Windows 7 and desktop virtualization: The new tools

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.

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.
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.