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Top 5 features of AppVirt 4.5 “SoftGrid”

Microsoft announced Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.5 (formerly known as SoftGrid) public beta release. This post covers some of the new features that are being introduced in AppVirt 4.5 that didn’t exist in SoftGrid 4.2.

New Server Product! For those of you who knew SoftGrid 4.2, you know that we had a single server component that we just called the server or the VAS (Virtual Application Server). Now, we have two different servers, so let’s clarify the differences between the two.

The SoftGrid server that you are familiar with from 4.2 still exists and works in mostly the same way. But, it’s new official name is “Microsoft System Center Application Virtualization Management Server”. I’m sure we’ll come up with an official “short name” for it soon, as we know that name takes a long time to say! For now, I’ll just call it the AppVirt Management Server. This is the server that requires Active Directory and SQL. We called it the “Management Server” because it can be used by itself to manage an AppVirt infrastructure. This means it performs two functions: publishing of application configuration information (shortcuts and file type associations – what we’ve traditionally called “DC Refresh”) and streaming of applications themselves. If you’re just deploying AppVirt to a small group of users in a single site, this is the only server you’d need.

Our new second server is called the “Microsoft System Center Application Virtualization Streaming Server”. Again, I’ll just call it the AppVirt Streaming Server for now. As you might guess from the name, it only performs one of the two functions above: streaming of applications. When you use the AppVirt Streaming Server in your infrastructure, that means that your clients are getting their application configuration information published to them via some other mechanism. The publishing could actually be performed in a variety of ways – from a separate AppVirt Management Server, an import triggered by a third-party Electronic Software Distribution (ESD) infrastructure or built-in integration that will be part of the System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R2 release that will be forthcoming next year. Look for more details on all these scenarios in future blog posts. The AppVirt Streaming Server will make it much easier for AppVirt to scale to large Enterprises than previous releases, since there isn’t a need to have the SQL database on the AppVirt Streaming Server and the intent is that it could be installed on a server that might already exist in a branch office. The goal is that the AppVirt Streaming Server can be better integrated into your existing ESD deployment and eliminate some of the dual management infrastructure that you have today with SoftGrid and your ESD managed separately. And, since the AppVirt Streaming Server works alongside your ESD, AppVirt can now scale as far as your ESD can scale, too.

Deploy AppVirt Without a Server At All! In 4.2, you had no choice for how you were going to deploy virtual applications. You had to put them onto a server and then users would need to stream or pre-load the applications from the server. In AppVirt 4.5, we’ve added a new capability that lets you take advantage of the application isolation benefits of application virtualization without forcing you to use a server.

We call this feature Standalone mode. How it works is that the Sequencer can now output a MSI file in addition to the SFT file that you are already familiar with from 4.2. The MSI file contains the publishing information mentioned above and will create the shortcuts and file type associations for the virtual application. In addition, it does a full import of the SFT into the client cache (replacing the need to stream from an AppVirt server). The SFT is still a separate file and the MSI contains just the publishing information. The intent of this feature is that no AppVirt server is in use or will ever be in use in the future for the particular client that you are deploying to. You would use Standalone mode if you wanted to deploy virtual applications via a CD to remote users who have no local server and poor WAN connections. Or, you might use it if you wanted to deploy virtual applications via an existing ESD that is already familiar with deploying MSIs. And, for those of you out there who would actually be responsible for creating and testing packages, you’ll also love this feature, as it should speed up your testing of new packages, since you don’t need to load them onto a server anymore! Again, look for a future blog post with more details on this new feature.

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SoftGrid,AppVirt, Microsoft Application Virtualization, Beta,, Features, Microsoft

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