Microsoft releases desktop optimization suite

Microsoft has announced the availability of Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) 2011, which includes updated application virtualization and desktop virtualization tools.

MDOP is a suite of six software tools that's accessible to customers that have Microsoft's Software Assurance licensing option in place and who pay for the additional MDOP licensing costs, estimated at about $7 to $10 per PC per year. Two tools in MDOP, App-V and MED-V, are specifically designed to support virtualization projects leveraging Windows Server.

With the release of MDOP 2011, Microsoft has included the new App-V 4.6 Service Pack 1 (SP1) application virtualization solution, as well as the new Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization 2.0 (MED-V 2.0) virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution.

(Microsoft uses the VDI term, but others sometimes refer to it as a "hosted virtual desktop" solution. In other words, the desktop is really housed in a virtual machine and hosted from a datacenter.)

The new MDOP 2011 suite with its updated virtualization tools can be downloaded for x86 and x64 machines at the Microsoft Volume Licensing Service Center or the TechNet or MSDN portals.

Microsoft added ease-of-use improvements to App-V 4.6 SP1 by redesigning the "sequencing process," according to Dave Trupkin, Microsoft's senior product manager for App-V and MED-V, in a blog post. The improvements will make packaging virtual apps easier to do, and Microsoft added diagnostics to help address potential issues that might arise during the process, Trupkin explained.

Instead of creating "text-based recipes" for packaged apps, Microsoft is introducing an easier method called "package accelerators," he added. Microsoft also extended "support for the App-V read-only shared cache to include RDS [Remote Desktop Services] as well as VDI scenarios" in this release.

Package accelerators are a key addition to App-V 4.6 SP1 and will save IT pros much time, according to Gavriella Schuster, general manger for Windows product management.

"The harder thing is to actually package the application," Schuster said in a phone interview regarding App-V. "It can take [IT pros] two to three hours per package per application to actually make it a virtual application. With App-V 4.6 SP1, what we're doing is we are creating what we call 'package accelerators.' So, a package accelerator takes the packaging process and turns it from something that used to take two to four hours to something that will take 20 to 30 minutes. It actually creates an XML template of the packaging process and you just overlay that application .EXE, and it packages it into a virtual application."

She added that Microsoft is building an MVP community for IT pros so that they can submit their package accelerators for use by other IT pros. "And we will also be working with the ISVs to encourage them to create package accelerators and post them into this community as well," Schuster said.

Microsoft also is contributing its own solution accelerators for App-V 4.6 SP1. A Microsoft Project 2010 package accelerator is currently available. The company plans to release a Microsoft Office 2010 package accelerator in April. "And also, one of the first ISVs we're working with is Adobe, and Cisco too, and we'll have theirs available in early April too," Schuster explained.

MED-V 2.0 can be used to address Windows operating system migration problems for organizations. In some cases, an organization has to maintain an application running on Microsoft's aging Windows XP OS, prohibiting an upgrade. The MED-V solution enables older XP applications to be run on top of Windows 7 environments using desktop virtualization.

Unlike Microsoft's other VDI solution, Windows XP Mode, MED-V allows IT pros to distribute images and maintain the virtual machine using Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R2 (or newer) management products.

Microsoft improved MED-V 2.0 by enabling single sign-on for user access to the virtualized desktop. The solution also now supports USB devices. The biggest improvement for IT pros, though, is that MED-V 2.0 no longer requires dedicated infrastructure to run it, as MED-V 1.0 did.

"One of the primary areas customers have talked about in moving to Window 7 and wanting to move there quickly is that they actually had to stand up a separate set of servers to run MED-V 1.0 and they wanted to have it integrated," Schuster explained. "So, MED-V 2.0 integrates the management into System Center Configuration Manager and third-party software delivery solutions."

Additional Microsoft support and materials for MED-V can be found here, while App-V has its own support portal here.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is the online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group sites, including Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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