First Experiences with XenApp 7.8 & App-V 5.1

Background

I’m currently working on a new XenApp rollout for a customer where we’ve been eagerly awaiting the 7.8 release to have a look at the App-V integration given that it promised to remove the need for separate App-V server infrastructure.

I’m not going to go into details here of how you make App-V applications available natively in XenApp/XenDesktop as that is covered elsewhere such as here. That article also covers troubleshooting and how to enable logging.

How it appears to work

When the Citrix Desktop Service (BrokerAgent) starts on your XenApp server, it communicates with a Delivery Controller and writes the details to the “ApplicationStartDetails” REG_MULTI_SZ value in “HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Citrix\AppLibrary”. Now why it writes to the policies key when we’re not actually setting anything to do with App-V in policies I don’t know but a key is a key (unless it’s a value!). A typical line in this value looks like this:

56c1d895-e3d8-4dcc-a303-b0162a97c87b;\\ourappvserver\appvshare\thisapp\thisapp.appv;de0a5cd1-3264-4418-82dd-4bdf5959a29d;957c71c9-a732-401b-b354-17c493decac8;This App

Where the fields are semicolon delimited thus:

App-V App  GUID;Package UNC;App-V Package GUID;Published App Name

The BrokerAgent then downloads all .appv packages that you’ve added to your delivery groups to the “%SystemRoot%\Temp\CitrixAppVPkgCache” folder. This is regardless of whether App-V has been configured with a Shared Content Store. As this happens at boot, the packages should be locally cached by the time users logon who might want to run one of the published App-V applications so you’re trading system drive disk space with speed of launch. I’ve yet to see how this impacts on PVS cache in RAM so we may look at whether we can pre-populate the cache in the PVS master image so we don’t lose write cache when .appv packages are downloaded when the image is booted into shared mode.

There is a gotcha here though in that because Citrix use PowerShell to integrate with App-V so that if your PowerShell execution policy does not allow local scripts to be run, such as being set to “Restricted” which is the default, then the App-V integration will not work which can be seen in the above cache folder not populating and apps erroring when launched. To get around this, we set the execution policy to “RemoteSigned” in the base PVS image so we didn’t have to rely on group policy getting applied before the BrokerAgent starts.

We’re giving users all of their applications via Receiver generated shortcuts which is where the next small issue arises in that the shortcuts that Receiver (actually SelfService.exe) generates for App-V run SelfService.exe so effectively a new logon session is created, which can be seen by running quser.exe, to host the App-V application. Ultimately, Citrix call their own launcher process, CtxAppVLauncher.exe, which sits in the VDA folder and is installed with the VDA by default. This then uses PowerShell to launch the  App-V application from the %AllUsersProfile%\App-V folder (using sparse files so disk space is efficiently managed). You do still need to have the Microsoft App-V client installed though, since that’s what runs the App-V package, as you’d kind of expect.

This second logon all takes time though so we decided to cut out the middle man, selfservice.exe, and make the shortcut run CtxAppvLauncher.exe directly which takes the App-V app GUID as its single argument. This we do with a PowerShell script, run at logon (actually via AppSense Environment Manager), that was initially designed to check that pinned Receiver shortcuts were still valid and to update their icons as these are dynamically created, and named, at each logon (we’re using mandatory profiles). This was extended to find shortcuts for App-V apps, by matching the application name in the shortcut target with the data found in the “ApplicationStartDetails” registry value, and then changing them to run CtxAppVLauncher.exe, instead of SelfService.exe, with the App-V app GUID found in this registry value.

It does seem slightly strange though that we’ve had to go to these lengths to create locally launched App-V apps although the results are quite impressive in that the apps launch almost instantly due to the caching.

There may be further posts on the App-V integration depending on what else we unearth. Looking at FTAs (File Type Associations) is definitely on the agenda.

 

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Author: guyrleech

I wrote my first (Basic) program in 1980, was a Unix developer after graduation from Manchester University and then became a consultant, initially with Citrix WinFrame, in 1995 and later into Terminal Server/Services and more recently virtualisation, being awarded the VMware vExpert status in 2009 and 2010. I have also had various stints in Technical Pre-Sales, Support and R&D. I work as a Senior Technical Consultant for HCL, live in West Yorkshire, England; have a wife, three children and three dogs and am a keen competitive runner when not injured.

2 thoughts on “First Experiences with XenApp 7.8 & App-V 5.1”

  1. Hi Guy, very interesting article! Seems a bit odd that all .appv packages are downloaded when a Shared Content Store is in use (one of the specific benefits is keeping those package in the store location). Would it be possible to share the PowerShell script used within AppSense to speed up the shortcut creation? I have the same situation as described and would like this script to address the same issues (slow enumeration of shortcuts).

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