With the release of the new Horizon Suite, Workspace and the new version of Mirage ThinApp is now included in each and every one of these products. To be able to use ThinApp as part of Mirage is very helpful and you can do some nice things which wasn’t very easy to do with ThinApp in the past, for example deploy ThinApp packages to branch office. But ThinApp also brings all the benefits of application virtualization to Mirage’s application layering.
I talked about Mirage’s application layering in my last blog post so if I want to understand the basics of Mirage’s application layer I would recommend to read the article first. In this article I am going to show some options to deploy ThinApp packages thru application layering.
The easiest way to deploy ThinApp with Mirage is to create a MSI installer for your ThinApp package. Just remove the semicolon from the MSIFileName and MSIDefaultInstallAllUsers parameter in the package.ini and then rebuild your package. It is crucial that MSIDefaultInstallAllUsers is enabled and set to 1 if you want to deploy a ThinApp package using Mirage’s app layering. Mirage only records changes to the system and not changes made to a specific user profile during the application layer capturing process. Therefore you must enable the MSI package to install itself for all users and not only for a specific user.
Now you can create a new application layer like you would do it with a normal installation but instead of installing a native application you install your ThinApp MSI package. As you can see in the screenshot below the Mirage application capture process detects the application as it would be installed natively.
To update an application layer to a newer version of your ThinApp package you simply have to create a new layer and install your new ThinApp MSI into it. If you want your users settings to persist make sure both versions of your ThinApp package inside the application layer use the same sandbox name and location. If this isn’t the case all user settings are lost (they are not really lost but your new ThinApp package does not acces the old sandbox/settings) after you deploy the updated application layer.
Instead of installing a ThinApp MSI package during the application layer recording process you can also use thinreg.exe to deploy your application into the layer. This is done in two simple steps:
- Copy your ThinApp package to a location on the reference machine
- Run thinreg.exe /allusers to register the package on the reference machine
Example: If you want to deploy your VLC ThinApp package using thinreg.exe you first have to copy your VLC.exe ThinApp package to C:ThinAppVLC.exe and then run thinreg.exe /allusers C:ThinAppVLC.exe.
When using thinreg.exe make sure you specify the /allusers parameter for the same reasons you have to enable the MSI all user installation. Also make sure you don’t have the argument /noarp specified. This prevents the ThinApp package to be registered under Add/Remove Programs (Windows XP) or Programs and Features (Windows 7) and therefore from being detected by the application layering recording wizard.
To update your ThinApp package you have to follow the same procedure as when updating a layer created with an ThinApp MSI package. Just create a new layer using the two steps described above and make sure you packages are using the same sandbox name and location.
Using ThinApp out of the box deployment methods
Of course you can still use all of ThinApp out of the box deployment methods like placing ThinApp packages on a network share and then apply thinreg.exe. Or you could use Mirage deploy the first ThinApp package and then use AppSync.
Creating a Mirage application layer to deploy ThinApp packages is pretty straight forward. You just have to make sure everything is installed in the machine context (all users) and not for a specific user. When deploying ThinApp packages using Mirage you will gain great benefits when deploying ThinApp packages to branch offices as all the Mirage file- and block-level deduplication is also applied to application layers with ThinApp packages inside. Also when deploying ThinApps thru Mirage you still have most of the benefits an application virtualization solution brings to the table, e.g. isolation, portability and consolidation.
The only downside of deploying ThinApp packages with Mirage’s application layering technique today is that the user has to restart the computer for the new application layer to be applied. But while there are definitely use cases (remote and branch offices, mobile worker) to deploy ThinApp packages using Mirage application layers you still can use all the usual ThinApp deployment methods in combination with Mirage.