Interview with Tim Mangan about his new book about App-V

Blogger, speaker, consultant, and friend of the site Tim Mangan just released a book (today!) about App-V. Tim's been in this space a long time (and is one of five people who have spoken at all eight BriForums), but this is his first book.

Blogger, speaker, consultant, and friend of the site Tim Mangan just released a book (today!) about App-V. Tim's been in this space a long time (and is one of five people who have spoken at all eight BriForums), but this is his first book. I interviewed Tim last week about his book and the state of Microsoft's App-V product.

Brian: First things first: Tim, how did you get started in App Virtualization?

Tim: Shortly after going off on my own to do some consulting, I was invited to run the software development at this cool startup called SoftwareWow. This was app streaming without the virtualization. We set up a couple data centers and streamed software—mostly games—to consumers. We bundled them up, streamed them down and essentially placed the files and registry right onto the user's PC and then tried to clean it all out when the user quit. From “issues” some people had we came up with the idea of virtualizing the application to keep it away from the OS and other apps. So we took in more money, changed the name to Softricity and built SoftGrid. (Or as it is now known, App-V.)

Brian: And now you’re sort of known as an App-V guy. Why? Are you crazy?

Tim: No. I’ve just found a really good place... a way to do what I want to do. I play a lot of golf, I do a lot of research into how software works and breaks, I blog and participate in forums, and then I do just enough training and consulting to pay the bills. :)

Brian: If someone has just heard of App-V but never actually used it, where do they even begin?

Tim: You would want to check out some of the white papers and videos that Microsoft has at the Application Virtirtualization TechCenter. When it comes to sequencing—that's the term for packaging the applications—you also want to look at some of the videos on my site, TMurgent.com. And of course once you know you want to go with App-V, you should come to one of our independent App-V training classes!

Brian: So based on your experience with lots of apps and lots of customers, what’s the one thing you wish that every App-V admin knew?

Tim: That they can throw away the servers and use the App-V client in what I call “server-less” mode. I’ve become really big on this in the last year. (I also built some free tools to help with this.)

Brian: Word on the street is that App-V doesn’t work with a lot of apps. Is that true? And if so, then why should someone even bother with it?

Tim: I’m not sure what street you live on dude! You can’t do apps with kernel mode drivers, or exotic stuff like Com+ and DCOM, but most of the rest you can do. Often, however, we choose not to. We have so many ways to deploy software such as Electronic Software Delivery (ESD) systems, terminal server, or bundling into an imaging system with the OS. Most companies use a combination of these things. So you virtualize what you can. The more you virtualize, the greater the benefit because you avoid conflict and stabilize the OS. But if an application is hard to sequence—often because of needed integrations with other apps—sometimes it just makes more sense to use one of those other methods for this app and move on.

Brian: What's Microsoft's view on App-V? Is it strategic for them or just a band-aid for dumb old apps?

Tim: Applications are much better written, from a conflict point of view, than they were ten years ago when we started Softricity. If app conflict was the only issue App-V solved, then we wouldn’t need it once those apps go away in another ten or twenty years. :)

But we clearly need not only to separate apps from each other, but to separate apps from the OS itself. Making the OS as “stateless” as possible is very important to enterprises no matter what direction their desktops go. If you stay with the fat PC model, you want to reduce changes to the OS to improve stability and long term performance. If you go VDI, you absolutely need to layer apps on top of a stateless OS. And many companies will continue to have large terminal server farms due to the low cost/user. You want an app virtualization solution that can package once and deliver to all three scenarios.

This past six months I've talked to many companies that skipped Vista and are ready to move to Windows 7 in 2010, and they want to virtualize the applications. For years they put off app virtualization because they didn’t want to touch the apps, but now they have to touch every single app they have to make the move to 7. Oh, and almost every one of those customers seem to be settling on the x64 OS. Twelve months ago I would never have predicted this. So virtualizing now makes a lot of sense.

But back to your original question, App-V is a very strategic product to Microsoft. It's interesting that on the terminal server, they now include the App-V licenses with your RDS CAL. It might be interesting if ThinApp can actually gain some momentum with View customers. It could cause Microsoft to do something interesting with licensing on the VDI side. Maybe the rumors this month about Microsoft making App-V available to all users in Windows 8 have some teeth? Regardless, they'll continue to drive the product forward. These past few years have been more about breaking it apart and providing customers options, now they need to streamline each of those option paths and make the whole process easier than it is today.

Brian: Will third-party ISVs ever release their products in App-V pre-packaged formats?

