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Deploying Windows 8 Apps with System Center 2012 Service Pack 1

New Features in Configuration Manager for Deploying Windows 8 Apps and Windows Store Apps

Among a whole host of new management features, Service Pack 1 for System Center 2012 Configuration Manager adds the ability to now deploy and manage Windows 8 apps for enterprises.  These Windows 8 apps could be internal apps that have been created by your corporate developers, or they could simply be published Windows Store apps that you have reviewed and would now like to distribute to your Windows 8 users.

In this article, I’ll step through the process of deploying internal Windows 8 apps and published Windows Store apps to users. If you’re familiar with prior releases of System Center 2012, you’ll note that this process is very similar to deploying traditional desktop apps to Windows clients – with some additional options to support the new Windows 8 app model.

At the end of this article, I’ll also provide some additional resources that I’d encourage you to leverage as part of this Migration and Deployment article series with my fellow IT Pro Technical Evangelists.

Want to follow along?
If you’d like to follow along with the steps in this article in your own lab environment, you may be interested in this additional Step-by-Step Guide, which will walk you through the process of building a System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Service Pack 1 pilot/demo lab for FREE in the cloud on our Windows Azure Virtual Machines cloud platform:

After building your lab environment, follow these steps to configure boundaries, boundary groups and the Application Catalog site system roles prior to beginning the exercises below.

Application Deployment Scenarios
In this article, we’ll walk through the end-to-end process of deploying two Windows 8 apps – one that is an example of an internally developed enterprise App and one that is an example of a published app on the Windows Store. As part of this process, we’ll organize the steps into the following exercises:

  • Exercise 1: Create Application for an internal Windows 8 app package (.appx package)
  • Exercise 2: Create Application for a published Windows Store app (deep link on Windows Store)
  • Exercise 3: Distribute Application Content to System Center Distribution Points
  • Exercise 4: Deploy Applications to User Collections

Exercise 1: Create Application for an internal Windows 8 app package (.appx package)

In this exercise, we’ll work through the process of defining an application in System Center 2012 Configuration Manager SP1 for an internally-developed Windows 8 app package that we wish to deploy to users.  This process is used when deploying internal line-of-business applications that have been created as Windows 8 apps.

To get started, you’ll need a copy of a Windows 8 app package that one of your developers has created using Visual Studio 2012. Windows 8 App packages are stored as an .appx package file, and that’s what we’ll need to copy to a shared folder on our network to which the System Center site server and administrator both have Read access.

To get started with this exercise, login at the console of your lab System Center 2012 Configuration Manager SP1 site server and launch the Configuration Manager Console.

  1. In the left navigation bar of the Configuration Manager Console, click on the Software Library workspace, followed by the Applications folder node.  On the top ribbon bar, click the Create Application button.

    Win8-CreateApp
    Define a new application

    The Create Application Wizard dialog box will launch.
  2. On the General page of the Create Application Wizard, select Windows app package (.appx file) in the Type field, and click the Browse button to browse to the shared folder location to which you copied the .appx package file.

    Win8-Appx01
    Select the Windows 8 App Package …

    Click the Next button to continue.
  3. On the General Information page of the Create Application Wizard, complete the app information and optionally click the Select… button to specify an administrative category for this app.

    Win8-Appx02
    Complete the Windows 8 App Information …

    Click the Next button to continue.
  4. On the Summary page of the Create Application Wizard, review and confirm the app details.

    Win8-Appx03
    Confirm the Windows 8 App Details …

    Click the Next button to continue.
  5. On the Completion page of the Create Application Wizard, review the completion details for defining this new application.

    Win8-Appx04
    Review the Completion Details …

    Click the Close button to close the Create Application Wizard.

You have completed the process for defining a new Windows 8 App for later deployment with System Center 2012 Configuration Manager SP1.

Exercise 2: Create Application for published Windows Store app (deep link on Windows Store)

In this exercise, we’ll follow a similar process to Exercise 1 above, but this time we’ll be defining an application that is already published on the Windows Store for later deployment with System Center 2012 Configuration Manager SP1.  This process uses a “deep link” to a published Windows Store app and upon deployment will direct users to the specific app page on the Store so that users won’t need to manually search for the app.  These steps are really useful when you’ve located a set of public apps on the Windows Store that you wish to make easily accessible to your users.

To get started, you’ll need to first manually install at least one Windows Store app on a Windows 8 PC, so that you can select it as part of the application definition process in the Configuration Manager Console.

  1. In the left navigation bar of the Configuration Manager Console, click on the Software Library workspace, followed by the Applications folder node.  On the top ribbon bar, click the Create Application button.

    Win8-CreateApp
    Define a new application

    The Create Application Wizard dialog box will launch.
  2. On the General page of the Create Application Wizard, select Windows app package (in the Windows Store) in the Type field, and click the Browse button to browse to the Windows 8 PC to which this app has already been manually installed.

    Win8-AppxLink01
    Specify a Windows Store App …
  3. In the Browse Windows App Packages dialog box, enter the name of the Windows 8 PC to which the app has already been manually installed and click the Connect button.

    Win8-AppxLink02
    Select the Windows Store App …

    Select the Windows Store app that you wish to deploy using System Center 2012 Configuration Manager SP1 and click the OK button.

    Click the Next button.
  4. On the General Information page of the Create Application Wizard, complete the app information and optionally click the Select… button to specify an administrative category for this app.

    Win8-Appx02
    Complete the Windows 8 App Information …

    Click the Next button to continue.
  5. On the Summary page of the Create Application Wizard, review and confirm the app details.

    Win8-AppxLink05
    Confirm the Windows 8 App Details …

    Click the Next button to continue.
  6. On the Completion page of the Create Application Wizard, review the completion details for defining this new application.

