Options for sequencing your apps for App-V 5.0 SP3

Options for sequencing your apps for App-V 5.0 SP3

Not the droids

Since my days at Softricity and Microsoft, the number of options to get your apps sequenced for App-V has increased. Some are good, some not so, but appear to save you time and money, and some are good AND save money.  Since App-V 5.0 SP3 (see here for SP3 features) has been released, many App-V customers that have been holding back have recognized some valuable changes and are now planning to progress with App-V.

So, what IS the fastest, most accurate and cost-efficient way to get to App-V 5.0 SP3.

Here’s my take on the options open to you, based on a decades-worth of experience at the ‘coal face’ and working with hundreds of App-V customers over the years and if you’re already on App-V 4.6 & wish to migrate to App-V 5.0, see here about the imminent end of mainstream support and all the options available for you.

1. Onsite Permanent Staff – Manual Sequencing

There are two options:

  1. Train an existing member of staff.
    Can be an option for existing staff to be trained, although there are a number of apps that only time and experience can help with. The overhead of the training can be offset by the potential recruitment fees or contractor fees for manual sequencing
  2. Employ an experienced App-V packager.
    If you don’t have previous experience of App-V, it’s not always easy to recognize how good/bad/indifferent an App-V sequencer is and it could turn into a costly mistake. Many of the best App-V sequencers are consistently employed as contractors and they want to keep it that way

2. On Site Contractors – Manual Sequencing

The tried and tested old school method. You know where you stand with it and what to expect right? Or do you? Let’s face it, manual sequencing can be a lengthy process and many App-V customers have halted their plans to convert to App-V owing to the time and associated costs of manual sequencing.

Even if you do decide this is the right path to take, who do you use?

  1. The guys on a low day rate to save costs? Maybe, but very often you get what you pay for, which means there are more errors, which may mean many applications come back from UAT and it could take much longer than expected and ultimately take you well over your budget
  2. The high day rate experienced App-V sequencers? In my experience, the high day rate, experienced guys that are known in the App-V community are usually a better option. They have their reputations to look after and a bunch of people to contact on the rare occasion that they get stuck. These are the guys who can help keep the project within timescales, liaise with the right people internally where necessary and have their finger on the pulse with the planning

It’s a competitive world and occasionally you may uncover a gem who’s on a low rate – but you may not keep them long. On the flipside, I’ve seen some guys who are clearly good at telling a story and flit from one disastrous engagement to another on a decent day rate.

An upside is that you can create a relationship with onsite folks and keep an eye on them while they’re there, but the downside is that the onsite overheads can go way above the initial day rate.

3. Offsite / Offshore Manual Sequencing

With visibly reduced overheads, costs can appear to shrink by taking the work offsite. However, on many occasions I have seen how the reduced costs for the ‘same’ work appear very appealing but often the lack of understanding and communication breakdowns can be legendary, with numerous packagers in the ‘factory’ sequencing apps without a clear understanding of the requirements.

If you KNOW who you’re getting and KNOW they have the required skills & understanding you could be in good hands. From my experience, I would expect to see more errors and issues via offsite than onsite resources.

4. Upload and ‘Automate’ Your App-V Sequencing in the Cloud

Surely the ultra-sexy cloud option is the way to go, right? I mean, everyone loves the cloud and these days all roads lead there.  As long as you’re mentioning the word ‘cloud’ you’re on the fast track to nirvana…right?? Well, the headlines can be better than the reality. The current crop of solutions are just a front end to PowerShell, which is a free Microsoft option to use onsite. For more information check out Using Windows PowerShell on TechNet.

How many apps are you considering converting and when would you like them converted by? It sounds simple to ‘just upload your apps and click convert’, but how big are your apps? How long will it actually take to upload and then download each specific application? It’s certainly not a fully automated process.

5. Onsite ‘Automation’ PowerShell Tools

Onsite is a better option than using the cloud as you don’t experience the pain of uploading and downloading timescales.  But again it’s just a front-end for PowerShell – a free tool from Microsoft, so why pay for this?

