Automatic conversion from Citrix application streaming to MSI or App-V

xenapp-App-VCitrix application streaming is an application packaging and delivery technology used in Citrix XenApp platforms up to version 6.5 and enables on demand application streaming to workstations, virtual desktops or application servers while providing application isolation to allow multiple parallel versions of same application to exist on same operating system image. Starting from Citrix XenApp version 7.0 application streaming is not supported anymore in favour of Microsoft App-V application virtualization.

If operating system migration is not involved, one of the approaches for effortless XenApp migration could be to replace existing XenApp installation with a VDA and join the server to a new XenApp/XenDesktop site. While this approach works in general, it does not work with streamed apps as there is no management system available starting from XenApp 7.0. Unavoidable point for repackaging the streaming profiles would be when operating system would have to be upgraded.

If an organization has implemented Citrix streaming technology, it may be a major road block in upgrading XenApp and XenDesktop systems over to modern versions. Because Citrix application streaming is not limited to virtual environments, it may even block organizations to migrate physical workstations from Windows 7 to Windows 8/8.1/10. This evolution with XenApp is problematic for some organizations and creates a need to migrate streaming profiles to either MSI or App-V format. However, conversion may be labour intensive process, especially in cases where original installation media is in a format that does not generally allow unattended installations, such as .EXE.

Without automated conversion tools, converting to MSI or App-V would require manual application capturing from original installation media using packaging tools such as Flexera AdminStudio, Smart Packager Suite from Smart Packager Inc. or Microsoft App-V sequencer. Both the Adminstudio and Smart Packager have the basic repackaging features and App-V sequencing, but there is one feature that really shines over the others.

Smart Packager Inc. worked with us in testing their new Smart Packager Suite, which has one big advantage over the other packaging tools mentioned above. For upcoming XenApp migrations it has the capability to automatically convert existing streaming profiles to currently supported package formats and helps organizations quickly migrate over to more modern XenApp or XenDesktop platforms that supports only App-V application virtualization or physical installations. Another cool thing with Smart Packager Suite is that it is not dependent on running the applications in virtual machine for conversion or sequencing, simply put, it sucks in the files and registry keys and spits out a package in different format. It is extremely fast!

This overview guide is based on automated conversion using Smartpackager Suite while leveraging AppDNA application testing platform for compatibility testing to guide on remediation for App-V. Streaming profiles are found from AppHub, which is the centralised profile store used for profile distribution thru Citrix XenApp. XenApp publishing instructs Citrix Offline plugin about the location of profiles, for this reason apphub is the place where you will typically find the profiles that are actually used. If location of apphub is unknown, it can be discovered by checking the path from XenApp published application.

On welcome screen, you have multiple options for working on new packages.

  • Discovery would let you repackage an existing EXE or MSI

  • Create a new windows installer package option let´s you to create a new package from scratch

  • Create a new App-V package would create a new App-V package from installer without using App-V sequencer

  • Edit an existing package would let you to modify an existing MSI package

For package conversions, select "Import an existing package" wizard to import an existing package to be managed with Smart Packager.

As you can see, you can import multiple package types. Smart Packager can be used to convert following package types to App-V 5.0 or MSI:

  • Citrix application streaming

  • Microsoft App-V 4.x

  • Microsoft App-V 5.0

  • Windows Installer

 

Citrix streaming profiles are saved inside a profile folder, where each folder can contain multiple streaming targets. Each streaming target is located in their own folder or VHD file. Key for importing and converting streaming profiles is the *.profile file, which contains the "DNA" of streaming profile.

  • Browse to your *.profile files individually or add a folder for batch conversion.

Select destination folder for converted packages. The import package format means the format you are converting to, the import part is little bit misleading, it means that converted packages will be imported to smart packager as "managed package". 

While it would be possible to convert directly to App-V, in this example we convert to MSI before converting to App-V.

For small number of apps direct conversion to App-V would be ok, but if you have hundreds or thousands of CAS profiles to convert, you may want to avoid remediation and settle on deploying the App-V incompatibles as MSI. Later we can use our application management system to define the deployment options.

Click "Finish" and conversion will begin. Smart Packager is incredibly fast in converting the packages. 

Given the speed of conversion, it woudn´t save you any time to convert directly to App-V. Instead, converting first to MSI gives you additional deployment options, guarantees future conversions to different formats and it just is a good practice to have an MSI available for your apps. In the end, missing MSI is one of the reasons for this type of converter: If you had MSI for all of your profiles, you would have already auto-sequenced your apps.

Packages are now converted and imported as managed packages in smart packager. Managed packages can be opened for editing if necessary.

Editor can be opened from lower right corner, there is two options where the basic editor would be enough for most cases. The advanced editor gives you similar look and feel than Orca.

 

This is the package editor screen where you could modify the package if required.

In this example, we don´t edit the packages just yet, let´s first analyze the converted MSI´s using our application management system to get an idea on which apps should really work as App-V and how to remediate them.

Leave the smart packager window open and study the reports provided by our platform.

After the MSI´s are analyzed, it is time to study the reports provided by our application management system. For this example set of applications, it is reported that only one of them would work as App-V as it is while four of them could be easily remediated to work with App-V.

This is one of the reasons why we didn´t convert directly to App-V as you just can not know if it works or not. Multiply the numbers with hundreds and you want to settle on MSI when there is incompatibilities with App-V.

Note that the incompatibilities are in the application package itself, it is not a result of conversion!

Because these apps were already streamed, which is very similar to App-V 5.0, you could imagine that the issues are not huge. Actually i checked just for interest and the issues are file type associations and such simple issues where remediation actions is along the lines of "testing required".

This remediation report example shows FTA issues for firefox, it has nothing to do with applications functionality for normal internet browsing, but if you would be double clicking a locally saved webpage, it might open with another browser.

Now, you could get back to the smart packager package editor which you left open waiting for this remediation guidance and fix the issue.

Like mentioned earlier, if you have hundreds or thousands of CAS profiles to convert, you may want to plan your deployment.

This example shows you slightly different traffic lights than the previous App-V report, reason is that this report includes results from App-V and Windows 10 analysis, added with our own logic for action preference and a calculation for cost of deployment / remediation.

This is a typical scenario where you would fire up a virtual machine and autosequence the apps for App-V. However, i must say that because of repeated reverting back to snapshot before processing individual app and actual execution of the application during sequencing makes autosequencing with other sequencers slow compared to automatic conversion with smart packager.

 

Now that we have converted your CAS profiles to MSI, have remediated your apps for target platform and planned the best migration path, we are ready to act on it. Deploy the MSI´s if you wish, or continue on converting the remediated MSI´s to App-V. For converting the MSI´s to App-V, just follow the process in the beginning of the post with a difference that import the MSI´s and set the output format as App-V. 

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