    Win8-AppxLink06
    Review the Completion Details …

    Click the Close button to close the Create Application Wizard.

You have completed the process for defining a new Windows Store App for later deployment with System Center 2012 Configuration Manager SP1.

Exercise 3: Distribute Application Content to System Center Distribution Points

In this exercise, you will distribute the app package content for Windows 8 apps defined in prior exercises to System Center 2012 Configuration Manager distribution points.  This will prepare the distribution points with a copy of each app package you wish to deploy.

Begin this exercise by launching the Configuration Manager Console as an administrator.

  1. In the Configuration Manager Console, navigate to the Applications folder node of the Software Library workspace used in prior exercises.  Select a Windows 8 app for which to distribute content and click the Distribute Content button on the top ribbon bar.

    Win8-DeploymentToolbar-DistributeContent
    Deployment Toolbar

    The Distribute Content Wizard dialog box will launch.
  2. On the General page of the Distribute Content Wizard dialog box, click the Next button.

    Win8-Distribute02
    Distribute Content Wizard
  3. On the Content page of the Distribute Content Wizard, review the application content to be distributed to System Center 2012 distribution points and click the Next button to continue.

    Win8-Distribute03
    Review Content to be Distributed
  4. On the Content Destination page of the Distribute Content Wizard, click the Add button.  Add the distribution points and/or distribution point groups to which the application content should be distributed.

    Win8-Distribute04
    Select Content Destinations

    Click the Next button to continue.
  5. On the Summary page of the Distribute Content Wizard, review and confirm the application content distribution selections.

    Win8-Distribute05
    Confirm Application Content Distribution Settings

    Click the Next button to continue.
  6. On the Completion page of the Distribute Content Wizard, review the completion status for the application content distribution.

    Win8-Distribute06
    Completion Status for Application Content Distribution

    Click the Close button to close the Distribute Content Wizard.

In this exercise, you completed the steps involved in distributing application content to System Center 2012 distribution points in preparation for later deployment of these applications to users.

Exercise 4: Deploy Applications to User Collections

In this exercise, you will deploy the applications defined and distributed in the prior exercises to a collection of users using System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Service Pack 1.

Begin this exercise by launching the Configuration Manager Console as an administrator.

  1. In the Configuration Manager Console, navigate to the Applications folder node of the Software Library workspace used in prior exercises.  Select a Windows 8 app to deploy and click the Deploy button on the top ribbon bar.

    Win8-DeploymentToolbar-Deploy
    Deployment Toolbar

    The Deploy Software Wizard dialog box will launch.
  2. On the General page of the Deploy Software Wizard, click the Browse… button located next to the Collection field to select a user collection to which this application should be deployed.

    Win8-Deploy01
    Select a User Collection for Application Deployment

    Click the Next button to continue.
  3. On the Content page of the Deploy Software Wizard, confirm the distribution points to which the application content was previously deployed.  Add additional distribution points, if necessary, for this application deployment.

    Win8-Deploy02
    Confirm Distribution Points for Application Deployment

    Click the Next button to continue.
  4. On the Deployment Settings page of the Deploy Software Wizard, review the default deployment settings.

    Win8-Deploy03
    Default Deployment Settings

    Click the Next button to continue.
  5. On the Scheduling page, optionally set a date and time after which this application deployment will be available.

    Win8-Deploy04
    Default Scheduling Options

    Click the Next button to continue.
  6. On the User Experience page, note that this application deployment will, by default, display in the Software Center and display pop-up notifications to the user when the application deployment is available.

    Win8-Deploy05
    User Experience Options

    Click the Next button to continue.
  7. On the Alerts page, optionally configure alerts to be generated for successful and failed application deployments.

    Win8-Deploy06
    Application Deployment Alerting Options

    Click the Next button to continue.
  8. On the Summary page, review and confirm the application deployment settings.

    Win8-Deploy07
    Application Deployment Settings Summary

    Click the Next button to continue.
  9. On the Completion page, review the completion status of this application deployment.

    Win8-Deploy09
    Application Deployment Completion Status

    Click the Close button to close the Deploy Software Wizard.
  10. In a few minutes, this application should now be available to users in the targeted collection for installation via the System Center 2012 Application Catalog website.

    Win8-Deploy10
    Application Catalog Website

Completed! What’s Next?

To learn more about the other new features in System Center 2012 Configuration Manager Service Pack 1, be sure to check out these additional resources:

How are you planning to manage Windows 8 Apps in your environment?

Do you have unique requirements or interesting usage scenarios for managing Windows 8 apps in your environment?  Feel free to share your comments, ideas and questions below!

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More Stories By Keith Mayer

Keith Mayer is a Technical Evangelist at Microsoft focused on Windows Infrastructure, Data Center Virtualization, Systems Management and Private Cloud. Keith has over 17 years of experience as a technical leader of complex IT projects, in diverse roles, such as Network Engineer, IT Manager, Technical Instructor and Consultant. He has consulted and trained thousands of IT professionals worldwide on the design and implementation of enterprise technology solutions.

Keith is currently certified on several Microsoft technologies, including System Center, Hyper-V, Windows, Windows Server, SharePoint and Exchange. He also holds other industry certifications from IBM, Cisco, Citrix, HP, CheckPoint, CompTIA and Interwoven.

Keith is the author of the IT Pros ROCK! Blog on Microsoft TechNet, voted as one of the Top 50 "Must Read" IT Blogs.

Keith also manages the Windows Server 2012 "Early Experts" Challenge - a FREE online study group for IT Pros interested in studying and preparing for certification on Windows Server 2012. Join us and become the next "Early Expert"!

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