Over the last few weeks, I had the pleasure to take a look at an Automated App-V Sequencing tool called Autonoware ConversionBox introduced to me, by a company in the UK called Algiz Technology. I was lucky enough to get a demo of the product and then some trial licenses to play with. If you'd like some trial licenses yourself, you can download the tool and 10 free trial licenses from HERE. In my blog post, I will show how quick and easy the setup of the tool is and go through converting a single application. To see what automating the sequencing of multiple applications is like, take a look at the video at the bottom of this post! For more about the product, you can take a look at the Algiz blog: https://www.algiz-technology.com/ and at the AutonWare site https://www.autonoware.com/conversionbox/
This tool works by spinning up a virtual machine with the App-V Sequencer on it. The setup is pretty heavily automated, as you'll see in this post. Something I learned by trying to install on my Windows 8.1 machine, you'll want to make sure whatever machine you choose to run the conversions on does not have Hyper-V installed on it. You'll also want to make sure you've got an ISO for Windows 7, at hand. From what I understand, at this moment in time, it has to be a Windows 7 VM but of course, your App-V applications should work on Windows 8 or whatever OS you choose to deploy to, in the majority of cases. I have been informed, they are working on supporting a Window 8 Sequencing VM but it's not a high priority as not many people are shouting for it...as you'd expect :)
Launch the setup. Choose the install directory, accept the license terms and conditions and click Next
Enter your User Name, Organization and Serial number for the product and then click Install
Drag and drop your Windows 7 ISO onto the window as instructed
You'll need to enter a valid Product key for the OS and choose the type and then continue
A virtual Machine will start to spin up and get created for you. The VM will appear within the applications window, which is a nice touch.
The VM tool will setup and configure the VM
Once the VM setup has completed, you'll be able to convert applications, Wasn't that simple? For this example, I just dragged a folder with my MSI for InstEd onto the window
A prompt will appear, asking if you'd like to Process All Files, which will scan the folder for setup files and then run through the auto-sequencing, the Scan and Select option will scan for installers and then allow me to review and specify which applications should be converted. I'll select the latter and click Continue
Here, I can change the applications to convert. Add more applications, choose to not sequence an app that's in this window already etc. and then, when happy, Click Next
You can see it shows there's one MSI and potentially one license going to be used. It states potentially because, if the tool detect an error or issue when converting, it will not consume a license. When happy, Click Next
An Assistant dialog will appear, here you can set different App-V options, if you'd like. For example, maybe you don't want an MSI to be generated, maybe you want to restrict the application to only work on certain Operating Systems, maybe you want the application to fully load? Basically any configuration you can think of for an App-V package can be set here. Then you can save and continue.
We'll see a cool animation of the VM doing it's thing and the tool will begin to convert the application
As you can see, you get the preview on the VM view. You also have a progress bar.
Here's a glimpse of the kind of reporting the tool can provide. There is a separate shortcut for the Reporting tool, so, if you'd like you can frontload your applications and run them through compatibility analysis tool first and this DOES NOT consume a license. So you can ensure, you only attempt to auto-sequence\convert applications which are likely to work. It's great that you can do this without consuming licenses are competing products over the years such as ChangeBase and AppDNA changed per import.
Now, I'm not showing everything in the image above, because it's a touchy subject. I have reviewed other Application Compatibility tools in the past, it's just not a good idea to give too much of the results away for free...well, it's not a good idea to do that, when you don't work for them! I'd rather not piss anybody off! But you can see some of what's being covered by the reporting. It looks like this particular application should work with App-V.
At a glimpse you can see which applications failed to convert, so, no trolling through the applications output folders to figure that out.
You also get some great information like if there's a service, any drivers and what they are, as well as if there's any 64-bit specific files. If I saw this report, right away I'd go and check out that service, to see if it's set automatic, if it is, I'd re-sequence and disable the service if it hasn't been already (If the service isn't important). I'd also, see if the printer driver is required, if it's an issue, I'd split it out. 64-bit files generates a 32-bit warning. Some vendors condition their installers e.g. If installed on 32-bit, install the 32-bit files, if 64-bit, install the 32-bit but in some cases, an installer might actually put down both and just work on either.
Tools like AppDNA allow you to import your application into the tool for reporting on compatibility. With AppDNA if you import an MSI, it checks against the MSI Tables, for an .exe, the tool actually repackages the .exe into an MSI and then imports it. This is because their checks for compatibility are against the MSI tables. So it's a flat file analysis. With ConversionBox, each application is installed and analyzed.
Whilst you don't consume a license when reporting on the applications, you do consume a license for a successful conversion. If the conversion fails, you do not use a license. As I'll show in the conclusions, the tool also takes screenshots of the application launch, which is really cool. If something does go wrong, you can see what's up without needing to try it out for yourself!
For a quick demo of auto-sequencing multiple apps at once, take a look at my video, I dragged a folder containing the application seen in this screenshot:
The video is pretty quick to get through, here ya go:
I would gladly use this tool on a large sequencing project. It would be really great to just frontload my applications and put them through the sequencing\conversion process all at once. I once got to use the Flexera AAC tool for Auto-Sequencing App-V 4.6 applications and the success rate was very low. Also, I needed to provide silent install parameters for any applications I wanted to convert. This tool seems to have some extra logic built in. All I had to do was drag and drop onto the window and the tool did the rest. With other tools I've used, if something fails you usually just get an innocuous message with no real explanation as to why it failed. Which is disappointing because the whole point of batch processing multiple applications is that you want to be able to walk away and let the tool do it's thing, you don't want to have to babysit it, you don't want a complete App-V Sequence with an error...particularly, say 60% of your apps with errors and not knowing if it worked or not...that means you'll need to test every single application afterwards because you can't be sure if it actually worked.
ConversionBox actually records screenshots whilst it's doing it's thing. Now, obviously, if you run your organization correctly, you'll go and test those applications anyways before deploying BUT you have a quick way to take a look to see if there was any errors! Pretty sweet!
As somebody who sequences applications currently one on one, the reporting itself isn't a huge revelation to me. I can see the reports in the App-V Sequencer when I do it my way but the usefulness of the reporting comes to light when you want to run the conversion tool, you can see which apps are the best candidates for conversion, to help manage which would be the best for the auto-conversion. I believe, just like with AppDNA, ChangeBase etc. reporting for App-V, it's best to give the reports to an experience App-V Sequencer to look at. It reports on VC++ Runtime dependencies, which may or may not be something you are concerned with, depending on your project.
Without an experience App-V Sequencer, the tool is still pretty useful. You could look at the reports and just run through whatever apps that don't report issues to let yourself hit the ground running.
I've used AppDNA, ChangeBase and Flexeras offerings, in the interest of full disclosure, I have not tried those tools for the Auto-Sequencing features in quite some time. I did recently use Flexeras AAC and VirtualPack for converting to ThinApp and it was very inflexible and not fit for purpose. In relation to when I did use those tools, I have to say, ConversionBox is the best that I've used!