Microsoft App-V 4.6 End of Mainstream Support: T minus five months and counting

If you are still running App-V 4.6, listen up.

If you are still running App-V 4.6, listen up. Maybe you wisely listened when I cautioned you to not immediately jump to App-V 5 when it was released two years ago.  And again six months later when SP1 was released.  But then maybe you didn’t take me seriously when Service Pack 2 came out and I said it was safe to start the switch to version 5.  But how did you miss what I said when SP3 came out in November?  So let me be very clear this time.

                It is time to get moved over to App-V 5 NOW!

The App-V 4.6 End of Maintenance date has been and still is July 14th, 2015.  Yup, you have 5 months and counting.  You can see the dates below, or right on the Microsoft site here.

So what does this mean?

First, I should say that there is always a chance that Microsoft will change their mind.  Microsoft has not made any public statements as to whether their might be a Service Pack 4 to App-V 4.6, but it seems very unlikely that they would continue to use significant development resources on the 4.6 base when 5.0 has been out for so long. I have run some basic tests of 4.6 SP3 against the Windows 10 Preview without noticing any issues, so it is possible that the only change they might need to support Windows 10 would be to add the OS Version string changes for those who specify specific operating system versions. While they might still do something to help support customers that are still on 4.6 move to Windows 10, I wouldn’t expect any change to the End of Maintenance (EoM) date.  EoM means that service packs and hotfixes will pretty much come to an end on 4.6 for most customers.

For some companies vendor maintenance support is a hard requirement, sometimes due to security policies but also sometimes due to regulations they must follow.  So for those needing the maintenance that don't get over to 5.0, they will have to pay for extended support.  The extended support, which I don't know the cost for but is never cheap, will be available until 7/14/2020. While it would be unlikely that you would find new serious issues in the future affecting all of your implementations and applications, you might find an issue with a new or upgraded application that requires attention. For some companies that is just not acceptable, so they pay if they can’t upgrade fast enough.

About Moving to 5.0

Anyone licensed for 4.6 should automatically be licensed for 5.0, either via MDOP or RDS Client Access Licenses.  The costs associated with the change are strictly your own manpower, plus any new OS/database licenses for replacement servers.  The server end is usually done as VMs so hardware is rarely an issue.  

The current release to move to is 5.0 SP3. Moving to App-V 5 is a migration.  The chief aspects of migrating include the following:

  • If you use the App-V Management Server, you will be installing new servers and a new database.  But the servers are simple so that isn’t a big deal.  The new servers scale enormously since app streaming is now out-of-band, so if anything you need less of them.  The flip side of that coin is that streaming performance is now (only) gated by the speed of disk access speed to a central Windows file share.  With the design changes (out of band streaming) you may find that you are able to reduce the number of servers, but you could assume the same number for worst case planning.
  • It need not be a flash cutover. You can roll out new App-V clients for new apps while continuing with old apps on the old client.  To do this, the old client must be at least 4.6 SP2 (so you may have to upgrade to 4.6 SP3 first). For some customers, having 5.0 in place may make leaving 4.6 in use past the end-of-maintenance more acceptable – if 4.6 became a problem you could rush the completion of the migration which would “only” involve re-sequencing the remaining apps.  The new client does have some new dependencies (like PowerShell 3.0 and .Net Framework 4.5.1 or above) you will also need to get started rolling out.
  • For the apps, there is a convertor from the old format to the new.  I personally feel uncomfortable about converting, but if you have a large number of apps and test them really well it might be worth the effort, which is trivial to run against a directory of old packages.
  • Prepping the Apps is, of course, the biggest part.  Hopefully your previous packaging processes were modern and you have decent documentation or the apps already.

5.0 SP3 is the modern version of application virtualization, leaving behind some of the limitations of the old SoftGrid codebase and preparing to handle the next ten years of apps. I still can’t name an app that works with App-V 4.6 and not with 5.  There undoubtedly is one or two out there, but in all this time I have not seen one yet.  Thanks to the design changes in 5, lightening up on the isolation and supporting more modern app integration methods (like Application Capabilities), many more apps work with 5.0 SP3 than ever before.  We do still need isolation for conflicts like Java, apps with multiple versions, and just so many “in-house developed” apps that were developed using NT or XP developer standards, but today App Virtualization is about selective isolation.  Plus, we unfortunately need a bit of app remediation now and then to allow continued use of “legacy” applications.  Grouping of applications that need to work together is so much easier now.  Between Connection Groups, “Jit-V” (just in time virtualization), and RunVirtual, so many of the new problems encountered due to virtualization are simply eliminated.

So if you are still waiting, it is time to get moving.

Tim Mangan is a Microsoft MVP for App-V and a Citrix CTP.  He is the author of several books, including the "Windows Performance Through Caching" and "PowerShell for App-V 5" book, and can be found at TMurgent Technologies (www.tmurgent.com) where his title is "The Kahuna".   There is a pretty good chance that you can catch him speaking at this year's BriForum conferences.

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