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Demistifying Citrix AppDNA Forward Path and Task Sequences

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One of the more interesting features of Citrix AppDNA application compatibility software is Forward Path. Not only can one customize the logic and really go beyond what AppDNA provides out of the box, but on top of that assign certain actions based on the results.

What makes Forward Path so mysterious to some (aside from the required scripting skills), is that to be able to appreciate its full potential, one must make several components of AppDNA work together harmoniously. Simply put, Forward Path logic is simply a set of conditions based on results of one or more of the AppDNA algorithms, and assigns either a RAG value, or an Outcome value or both.  But Forward Path can be more than just providing a report, because one can assign Task Sequences based on Outcomes, say if the application is OK for App-V, then proceed in making an App-V Sequence, and if the application is OK for Windows 8, then use a third party packager to create a .MSI package for later deployment in your XenDesktop infrastructure. Or if it’s ok for XenApp, then create a .MSI package specific to Windows Server 2008 R2 so that all XenApp servers will use the same .MSI file during installation, ensuring uniformity across all XenApp servers. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination — and scripting skills!

Let’s now strip away all the mystery.

Before we dig into the details, let’s step back for a minute and get a bird’s eye view of the entire picture of Forward Path The illustration below best provides a high level idea of Forward Path and the different AppDNA components it works on:

Forward Path in a nutshell

Forward Path in a nutshell

As the illustration shows, there are items that we configure under Forward Path, and there would be items that we configure under Install Capture. This is where a newbie would be lost, especially if we’re not in the habit of RTFM (“Read the fluffy manual,” which most techies are guilty of), until we get lost and search what we did wrong.

Forward Path can be divided into two parts: Forward Path that results in the Report, and Forward Path that proceeds to create packages via Task Sequences. The second part requires knowledge in working with the Install Capture portion of AppDNA. Key things to remember are as follows:

Forward Path Report

  • Forward Path Logic is a set of conditions. Don’t panic, because out of the box, AppDNA includes very useful logic which we can use as is, or make minor modifications to the code.
  • These conditions are based on RAG values of the AppDNA Modules or Custom Reports
  • Forward Path Logic results in a set of Outcomes

So out of the box, we can already produce the Forward Path report similar to the illustration below:

The Forward Path report

The Forward Path report

But if we want Forward Path to perform tasks in addition to creating the Forward Path Report, we will proceed as follows:

Forward Path Task Sequence  

  • Each Outcome is then assigned a Task Script
  • The Task Scripts call the Virtual Machine and an Execution Profile. The Virtual Machine in this context is a VM configured in AppDNA which refers to an actual VM running in a hypervisor. Setting that up would be another story, maybe a future blog post or video from yours truly.
  • The Execution Profile does the following: calls a third party .MSI packager to create a package, run the Microsoft App-V Sequencer to create an App-V Sequence, or run the XenApp Streaming Profiler to create an application streaming profile, and more depending on one’s scripting skills and what needs to be done.

Forward Path Logic

In its simplicity, the core of the Forward Path logic is a set of conditions generally based on the different testing modules available in AppDNA. Below is a typical Forward Path logic:

Sample forward Path logic flowchart

Sample forward Path logic flowchart

The example in this illustration indicates that if the App-V RAG is Green or Amber, then assign “App-V Ok” to Outcome, and other values depending on Windows 8 RAG. That simple (there are additional conditions further down the script but for purposes of this discussion, let’s keep it simple)! This portion gets more complicated the more – and deeper – conditions are applied. But to describe it in one line, the Forward Path Logic is simply: assign a specific value to Outcome based on the RAG value(s) of one or more Modules.

Snippet of the Forward Path logic

Snippet of the Forward Path logic

Task Scripts

Each Outcome value can now be assigned its corresponding Task Script. This Task Script actually calls two things that were created under Install Capture: the Virtual Machine and an associated Execution Profile (what the VM will do once it fires up). In this example, the Task Script fires up a Virtual Machine called App-V Sequencer – Windows 7 and runs the App-V 5.0 Sequencer Execution Profile. The App-V 5.0 Sequencer Execution Profile is built into AppDNA. Meanwhile the App-V Sequencer – Windows 7 VM is a Windows 7 VM that has the Microsoft App-V 5.0 Sequencer installed. If run properly, the result is an App-V 5 sequence of the application.

Task script code snippet

Task script code snippet

Creating Virtual Machines and Execution Profiles in Install Capture

I created a Windows 7 VM with the App-V 5 Sequencer installed, and then configured this VM as a VM in AppDNA. Note that one needs to be familiar with how to create an Install Capture VM in AppDNA to be able to do this.

Virtual Machine configuration in AppDNA.

Virtual Machine configuration in AppDNA.

Both the Virtual Machine and Execution Profile are created in Install Capture, under Edit menu > Settings. Meanwhile, the App-V 5.0 Sequencer Execution Profile is part of the AppDNA package; we just need to import it. I did not have to edit anything in the App-V 5.0 Sequencer Execution Profile. However, you are free to create your own Execution Profile that, say, launches your organization’s .MSI packager and creates the .MSI package of the application with its corresponding transform files.

Execution Profile configuration in AppDNA

Execution Profile configuration in AppDNA

Go try out this very interesting feature and see the power of Citrix AppDNA! Download your FREE copy of Citrix AppDNA from http://www.citrix.com/products/appdna/overview.html. This free version is a fully functional copy of Citrix AppDNA that allows for UNLIMITED application imports, and detailed remediation reports for 5 applications.

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Written by jpaloma

July 20, 2013 at 1:14 AM

One Response

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  1. hi jay,

    love the info on app-dna! I have read the docs and your videos have been very helpful regarding app-v. What i can’t find is any info for creating app-v packages with app-dna for software that has an MSI. The capture process just seems to mention non-MSIs in the docs. Is that correct/do you know of another way to sequence them automatically?

    thanks

    dave

    David Hood

    February 12, 2015 at 8:38 AM


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