AppAttach is based on, or extends existing MSIX technology. It allows you to take any existing MSIX package, without altering or repackaging and ‘stream’ it to a virtual or physical machine, much like you are used to with existing Application Layering products. It is also been mentioned that Microsoft is slowly moving away from existing solutions like App-V, for example, and thus positioning MSIX as their main technology for application packaging/provisioning purposes going forward.
A few intro bullets first
- The MSIX technology is still relatively new, it got introduced during Microsoft Build last year. And while Microsoft has announced to slowly move away from App-V, many do not see it as a worthy replacement at this point and are worried about what might happen next. Read this (1) and this (2) post (in order) to better understand what is going on.
App-V is not under active development but it is supported in Windows 10. We will work closely with our App-V customers to ensure that their requirements are met by the future of app deployment, MSIX in conjunction with SCCM/InTune – Andrew Clinick, Microsoft
- By the way, here you can find more details around MSIX, what it is, what it does or can do, and how it works.
- During this year’s Build (2019) they (WVD, ex-Fslogix team) showed a sneak preview of MSIX AppAttach, have a look at the YouTube video if you are interested. Start around 38 minutes or so if the other stuff doesn’t interest you.
MSIX AppAttach brings us all the perks that Application Layering and App-V have been doing for years. Mainly by creating an abstraction layer of the application so that it can be more easily managed, updated and such. However, according to Microsoft some of the added advantages over ‘traditional’ App Layering products are:
- You can use existing MSIX packages, no altering or repackaging needed.
- No ‘special’ deployment servers are needed.
- No performance impact.
Based on what we know today, let’s have a closer look. If you already have and/or are using MSIX packages I would agree, you can re-use them pretty much instantly. However, MSIX packages don’t just fall from the sky, do they :) Also, AppAttach packages are ‘streamed’ from a file server, from an architectural standpoint that’s nothing ‘special’, again, agreed as well.
However, Application Layering works in the exact same way, deployment servers, or something similar are not needed. As far as the performance impact goes, I think the difference would be minimal to none.
With AppAttach VHD’s (holding the MSIX packages) are mounted onto the OS, filter drivers do their magic – the Fslogix ones in this case – and the Operating System does not know the difference. Again, Applicating Layering works the same.
Of course, we don’t have any specific details yet. It has been mentioned that existing API’s within Windows are leveraged to perform an App-Attach, how this might be different from what we are used to is to be seen. From a management perspective (consoles included) they might be able to provide a better integration and user/management experience. Time will tell, it’s a nice development.
As with WVD (the whole world suddenly has an interest in (Windows) Virtual Desktops, it’s like they’ve never heard of VDI, DaaS, or something similar) the same thing might happen here (it’s going be the future of managing/provisioning apps within WVD, so there’s that). While a great deal of companies are already using, or at least know of App-V, application streaming/layering might become overly popular as well. Microsoft certainly has the marketing tools to get the job done.
Here are some fact we’ve come to learn so far:
- AppAttach will leverage existing and new MSIX packages for streaming/mounting purposes.
- Existing API’s within Windows will be use to perform an App-Attach to the Operating System.
- The concept is the same as with Application Layering. A VHD containing the MSIX packaged will be attached to the Operating System. The underlying technology takes care of the rest.
- It will use the Fslogix technology stack (filter drivers, app masking) to do so.
- AppAttach packages (VHD’s) are stored on a file server/file share.
- Once a attached, the application will seem local to the Operating System.
- It will work for virtual as well as physical machines, single and multi-user.
- Multiple machines can read a single AppAttach package at the same time.
- We’re talking about block level read only access for efficiency purposes.
- An AppAttach SDK is in the making. Third party app provisioning companies/products will be able to leverage this, adding value.
- Eventually this will become the native way of dealing with applications for the Windows Virtual Desktop platform.
- Once they have this in pace, it will be (abstraction) ‘layers’ all the way down. From the user profile/data to applications.
- AppAttach is NOT a WVD only solution/technology.
Let’s see how all this unveils going forward. First up is Citrix Synergy. I won’t be there personally, but I’ll be following the event online the best I can. For those who will attend, have fun and don’t drink to much! Thanks, Rory, for doing a quick skim/check.