Tim: Yes, and actually Attachmate recently did this. I’m surprised it took so many years for an ISV to do so, so congratulations to them. Every time the enterprise touches one of their apps [like with the move to Windows 7 mentioned previously], it's an opportunity for the ISV to get an upgrade order, an opportunity to take business from a competitor, and of course an opportunity to lose out too. By releasing products in both MSI and SFT format, the ISV makes their product much more deployable than their competition. Plus the ISV is clearly making a statement “I will support you if you virtualize.” That is huge!

I have actually seen enough interest out there in the ISV space that I created a special class for ISVs to help them get ready. It’s more than just creating the package: it’s software design, the packaging, testing, and support.

Brian Madden: Let's move on to your book which your releasing today. What's the story with it?

Tim Mangan: It's called "The Client Book" with the subtitle "about Microsoft App-V." It's for IT Admins who work with the product, and possibly help desk personnel. It's not intended for end-users.

Brian: What's the App-V book market look like right now?

Tim: There really isn’t anything out there yet. There is a little App-V content buried in bigger books, and a rumor of a European foreign language book a few years back that was a straight translation of the manual.

Brian: Really? Why's that?

Tim: The product documentation is—I’ll be nice—"challenging" to work with. As a platform product with multiple very different ways to deploy—streaming, pushing, or loading—there's an awful lot to cover.

Brian: So your book only covers the client?

Tim: Our book is only covering the client, and once we pulled that content out of the companion guides for our training class, we still have over 500 pages of dense text left in those guides. In book form, we would have ended up with a tome approaching 2000 pages if we covered everything. Plus, we would probably never get it done.

Brian: So if I want to learn, say, how to “sequence” applications I still need to take the class?

Tim: Yeah, that’s the idea. We were really spending something like 5% of the time in our classes covering the client and the rest on everything else. So we pulled that content out and published it in book form.

Brian: What does the book do for me that I can’t get from the product documentation?

Tim: First, the product documentation information on the client is scattered, so we have it all in one place. But we add a lot of detail covering operational theory, all three deployment models, different ways to configure, VDI options, and troubleshooting techniques. Finally, we include a lot of undocumented information, like undocumented installation options to set user permissions or an explanation on how to interpret the error codes.

We think we have written the ultimate reference book on the topic containing everything you could possibly want to know, and more.

Brian: Oh right, you're saying "we"... You co-wrote this book with Kevin Kaminski. How did you get started with Kevin?

Tim: We knew each other from forum posts, and both attended the Microsoft Management Summit just after the Softricity acquisition was announced. I had spoken with the Softricity trainers and found that they had to find new jobs within the company since Microsoft doesn’t do training. By this time I had already done a couple of training/consulting gigs of my own. So I proposed to Kevin that we build our own course. It was a good combination because I understood how it worked from the inside and Kevin had tremendous field experience with the product at many customers.

Details for "The client book about Microsoft App-V"

Title: The Client Book About Microsoft App-V

Authors: Timothy Mangan, with Kevin Kaminski

Publisher: TMurgent Technologies, LLP

Distributor: Lulu.com

ISBN: 978-0-557-35330-9

Price: $49.95

Detail: Hardcover, 235 pages

Link to bookstore: http://stores.lulu.com/tmurgent

Table of Contents

See http://www.tmurgent.com/TheClientBook/default.aspx

From the back cover

The Client Book is the first book published that is exclusively focused on the Microsoft App-V product. Written by the authors of the GridMasterTraining “Masters Level” training class on App-V, this book focuses extensively on the part of App-V that affects the most people – the client. Whether you deploy your virtualized applications using the traditional dedicated App-V Management server, using SCCM, or by using the client in “Stand-alone mode”, this book has you covered. With deep detail covering everything you could ever want to know about the client, this book is a “must have” for any IT Professional that works with the product.

About the Authors

Tim Mangan is the founder of TMurgent Technologies, a company serving the Application Virtualization space. Ten years ago he served as Vice President of Engineering for Softricity and built the SoftGrid Platform, which was later purchased by Microsoft and renamed App-V. Today, Tim is in high demand around the world for App-V Training and Consulting, and is a frequent speaker at local and international conferences on all forms of virtualization and system performance. He is recognized by Microsoft as a MVP and by citrix as a CTP, two top tier awards for contributions to the technical community.

With over eleven years of systems management experience, Kevin Kaminski is no stranger to the difficulties which enterprises can experience when managing large deployments of Windows systems. As an independent consultant, Kevin uses the opportunity to visit many diverse environments and see the challenges they face first hand. A Microsoft MVP for App-V, his contributions to the community can be seen on many sites, such as the Microsoft TechNet Forum, AppDeploy, MyItForum, AppVirtGuru, as well as the Calgary Systems Management User Group (CSMUS.ca).,

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Thanks for the intervju. We are using the "server less" deployment mode in our RDS/XA6 environment with much help of Tims tools and documentation.Works in fact very well.


