Rodney Medina from Login Consultants wrote a great article last week introducing the new Application Isolation Environment functionality in Citrix Presentation Server 4.0. These new AIE capabilities have gotten a lot of people thinking about creative ways they can be used. For instance, Daniel Wipperfuerth from ADN in Germany has proposed that AIE could be used for “file copy”-based application distribution to Citrix servers. In a nutshell, why not install an application into an isolation environment and then just copy the files and registry keys from server to server?
To see what we’re talking about, let’s walk through an example of how you’d do this with WinZip and a PS4 farm with at least two servers.
- Use the Presentation Server Console (PSC) to create a new isolation environment on Server A.
- Use the AIE setup utility to start the installation WinZip. (This would be something like “aiesetup your-isolation-environment-name setup-filename-of-wizip.exe"
- Use the PSC to publish the application from its isolation environment.
- To “deploy WinZip to Server B, simply copy the local sandbox files and directories from Server A to Server B. Also copy the isolation environment’s registry keys from Server A to Server B. (Check out last week’s article for details about the isolation environment’s files and registry keys.)
- When you’re done, use the PSC to add Server B to the list servers that WinZip is available on.
That’s it! You can now run WinZip from either of these two servers. The application’s files and registry values remain in the isolation environment’s sandbox and can be copied to any machine you want.
This technique has several benefits, including:
- It works “after” the application’s installation routine has been run, which means that it doesn’t matter what type of installation technology is used. (MSI, batch file, InstallShield, etc.)
- It can be used to “deploy” applications to running servers using simple batch files with xcopy.exe and reg.exe.
- It can be used to update existing applications by using a tool like rsync that will only transfer the changed bits.
- It’s much easier than doing “real” installations to each server.
With all these advantages, there is one major disadvantage—AIE does not support application components outside of file and registry locations. So this technique is a “no go” for most applications since they require advanced components such as COM objects. Other than that though this could be an interesting deployment solution in limited cases.