumes Agent.
ApplicationAn Application represents a collection of packaged versions of that Application. Users, Groups, Computers, or OUs (Organizational Units) can be entitled to receive a current Package or be assigned to a specific Package.
PackageA Package stores one or more Programs required for an Application to run. A single Package can be delivered to multiple computers and one or many users.
Writable VolumeWritable Volumes provide storage for application profile settings, documents, and installed applications. The mode of storage is determined by the template that is selected during creation.Note:Users can have more than one Writable Volume assigned to them. For more information about using Writable Volumes, see the VMware App Volumes Administration Guide at VMware Docs.
ProgramsPrograms are installed during the packaging process. When an Application is assigned and a Package is delivered to a desktop, the Programs are then visible inside Windows under Programs and Features and available from the Start Menu.
Packaging DesktopA clean virtual machine that contains the necessary programs for installation into Application Packages. The desktop must have the App Volumes agent installed and configured to connect to the App Volumes Manager.
Target ComputerA VDI desktop, physical client computer, Remote Desktop Services (RDS) Host or Citrix XenApp Server where users log in to access their applications delivered from the Package. The target computer must have the App Volumes agent installed and configured to connect to the App Volumes Manager.
VMware vCenter ServerApp Volumes uses vCenter Server to connect to resources within the vSphere environment. See Configuring a Machine Manager section in the App Volumes administration guide.
Storage GroupYou can use Storage Groups to automatically replicate Application Packages or distribute Writable Volumes across many datastores. They are also used to define a group of datastores that should all contain the same Application Packages. Some of the attributes for the group, such as template location and strategy, only apply when using the group for distributing writable volumes. The distribution strategy setting controls how Writable Volumes are distributed across the group.Spread. Distribute files evenly across all the storage locations. When a file is created, the storage with the most available space is selected.Round Robin. Distribute files by sequentially using the storage locations. When a file is created, the storage with the oldest used time is selected.You can manage the capabilities of storage groups by selecting required storage and ignoring unwanted or slow-performing storages while mounting volumes. When you mark a storage as Not Attachable, the App Volumes Manager ignores the storage while mounting volumes.For example, you can set up two vCenter Server instances. Each server can have a local storage and shared storage capability. You can mark the slower-performing storage as Not Attachable. This storage is ignored by the App Volumes Manager while mounting volumes and can be used solely for replication of Application Packages.
The table above lists the components associated with VMware App Volumes. Ref: https://docs.vmware.com/en/VMware-App-Volumes/2009/app-volumes-install-guide/GUID-3C9DAA91-F93C-45E5-A82F-583B54BF4C8A.html

Installing App Volumes 4.2 also known as (2009)

Getting started, on the designated App Volumes Manager server, run the installer and follow the steps.

Follow the guided wizard

Select Install App Volumes Manager
Select Install local SQL server express database as this is a lab.
keep the settings as default and remove the tick box for enable SQL server certificate verification
Again , as its a lab, enable allow connection over HTTP (insecure)
Let the OS install App Volumes Manager.

Configuring App Volumes for the first time

Once the installation has successfully been completed, you can then progress to configuring the App Volumes Manager through the web UI.

Follow the guided wizard
assign a licence or come back later.
Enter the required active directory details as requested on the web form.
Select VHD in guest services for Machine Managers as we are working with MSIX app attach.
add a file share. For me, I created one on the DC.
Skip the upload templates as we do not require these for testing MSIX app attach.

Adding a MSIX app attach Package to VMware App Volumes 4.2

To add a package, you will first need to create a MSIX app attach disk, and prepare the MSIX. You can find out how to do this on one of my pervious articles that you can find here: https://ryanmangansitblog.com/2020/08/20/a-deep-dive-into-msix-app-attach-windows-virtual-desktop/

You can also complete the full process using AppCURE’s studio product including the preparations for importing into VMware App Volumes.

Find out more about appCURE here: https://www.appcure.io/

You can also prepare the MSIX app attach packages with VMware’s fling located here: https://flings.vmware.com/app-volumes-packaging-utility The fling does not create the MSIX or MSIX app attach disk.

After you have created the package, you can then go ahead and import the package into VMware App Volumes. The first step is to copy the json file and virtual disk to the application file share where the App Volume apps will be stored.

The next step is then to import the package, This process is completed by selecting Import on the Inventory > applications web page.

Click import
Select the storage and path, then click import ( Perform in background or wait until completion).

Once the packages have been imported, you see them in the application window as shown here:

within here you can also Assign, Unassign, create Package, Edit and Delete the application(s).

You can assign to an individual or a group. Once assigned you can click the assignments and see which users and groups have been assigned to the application.

Screenshot showing the assigned users / groups for the application.

Here is the list of applications I have assigned to my test user:

Application assignements.

Testing a Client with the App Volumes Agent installed

The following screenshots show you a client that has the App Volumes v4 agent installed and configured to communicate with the App Volumes manager. When the test user logons on to the desktop, the packages are attached and ready to be used.

Applications and staged and registered on logon as shown on the screenshot.
Here you can see the mounted volumes which contain the applications.
MSIX app attach mountpoints

Video showing App Volumes v4 (2009) using MSIX app attach

Here is a short video showing the assignment and attach of MSIX app attach apps with VMware app volumes.

Summary

So for all those who though MSIX app attach is just for Windows Virtual Desktop, you will be pleased to know, you can now use App Volumes 4. I found the experience using MSIX app attach with app volumes very good. It would be interesting to know how this performs on scale. Applications appear on logon, logon times are a few seconds. Overall this does look like a a solution I would consider for on-premises or cloud deployments outside Windows Virtual Desktop.

Thanks for reading.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: