I heard a great phrase recently “an embarrassment of riches” . I thought to myself…that is definitely what XenApp has become. There’s nothing you can’t do with it now. When it comes to virtualizing applications, you can deliver from a Windows Terminal Server, you can stream to a server or a client, and now with VM Hosted Apps, you can deliver from a workstation if the other two methods are not suitable. The user gets a seamless application that looks like it is running locally without ever being the wiser on what back end infrastructure is hosting the application. These days, you will be hard pressed to find an application that cannot be delivered with XenApp.

If you did not read my last post, I talked about considerations that you should take into account before selecting VM Hosted Apps (new in XenApp 5 Feature Pack 2) as your application delivery solution. If you are still deciding whether VM Hosted Apps is right for you, then go back to my first blog to help you with that decision. If and when you are convinced, come back and read below where I tell you how to set it up.

VM Hosted Apps components for application virtualization

These are the components that make up a VM Hosted Apps infrastructure:

  • Physical or virtual workstations with either Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7 installed. The Virtual Desktop Agent software and applications must be installed on these machines.
  • A Desktop Delivery Controller which is the brains behind that operation. It brokers connections to virtual desktops.
  • An IIS web server with the Web Interface software installed. The user connects to this web site to display the application.
  • Citrix Receiver, or the online plug-in standalone, installed on the client device

If you are already familiar with XenDesktop, then these are the exact same components that deliver desktops. The only difference between a VM Hosted Apps and a XenDesktop infrastructure is the license. No really, it’s true! You need a XenApp license to deliver applications and you need a XenDesktop license to deliver desktops.

Follow me as we dig into this a bit deeper. The first component you need to install is the Desktop Delivery Controller (DDC) software which must be installed on a Windows 2003 Server only (we’re working on WS 2008 support so hang tight). Use the software version that comes with XenApp Feature Pack 2 on the VM Hosted Apps media. It will require a database in order to complete the installation of the DDC. You can use Access, SQL, Oracle, IBM DB2 just like XenApp. But don’t try to make it part of the same farm sharing the same physical database as XenApp, because it won’t work. It must exist in a separate farm database.

Administering application virtualization with VM Hosted Apps

Next, you will administer the environment using the Delivery Services Console, formerly the Access Management Console (Yes we renamed it… again). You can use the console that is installed on the DDC by default or you can install the console on a separate machine. You are actually installing a rebranded XenDesktop Console which means that if you already have XenDesktop you can use this new console to manage that as well. Since this console cannot be used to administer your XenApp farm, to make administration easier , install both consoles on the same machine. When you do this, they will aggregate together in the same MMC snap-in automatically. We know customers hate separate consoles but it could not be helped in this release. If the two consoles are installed on the same machine, then administration will be less of a hassle.

Publishing VM hosted virtual applications

To publish a VM Hosted App, it is nothing like publishing an application with XenApp. It is more like publishing a virtual desktop with XenDesktop. You run the Desktop Group creation wizard in the console and check the box “Use Desktop Group for VM Hosted Apps”.

Don’t forget to name the Desktop group the same name as your application and change the default XenDesktop icon to an application icon. The application name and icon you select is displayed to users when they log into Web Interface. Selecting this box however, does not make an application available to users. Here is how you actually publish the application.

  • First, install the Virtual Desktop Agent software on the workstation image or vdisk you are creating.
  • Then after you install the desired application, place a shortcut for this application in the “SeamlessInitialProgram” folder located under \Program Files\Citrix\ICA Service.

You should only put one application shortcut in this folder, if other helper applications are needed, you can install them on the workstation and they will be called by the main application when necessary. If you are using Provisioning services to dynamically provision desktops, then make sure these steps are complete on the workstation image before you save the virtual disk. If you are not using PVS, then be aware that you will need one virtual workstation for each simultaneous user because multiple users cannot launch applications from the same workstation.

The last step is to make the application available to users by modifying your Web Interface site to add the VM Hosted Apps farm and point to the Desktop Delivery Controller. Web Interface is actually installed on the Desktop Delivery Controller by default. You can use that Web Interface server or you can use Web Interface from a standalone web server, as long as it is version 5.2 or above. You must have a XenApp web (aka web interface) or services site (aka pnagent site) configured in order to deliver your applications.

That’s it! Now if you run into trouble, apply the same troubleshooting methodology that you would for XenDesktop.

Cris Lau the Product Manager for XenApp Feature Pack 2, hosted a TechTalk on how to configure VM hosted Apps in which Sr. Software Engineer Madhav Chinta demonstrated how to configure and publish a VM hosted application.

If you are a Citrix Partner you will soon have access to an Education sponsored Technical Readiness Learning Lab Series that focuses on VM Hosted Apps. The Learning Lab series offers you the opportunity to watch a CitrixTV video about how to configure VM Hosted Apps, then we’ll let you log into a hands-on lab environment in the cloud so that you can play around with this feature using a step by step lab guide. Stay tuned for that!

Learn more about Citrix XenApp 5 Feature Pack 2

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