by Kevin Fogarty

Windows 7 and Desktop Virtualization: The New Tools

Oct 21, 2009
Operating SystemsSmall and Medium BusinessVirtualization

Just before the Oct. 22 Windows 7 debut, Microsoft has released version 2 of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack 2009 - the add-on that holds most of the Windows 7 virtualization capabilities. Here's the lowdown.

It seems as if every vendor is putting out new products or touting old products designed to help make Windows 7 a good platform, or to cement justification for desktop virtualization projects.

[ For complete coverage on Microsoft’s new Windows 7 operating system — including hands-on reviews, video tutorials and advice on enterprise rollouts– see’s Windows 7 Bible. ]

What are Microsoft and Intel doing to make the OS and the chips that it runs on better virtualization clients?

Plenty, according to Scott Woodgate, the director of Windows product management who is leading development of Microsoft’s desktop virtualization technology. This week Microsoft released version 2 of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack 2009 — the add-on in which most of the Windows 7 virtualization capabilities are packaged.

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Here’s a look at the main functions:

XP: Windows 7 Professional comes with emulation and auto-tuning capabilities to help existing applications run on it. For apps that won’t, it includes the ability to run Windows XP as a Virtual PC within the same machine. Microsoft doesn’t charge for the license to run XP.

Management: A new version of MDOP (see details below) contains most of the virtualization components. Most critical are Med-V’s ability to let incompatible XP and Win7 applications run seamlessly; AppLocker’s ability to create a whitelist of software that is allowed to run; AGP’s ability to define how and when applications should be used locally or remotely; and ability in AGPM, DEM and DaRT to help diagnose application incompatibility and failures, create and enforce group usage policies, and repair unbootable PCs.

Footprint: Windows 7 takes up far less space on disk than Windows Vista, making it more friendly for setups that use many Windows 7 VMs running on a single server.

My Documents: Since Windows 2000, Microsoft has been expanding Windows’ ability to recognize and backup changes in a user’s data. Windows 7 takes a “substantial jump in maturity” in the ability of server and client software to automatically back up not only documents, but also user configuration settings, so an end user can log in from a different machine and still get access to the same files, applications and configuration settings, Woodgate says.

Application Virtualization: The App-V client, built into the MDOP software package (see below) provides the client side for virtual application launches, which Woodgate expects will remain far more popular with customers than virtualization of full desktops with operating systems. This allows users to click on icons on their desktop and launch a server-based application which they can use as if it had launched on their own machine.

License tracking: The Asset Inventory Service is part of Microsoft’s Software Assurance program to help track software licenses and make sure you don’t violate them, either with real or virtual installs of Windows 7 and other Microsoft applications.

MDOP: Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack R2 (available now in beta)

Supplies a host of acronyms previously inaccessible to most customers. Most of the virtualization capability is built into these specific modules:

Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) – allows Virtual PC to launch on top of Windows 7 and adds management capability by tying in to Microsoft’s management server and providing the client-side support for policy-based usage controls, provisioning, and delivery of a virtual-desktop image.

Application Virtualization (App-V) – provides the client that will connect to a Windows server and allow the launch of a remote application, which can be either viewed remotely from the client, or streamed down to it and executed on the local PC. Provides connections for AppLocker policy management for applications, BranchCache data caching point, and integration with third-party LDAP directories.

Advanced Group Policy Management (AGPM) – allows IT managers to create Group Policy Objects that can be applied to Windows machines in multiple domains and tracked to monitor usage of specific applications.

Diagnostic and Recovery Toolset (DaRT) – diagnostics for Windows 7 to repair unbootable devices.

Desktop Error Monitoring (DEM) – logs data about system errors to help debug problems.

Asset Inventory Service (AIS) – maps applications that are running in your environment before rollout of a Windows 7 upgrade to help gather and track license compliance.

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