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Microsoft Enables Custom Apps on Azure RemoteApp Service

Microsoft added some basic functionality to its new Azure RemoteApp service this week.

It's now possible for organizations to load their own templates to Microsoft Azure to access their preferred apps, Microsoft announced on Tuesday. The Azure RemoteApp service had its debut at TechEd and is currently just available as a "preview" test release, but the preview apparently lacked the fundamental ability for organizations to test their own apps by lodging a template in the Microsoft Azure cloud infrastructure. It was an odd omission, since running custom line-of-business apps is one of the top uses for using the Azure RemoteApp service, according to Microsoft.

The RemoteApp preview includes a demo that provides five minutes of free access to Excel, PowerPoint and Word, with the template for those apps provided by Microsoft. However, more than 300 RemoteApp testers had rallied at Microsoft's forum page to get the ability to install their own custom apps on the service.

The Azure RemoteApp service allows end users to remotely access an application that's housed in a virtual machine running on Microsoft's datacenter infrastructure. However, Microsoft claims that the end user experience with Azure RemoteApp feels as if the app were running on a local machine. Azure RemoteApp applications can be set up so that they are accessible through the Windows client's taskbar, just like locally installed apps. The service uses Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol to present applications to end users.

Organizations can either create a hybrid RemoteApp deployment or they can create a public cloud deployment using Microsoft Azure infrastructure. The creation of a custom template image requires following some of the steps from both procedures, according to Microsoft's announcement. Essentially, a VHD file is created based on a Windows Server 2012 template image that includes the programs to be shared with end users via the RemoteApp service. The VHD file gets uploaded to the RemoteApp service. Next, IT pros need to publish the apps to end users before they can be accessed.

Active Directory can be used to control access to the apps. End users need download the Remote Desktop client to their devices to access the RemoteApp programs. Microsoft has published Azure RemoteApp clients for Android, iOS, Mac OS X, Windows 8.1 and Windows RT. Microsoft also has a Remote Desktop App for Windows Phone 8.1, but it doesn't yet have support for the Azure RemoteApp service. That support is expected to arrive sometime this year.

Although organizations can now load templates with their own apps, they have to maintain those apps on Microsoft Azure. That's done via the Update Wizard in the Microsoft Azure management portal. In contrast, if an organization uses one of Microsoft's template images to access apps through the Azure RemoteApp service, then Microsoft will maintain all of the operating system and application updates automatically.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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