Also the extended App-V GPO templates from Imidio are nice addition, though I'm not sure if are using these or the Microsoft provided ones in prod.


The "Cient Book" will surely come very handy in the fall after the summer vacations. Nice job & good timing!


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Firstly congrats to Tim, great contribution to the community so support him!!


Now let's get a little real. If App-V is so strategic to MS, then whey do they sell it as part of MDOP? Why is it not part of the operating system already? Windows 8 is too far out for anybody to care. Why don't MS product teams ship native app-v apps today? They have had plenty of time...... Reality is that App-V team has no pull across MS, until that happens, MSI is here to stay. As an ISV I still need to produce an MSI, and as a customer I still need to maintain a separate ESD at cost to deal with exceptions. It is pathetic that MS can't produce an IE 6 version with App-V that is holding up Windows 7 deployment in some cases. Even your friends at VMWare have figured that out and I don't need MDOP for it!!!! Why is that too hard for you MS? Scared of the IE is part of the operating system debate biting you in the a$$ again? And hosting it on RDS/XA is not a good solution for all cases and a stupid use case for RDS/XA and $$$$ even if it's a sunk cost as it just creates more legacy infrastructure. Oh that Q: drive mapping thing. What do I do if developers internally can't agree which common drive to replace? Great architecture that you havn't fixed for years. Also how come every other app virt vendor has figured out that context is easier to solve and manage if you just launch apps at run time into an execution bubble? Why do you think it is a good idea to manage inter-app communication? What's up with that, why haven't you fixed these 101 issues? These are just 101 issues the 102 class is all about enterprise management and no I am not getting locked into MS SCUM SKA SCCM to do that.


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First, congrats on the book Tim and thanks for sharing your knowledge so readily.


That said, appdetective makes some valid points here. We have been using App-V since 2004 and not much has changed. First we had to wait and wait and wait for a 64 bit client for TS, now we need something to bubble IE6 on Windows 7 and App-V fails again. It appears other vendor have not only caught up but surpass App-V with less complexity and more capability.


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@appdetective I think it’s hard for anyone to miss that you don’t go well together with Microsoft MDOP and SA. I tend to agree quite much with your opinions and digging in the ground, MDOP and SA being no exception. There’s a lot be said about App-V, for sure…and quite a bit for the various others too. I see App-V (+others) as a complement to the more classical EDS while the future of software consumption is yet a bit clouded ;)


Anyways, as of today, App-V is “free” with RDS and I see no good reason why not use it (?)


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@Kimmo. I agree no harm in using it if it's there as part of RDS, but it's also there as part of Citrix App Streaming. The fact that it has to be used as a complement as opposed to replacement of ESD, in my mind begs the question how important  is this stuff really. It's just added complexity in many cases. If MS made this a true platform play then many more people would use SFT as the new MSI and not have to pay an MDOP penalty to use it on desktops. Until MS does that, SFT can not be like MSI for all use cases. This is why I say the App-V team has no pull in MS. If they did, MS would make this a default for their products. That has not yet happened, will it? Even when it does, will they allow other people to extend the platform to fix all the faults? If not then as @rudy points out above, other's will just keep building other solutions that are more capable, which 100% means no standards anywhere, and even more confusion industry wide driving application virtualization further into the niche product category. The real question for the MS Windows platform team is do they want to help people reduce management costs of desktops by enabling app-v as part of the operating system..... If the answer is yes, great ditch it from MDOP which has no value outside of App-V (MED-V sucks!) and open up the ecosystem to build on top. What a great way that would be to kill all the other options out there and control the underlying pluming. It amazed me that this was not accomplished for Windows 7, and as a result I think app-v will just be additional complexity in many new Windows 7 environments increasing costs side by side with traditional ESD, unless admins are very smart about how they use these solutions.


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@appdetective you raise some very valid questions.


My guess is that Microsoft will dump away App-V as part of their VDI license-mod later this year. The MinWin/Hyper-V Client Hypervisor along with built-in App-V support will most probably be part of the Windows 8 release (if possible without legal stuff and EU). One would assume that the crazy Q: drive will be dumped by then:)  


As these things are far ahead in the horizon, there’s ample time to alter whatever MS purposed or not …Yet, as of today, one asks and wonders the same questions as @appdetective have risen.


Still, as no surprise, I will go ahead and deploy the way it makes sense. In my case App-V makes a lot of sense in RDS/XA within its relative space.  As a replacement model for of ESD?  No way. Besides, there’s no such thing as replacement model until gravity expels...


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I would only wonder what better alternatives we will have by the time Windows 8 is even considered an option. Windows XP stuck in the enterprise for nearly 10 years.


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