How to Configure App-V using Group Policy Objects
Group Policy Objects are used more and more for centralized management of settings, especially for software products which are installed on a lot of systems and/or have a lot of configuration settings.
Therefore many people are creating custom ADM templates to set such configurations using Active Directory Group Policy Object. In those times the product still was labeled SoftGrid Rodney Medina create such an ADM template for SoftGrid. With the release of the latest version of App-V (the name given to the SoftGrid product), Microsoft announced an ADM template in order to configure the App-V client. I found this a breakthrough because this implies that Microsoft will officially support creating configuration settings using this methodology. When the ADM template was released and used for the first time we noticed that not all the settings available in the custom ADM template were available in this template. That is why Rodney, together with Ment v/d Plas, updated their ADM template reflecting the changes made to the settings in App-V 4.5, so all settings are available when combining both ADM templates.
In this article I will show how these ADM templates can be used and which settings can be configured using those templates.
Adding the template
All App-V settings are based on machine level, so there is no user configuration part. Therefore you add the ADM template to a new or already existing GPO using the option Add/Remove Templates from the right mouse button menu on Administrative Templates.
Figure 1: Add/Remove Templates menu option
Logically, you will need to have the templates available. Both can be downloaded for free. The Microsoft templates can be found on the Microsoft website, while the custom ADM template by Rodney/Ment can be found here (registration required).
Figure 2: Both ADM templates are seleted for using in this GPO
After selecting one or both templates you are ready for configuring the settings using the Group Policy Object Editor. Depending on which Operating System (and which version of the Group Policy Object Editor) you are using, you should change the filtering options to show the possible settings. In Windows 2008 those settings are displayed by default, in Windows 2003 you need to uncheck the option "Only show policy settings that can be fully managed" before the settings are displayed.
The Microsoft Settings are displayed under Microsoft Application Virtualization Client. The first set of settings is combined under the tab communication.
Figure 3: The Communication options within the Microsoft ADM template
In this part several very interesting settings can be found. First Allow Independent File Streaming needs to be configured if you are using the Lightweight Application Streaming model for your App-V server. The settings "Application Source Root", "OSD Source Root" and "Icon Source Root" can be used for overriding those settings as specified in the original OSD file. This options are very usable if your infrastructure is based on several locations and every (of some) location(s) have their own App-V server in that location (this was on the most asked wishes in the previous versions). If all files are on the same location configuring the "Application Source Root" is enough, but when all file are on separated resources all settings can be used.
With the option "Set Background loading triggers" you can configure the way the client will trigger the background loading process. The background loading process is completely revised in App-V 4.5. The policy setting "Specify what to load in the background" specifies the action performed when the background process is triggered (load previous used applications or load all applications).
The complete Set of policies (Disconnected Operations) are there to create the rules and settings needed in order to use the App-V client in offline mode. With these policies you are able to make configurations if offline usage is allowed (Disconnected Operations: Allow) when offline modes will be activated (Disconnected Operations: Fast Connect Timeout) and the amount of time the offline mode can be used (Disconnected Operations: Limit Disconnected Operations). The last two steps are configuring advanced settings, which I will not discuss in the article.
Figure 4: Permissions settings within the Microsoft ADM template
Permissions is the logical name for the second tab. All settings in this part are based on the rights the user has on the system with the App-V client installed. When using the lightweight option you need to configure those settings, otherwise the user can not start the virtualized applications. When using this method I configure at least the following options "Add Application", "Permission to Import Applications" and "Permission to Load Application". When using a product like RES PowerFuse, Appsense or Scense (with a kind of SoftGrid/App-V integration) you should also enable "Permission to modify the OSD file"). The other settings can be configured to the needs of the organization, where all the settings have names that pertain to the organization.
Figure 5: Client Interface settings within the Microsoft ADM template
Finally, you will reach Microsoft ADM templates is the tab Client Interface. The configuration mode is divided into two groups. The first group; "Show: ........." can be used to configure the behavior of the traybar icon and the message display by this feature. I personally prefer to show most of these options like "Show Load", "Show Success display delay" and "Always Run". For maintenance purposes the settings "Log Roll-over count" and "Log Max Size" can be configured to specify the size of the log files and the amount of back-up copies kept of the log files (when the maximum size is reached).
In the ADM template, provided by the Login Consultant guys, adds additional configuration settings (not available in the Microsoft template) which need to be configured. Let us start with the settings that compliment this Client Interface. In this template the part we are concerned with is called Interface.
Figure 6: Interface component of the third party ADM template
With the setting "Tray: Display Icon" you can arrange that the icon will never be displayed in the tray bar, while the setting "Tray: Error display delay" can be use to define the time that an error occured.
Figure 7: Settings of the ADM Template
The Settings part is a real addition, because these settings by default are configured during the installation of the client. This way, a setting chosen can easily be changed centrally (although for some settings a reboot is required). Probably one of the most useful settings is the "SFT-Server Variable" to define a variable App-V server name, so this can be used for several locations or easy switching of App-V servers. With "Cache Location", "Cache Size" and "Automatically Unloading Cache" you can configure the App-V Cache settings, one of those settings which need be changed after a while. Also settings like "Global Data Directory", "User Data", "Client Log File", and "Application Usage Log" are settings used to configure the location of those specific folders or files.
When using the Full App-V Deployment scenario the "Server Settings" is the setting you definitely will like. In this settings you can configure the publish server and corresponding configuration, so the full deployment including the placement of icons is arranged automatically.
The last tab in this ADM template is called Communication.
Figure 8: Communication settings in the App-V Add-On Template
This part of the configuration settings are the "tweak and tune" parameters for the more advanced settings. Settings configured with those settings are the used protocol, optimized network settings, DCC configuration and script timeouts.
In modern infrastructures, centrally managed configurations are the way to go. It is great to see that Microsoft is supporting the configuration of these settings using Group Policy Objects. The ADM template provided by Microsoft is providing several good settings, but does not encompass all the settings you would like to see. It's great that the App-V Add-On template is offering such settings as a complementary template to the Microsoft App-V template. With this article I hope to have shown you the possible ways of configuring App-V using Group Policy Objects and this is the first step to use those in your infrastructure.