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Preparing Applications for App Attach with Azure Virtual Desktop

Recently I was lucky to deliver a session on Azure Virtual Desktop App Attach to the Singapore Azure User Group.  As a new feature, app attach is really fascinating. By having a look at the solution carefully, you will realize that with MSIX App Attach, Azure Virtual Desktop almost becomes a management less solution

MSIX app attach has clear benefits, with the following key points.

  • You don’t need to maintain gold images
  • You can easily re-use packages between multiple hosts
  • Could save money, both in operating cost and management overhead.

Before we get into how to take advantage of App attach, you need to understand the following key terms.

  • MSIX – MSIX is the next generation format of application packages, replacing the legacy MSI format. What’s different with MSIX is that each application runs in a virtual container
  • App attach – App attach is the method of delivery for MSIX packages to Azure Virtual Desktop.

Pre-Requisites

There is a couple of pre-requisite resources you will need to prepare an app-attach deployment, namely:

  1. An app packaging environment with the MSIX packaging tool
  2. A signing certificate (Public signed certificates are better, or you must trust this cert in your AVD deployment. )
  3. Working Azure Virtual desktop solution integrated with and Active Directory Domain Services.
  4. Storage Account to host the packages in cloud

For todays blog, you will need to have the first two pre-requisites. You can follow this link to obtain a certificate.

Preparing the packaging environment

There is a few ways to prepare an application packaging environment, however the easiest by far is to use Hyper-V quick create to use Microsoft’s pre-configured template.

msix packaging Server

Using the Hyper-V option, you will get VM as shown above with this VM only having the required tools and a basic Windows configuration. Most importantly, the “MSIX Packaging Tool” will be installed!

Creating our Application Package

To get started with your first package, login to the App packaging VM and open the “MSIX Packaging Tool”. Select Create to start the packaging process.

Graphical user interface, application, Word

Description automatically generated

You want to create a package on this computer, and action any items which pop-up for remediation.

Graphical user interface, text, application

Description automatically generated
Graphical user interface, text, application, email

Description automatically generated

When prompted, select your installer. Today we are packaging up VSCode.

Graphical user interface, text, application

Description automatically generated

After selecting your install file,  provide a PFX file to sign the package. It is mandatory to sign the package with a code signing certificate. If you attempt this process with a standard certificate the package signing tasks will fail.

Graphical user interface, text, application, email

Description automatically generated

Next fill in the package details as you need. Don’t ignore these details in production scenarios as together they will help you to build a detailed application catalogue.

Graphical user interface, application

Description automatically generated

Once you hit next, the App Attach Packaging tool will automatically launch the installer, create a snapshot of the system and start capturing all the changes until we confirm the application installation is completed. Install the application as normal. I’m installing visual studio code

Once the setup has completed, the App Attach Packaging tool will sometimes automatically identify completion and prompt you with the below

Provided you are done with packaging, hit next, and the App Attach Packaging tool will identify all the changes applied within the packaging window

Once completed, select “Yes Move on” and it will prepare our MSIX Package.

I have skipped few screenshots here, however once done you need to select a destination for your MSIX package to be stored.

If the packaging is successful, you should receive the below confirmation prompt.

Thanks for reading this post on packaging MSIX applications for app attach. In the next article, I’ll dive into how to upload this MSIX and use it in our Azure Virtual Desktop environment.


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