Microsoft Adds Virtualization Apps to MDOP 2010
Microsoft unveiled two new desktop virtualization applications as part of its bundle of tools for managing Windows 7 deployments.
The new solutions, announced on Monday, include App-V 4.6 (for application virtualization) and Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization 1.0 Service Pack 1 release candidate (MED-V SP1 RC). Both are part of a collection of six tools for Windows 7 in an updated package called "Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack 2010" (MDOP 2010).
MDOP is available to Microsoft customers with volume licensing agreements in place -- particularly those who have signed Microsoft's Enterprise Agreement and opted for Software Assurance.
The big news is that MED-V SP1 RC is now supported on Windows 7, both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Previously, it just supported Windows Vista. Microsoft plans to release the final version of MED-V SP1 in April, but the RC version is available now for general testing through the Microsoft Connect portal.
App-V 4.6 now supports 64-bit Windows client and server operating systems and is available in 11 languages. Microsoft plans to enhance App-V 4.6 by adding support for 13 more languages in April. Existing volume licensing customers can get App-V 4.6 by downloading MDOP 2010 at Microsoft's volume licensing service center. It's also available for testing by Microsoft TechNet and MSDN subscribers.
Microsoft also released terminal server support with App-V for Remote Desktop Services 4.6, which also supports 64-bit systems, available here. App-V for RDS 4.6 consolidates remote host servers and helps avoid application conflicts.
In general, Microsoft has been promoting the use of MDOP tools to overcome application compatibility issues as many organizations weigh the issues when migrating from the venerable 10-year-old Windows XP operating system to Windows 7.
App-V can be used to help resolve app compatibility issues, but it also enables faster installs (with no reboots) and quicker removals of applications, Microsoft officials claim. End users can train on a newer application without IT administrators having to remove the older version. Two different versions of the same application do not conflict on the same desktop when application virtualization is used.
Scott Woodgate, a Microsoft director of product management responsible for Windows, MDOP and desktop strategy, provided a few examples in a telephone interview. He said that the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has used App-V and found that it took far less time to install an application -- from five days to five minutes.
App-V also adds some benefits when used in conjunction with Microsoft Office 2010, which is currently at the release candidate stage but scheduled for general availability in June. Woodgate claimed that Office 2010 will launch 80 percent faster when deployed using App-V. Also, App-V enables different versions of Office to coexist side by side, including 32-bit and 64-bit versions, he said.
Rather than install an application on a PC, IT pros can use App-V to create a package on the user desktop. The application then streams to the desktop when the user clicks on the package. Woodgate said that Microsoft added "share cache" technology as a new feature with App-V 4.6.
Another reason to use desktop virtualization is to support legacy applications. For instance, a common problem for IT organizations is moving off Internet Explorer 6. It's an aging browser with security issues, but many organizations still use it because of a reliance on custom-built Web-based applications based on IE 6. One solution is to use MED-V to create managed virtual machines. The virtual machines can run the older OS and older browser versions without conflict with Windows 7.
Windows 7 users will also find that neither IE 6 nor IE 7 will run on the OS -- only the IE 8 browser is supported. That's another reason to use MED-V, which allows centralized management of virtualized apps. IT pros in smaller organizations can use Windows 7's XP Mode to run earlier versions of the browser, but XP Mode doesn't allow centralized management and depends on hardware virtualization capabilities being present in the PC's CPU hardware. MED-V does not depend on chip-based hardware virtualization, so it can be run on older PCs.
More information on MED-V SP1 and App-V 4.6 can be found at Microsoft's MDOP blog and Springboard blog.
Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.