6. ‘Big Vendor’ Automation Tools

These can be a great option for many reasons, but converting to App-V is not one of them. It can be an expensive option from a licensing, time and implementation perspective, especially considering the very limited success rates – rarely above 30% success and for most application estates it can be significantly less. Also, with MSI conversions, once the first error is found they roll back to leave you without a true reflection of ALL of the issues.

7. True App-V Automation

So, what is ‘True App-V Automation’? PowerShell has made App-V sequencing considerably better than it used to be, but when it comes to true automation, we found it not to be the best route and believe me we tried!

Well, just imagine if an automated solution could provide the following:

  1. Pre-conversion reporting by actually INSTALLING the app on Windows 7 and reporting on the outcome. Then, from the report, decide how many ‘per execution’ licenses are really required to minimize costs. Full errors and issues detailed for any apps that cannot be automated to provide a manual packager all the information required to make the right decision whether to attempt to sequence or not
  2. ALL errors and issues are reported
  3. The conversion process accelerated by up to 95% or ~300 conversions per day, instead of typical conversion rates of between 1 and 5 apps per day by a manual packager
  4. Batch-converting 60-90% of a customer’s application estate, i.e. ~90% for estates that have well managed clean MSI’s on Windows 7/8 running over SCCM and >60% for unmanaged .exe’s
  5. Any operator to enter global settings just once for all apps – not each and every time.
  6. No need for an operator to search for silent arguments, whereby some built in intelligence could find the silent arguments for you, saving considerable manual internet searching for converting executable installer files.
  7. The resulting App-V applications are cleaned to remove any excess elements that are not required
  8. Operator input is eliminated… well, almost! Once the desired application files have been ‘drag & dropped’ into the automation software, no further work is required. Just leave it to run and batch convert your apps, while the operator completes other tasks or nips off for a well-earned break.

Well, I’ve got some great news. There is a solution that provides exactly this and it’s called ConversionBox by AutonoWare.

ConversionBox has been created to truly automate App-V conversions wherever possible and as simply as possible – not just a PowerShell front-end. There is nothing else available that can provide such a cost-effective, fast and easy to use solution. In addition to this, it’s incredibly simple to download and install in just 30 minutes.

Be aware that ConversionBox does NOT remove the need for App-V sequencers. On the contrary, ConversionBox helps more customers choose to migrate their apps to App-V, therefore creating more conversion requirements. ConversionBox cannot automate every app to App-V, it just massively reduces the time and associated costs for 60-90% of your apps. This leaves 10-40% that may still require manual sequencing.

Our suggestion is to:

  1. Use the services of a packager that understands ConversionBox reporting to run a ConversionBox report to determine which applications it can & cannot automate
  2. Automate and accelerate the conversion of pre-determined apps to App-V using ConversionBox
  3. Manually convert the remaining apps where possible (also established from the report) to App-V and create any App-V Connection Groups via the App-V packager.

Summary

With Microsoft assisting customers by providing PowerShell tools, it has reduced the timescales for sequencing applications for App-V, which can only be a good thing. However, PowerShell only provides an end result package without any reporting, so if you wish to keep a record of what’s happened, this will be a manual process, adding to the overall time.  This is automated in ConversionBox. Also, with PowerShell, there is no streaming optimization included, which is also available within ConversionBox.

Most ‘automation’ tools are either just a front end for PowerShell or have a low hit rate, without you knowing all the reasons why any apps failed to convert, leaving you to effectively start again with the remaining apps.

AutonoWare ConversionBox is THE easiest to install, simplest to operate, fastest, most successful and cost-effective application source files to App-V conversion solution available today. Plus, you only pay per execution, which is a fraction of the cost of usual sequencing costs. So, this brings us back to the main picture. When you’re considering which technical resources to initially use for your App-V sequencing, if they do not offer ConversionBox as an option to massively reduce time & costs, then perhaps these ‘aren’t the droids you’re looking for’.

ConversionBox can be purchased as either a software solution or as part of a service from a registered AutonoWare Partner. Contact AutonoWare for further details.

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Once you have your application source files ready, ConversionBox can be downloaded from www.autonoware.com with 10 trial licenses and installed on a laptop or server in less than 30 minutes.

 

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