Microsoft delivers powerful desktop tools for Windows admins

Admins seeking meaningful virtualization, management, and restoration tools will welcome Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack 2012

App-V, UE-V, MED-V, MBAM, AGPM, DaRT -- if these acronyms don't mean anything to you, it's high time you became acquainted with the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), an amazing suite of six tools for easing virtualization, management, and system restoration on Windows environments.

The toolset is available via Microsoft Software Assurance, which is part of Microsoft's Volume Licensing program. If you have an MSDN or TechNet subscription, you can evaluate MDOP as well. Anyone looking to virtualize applications, desktops, or user experiences across devices should become acquainted with the MDOP toolset.

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Here's a rundown of what to expect from each tool and how they might fit in your Windows environment.

Application Virtualization (App-V) 5.0
As the name implies, App-V is all about virtualizing applications. By tapping App-V for application virtualization, your users will be able to work with programs as if they're traditionally installed. App-V also makes application provisioning and patch management that much easier. App-V is best used in VDI environments; doing so reduces disk requirements for VDI desktops because the apps stream from a Shared Content Store.

App-V 5.0 comes with a new Web-based admin console -- which I'm not usually a fan of -- and App-V integrates with System Center Configuration Manager, allowing you to manage physical and virtual applications from one place.

User Experience Virtualization (UE-V)
UE-V helps you provide a consistent, personal experience across devices, enabling your users to switch from one device (Windows 7 or 8) to another and, after logging in, have their personal settings carry over. This includes the user's taskbar configuration, desktop background, Explorer options, and application settings, regardless of whether the app is installed or virtualized.

In the past, Windows admins might have used roaming profiles, but that doesn't cut it these days, especially with virtualized desktops and applications. Thankfully, UE-V goes beyond the simple roaming desktop background.

Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) 2.0
MED-V is a great tool for handling compatibility issues that you may not even know exist before you perform an upgrade to your desktops. As you're well aware, some applications don't carry over nicely from Windows XP to Windows 7 or 8; this may force you to delay an upgrade until your application vendor provides a migration path or enhancement or you find a viable work-around or alternative program. MED-V delivers apps in a Windows XP-based compatibility workspace so that users can access their software from systems running Windows 7 or 8. Through MED-V, the legacy app runs in a virtualized environment, and access to printers, USB devices, and so on is seamless, as if the app is local.

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