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Microsoft Releases P2V Desktop Virtualization Beta

Microsoft last week described a different way to use desktop virtualization to maintain legacy applications and still move users to Windows 7.

IT pros with Microsoft's Software Assurance (SA) licensing in place within their organization can use a new physical-to-virtual migration (P2V migration) tool in beta release. The tool works with the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit and/or System Center Configuration Manager plus the Disk2VHD virtual hard disk solution from the Windows Sysinternals Web portal. It can package older Windows desktops into virtual machines that will run on Windows 7 PCs.

Microsoft on Thursday released Version 1.0 beta of the P2V migration tool at its Connect portal. The tool and release notes can be downloaded here (requires WindowsLive ID).

Microsoft is billing this new tool as a solution for IT pros that have problems moving certain users off Windows XP or Windows Vista because of a dependency on applications that won't run in Windows 7. Most of these organizations would typically use the Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) solution that comes with SA. However, MED-V is designed to deploy virtual machines en mass across an organization. This new P2V migration tool is designed to address the exceptions -- that is, when the desktop of a particular user needs to be maintained in its customized form, according to Microsoft's announcement.

"P2V Migration is targeted at specific deployment-blocking users with specialized requirements or conditions where a standardized virtual environment delivered with MED-V will not suffice," the announcement explains.

On the flip side, the P2V migration tool does not enable mass management and mass distribution of the virtual machines.

"P2V Migration is used on a per machine basis -- redelivering the old OS environment as a virtual machine within the new Windows 7 environment," a Microsoft spokesperson explained by e-mail. "It cannot be used to distribute standard environments to multiple users."

IT pros could use Windows XP Mode to preserve a specific user's legacy desktop on Windows 7. XP Mode works with Microsoft's Virtual PC solution to create a virtual instance of Windows XP Service Pack 3 running on top of Windows 7. However, XP Mode has its limitations. For instance, IT pros have to manually configure and maintain the Windows XP SP3 virtual instance on Windows 7.

By using the P2V migration tool instead, IT pros can preserve the user's "management components, domain membership and policies," according to Microsoft's announcement. In addition, the legacy apps in the virtual machine will be available via the Windows 7 startup menu.

The P2V migration tool comes with a few caveats. First, you have to have Software Assurance licensing to use it. Next, users have to have "full retail copies of Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7," the announcement explains. The Microsoft spokesperson added that users of "Volume Licensing media-based installations" also can use this tool. If you have an original equipment manufacturer copy of Windows (the kind of license sold in retail stores with new PC purchases), then you are out of luck.

"Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 installed by Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) using OEM versions of these products may not be transferred to a virtual hard drive in accordance with Microsoft licensing terms," the announcement explains.

There are many third-party desktop virtualization tools -- from VMware, Parallels, Oracle and others -- that can do this same soft of work. However, users still need to have the licensing rights to run virtual hard disk instances of older Windows operating systems in Windows 7.

About the Author

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

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