VMware App Volumes 2.12 – It’s here and it’s good!

App Volumes 2.12 - It's here and it's good!

If you work with VMware Horizon View and you aren’t familiar with App Volumes yet, I urge you to check out this video.  It’s pretty awesome.  The latest and greatest version yet was just released a few weeks ago.  App Volumes 2.12 has a number of feature enhancements and added compatibility that is sure to be good news for those trying to do non-persistent Windows 10 deployments.  If you want some light reading you can check out the VMware End-User Computing Blog announcement and the App Volumes 2.12 Release Notes to get a better idea of the changes in the new version.

What’s New in App Volumes 2.12

Below is a rundown of the new features and changes to App Volumes 2.12.

  • Better user experience with faster login and application launch times
  • Improved Active Directory integration across multiple domains
  • Security enhancements including agent to manager certificate validation
  • Windows 10 Anniversary Update (Build 1607) and Office 2016 Support
  • Tech Preview Features
    • Instant Clone Technology with Citrix XenDesktop Support
    • Centralized Log Collection for App Volumes Managers and Agents
    • Read-Only Administrator role
    • Asynchronous Mounting to improve scalability

Further explanation of these features and how to get them going are available in the VMware App Volumes documentation.

My initial thoughts on App Volumes 2.12

A number of minor issues in previous versions have made it difficult under certain circumstances to provide the kind of manageability and application support people want without user experience tradeoffs.  One of the more prominent of these issues has been long login times when using App Volumes to deliver applications and Writable Volumes.  Several versions have made strides toward improving login times while attaching AppStacks and Writables, but App Volumes 2.12 appears to be a huge leap forward.  If you believe the blog announcement, VMware claims there is a “30-50% decrease in login time” which is clearly significant.

While the login times are certainly a big issue, I’ve more recently been concerned with App Volumes being able to deliver applications and Writables to Windows 10 desktops.  The App Volumes 2.10 Release Notes indicate Writables on Windows 10 won’t work properly and I can confirm they don’t.  App Volumes 2.11 made no claims about Windows 10 and Writable Volumes supportability and I can again confirm they don’t work.  App Volumes 2.12 now claims support for Windows 10 Anniversary Update Build 1607.  This appears to be good news.

I haven’t had the need to implement App Volumes across multiple domains so this new feature doesn’t excite me as much as it may some.  I always put the Office 2016 install on my base image since it gets updated through WindowsUpdate.  It has also been more trouble than it’s worth putting any Office version in an AppStack historically, so again this new feature isn’t exciting.  The certificate and security enhancements should be helpful moving forward for those looking to further secure their internal components.  The only problem I see with this is if you upgrade and aren’t aware the impact it could cause a few headaches.  I won’t comment on the Tech Preview features since they aren’t supportable.

My experience so far with App Volumes 2.12

Altogether App Volumes 2.12 looks to be the best point release yet.  I’ve got my first production install complete and login times have been reduced compared to App Volumes 2.11 for both AppStack and Writable Volumes attachments.  This, I believe, will have a huge impact on user experience moving forward and on this alone I highly recommend existing App Volumes 2.x customers upgrade to App Volumes 2.12.  I’ll try and do some testing on this in a later article to give some hard numbers when possible.

Windows 10 User Profiles have been the bane of many admins existence lately, due to the massive changes in how things like the Start Menu and Taskbar are handled.  Many Windows 10 settings are now stored in local Jet Blue databases.  Microsoft seems to want to get away from any kind of roaming or persistence for profiles outside of their own initiatives like Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), User Experience Virtualization (UE-V) or even Azure Enterprise State Roaming (ESR).  It may make good business sense for them, but it’s hell on those of us using other products to achieve a persistent user experience on non-persistent desktops with Windows 10.

As I mentioned above, App Volumes 2.12 now supports Windows 10 AU Build 1607 with Writable Volumes and I’m here to tell you, it works!  I’ve deployed Horizon View 7 + UEM 9.1 + App Volumes 2.12 and my customer now has a streamlined, customizable, persistent user experience on Windows 10 Linked Clones.  Login times have been cut in half or more in some cases.  User and application settings are saved quickly and efficiently through UEM.  User Profile data doesn’t have to be recreated on each login with a Writable Volume configured for the user.  The Start Menu, Taskbar and many other Windows 10 settings now persist properly.

If you’ve been holding off on leveraging App Volumes or are new to the concept, please take my advice.  Install App Volumes 2.12 and try it out.  It will change the way you deploy desktops.

I’m writing a follow up to this article soon detailing a few quirks with the new Certificate management and validation that will cover how to install the agent.  Thanks for reading!

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