Microsoft opens MED-V 2.0 beta to the public

Microsoft leverages MED-V as another tool to try and migrate users from Windows XP to Windows 7

This week Microsoft opened up a public beta of Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) 2.0. 

The MED-V technology comes from Microsoft's acquisition of Kidaro back in March 2008. What seemed to grab Microsoft's attention was Kidaro's Managed Workspace technology -- a platform wrapper around a transparent virtual machine layer that provided enterprise-class management and deployment for desktop virtualization with added security, policies, and encryption. It competed with the likes of VMware ACE, MokaFive, and RingCube.

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Since the acquisition, Microsoft hasn't really set the world on fire with its version of Kidaro's software. The Kidaro product was quickly rebranded a few months after the acquisition, but Microsoft took an entire year to release a 1.0 version of the software. MED-V 1.0 SP1 was released earlier this year and was quickly followed by a private beta of MED-V 2.0 this past summer.

MED-V 2.0 is one of a number of tools that Microsoft offers to its Software Assurance customers. It is delivered as part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), so if you are searching for how to purchase the software separately, stop. It isn't offered as a stand-alone product.

So what exactly is MED-V? It's an enterprise management solution that uses Microsoft Virtual PC as a platform in order to provide a localized strategy for desktop virtualization, but with centralized management. It helps to create, deploy, manage, monitor, and control Virtual PC virtual machines in a corporate environment. 

Microsoft touts MED-V as a Windows 7 migration tool. The Redmond giant says MED-V removes the barriers to Windows upgrades by resolving application incompatibility with Windows 7. To do that, MED-V delivers applications in a virtual PC environment that runs a previous version of the operating system (more often than not, Windows XP). And it does so in a way that it is completely seamless and transparent to the end-user. The applications themselves appear and operate as if they were installed directly on the client's desktop.

Over at Microsoft's official MDOP blog, Dave Trupkin, a senior product manager for MED-V, writes: "If you have legacy Windows XP or Internet Explorer 6/7 applications that are slowing down your Windows 7 deployment plans, don't let them stand in your way." MED-V is the answer.

If you search for information on Microsoft MED-V, it seems to center around Windows 7 migration. Rather than market the solution as a new and interesting way to deliver and manage virtual desktops, most of the discussions make MED-V sound like little more than an advanced version of Microsoft's XP Mode. MED-V-managed legacy applications, like XP Mode, appear to the user as ordinary Windows 7 applications, but in reality these legacy applications are running inside a seamless virtual workspace that is powered by Microsoft Virtual PC. Sound familiar? Sure, there's more to this product, but migration more than anything seems to be Microsoft's end goal.

Microsoft lists the following new features in the public beta release of MED-V 2.0:

  • No dedicated MED-V infrastructure to deploy -- MED-V 2.0 workspaces are deployed and managed using existing electronic software distribution (ESD) systems, including System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) 2007 R2 or higher.
  • Streamlined sign-on to the MED-V workspace -- Users can save their passwords for seamless sign-on to the MED-V workspace.
  • Automatic application publishing -- New applications deployed to MED-V workspaces, including App-V virtual applications, are available to the Windows 7 host automatically.
  • My Documents and Desktop redirection -- Legacy applications work just like locally installed applications when it comes to opening, saving and printing documents.
  • USB device/SmartCard support -- USB devices, including thumb drives and Smartcard readers can be shared between the host and applications running in the MED-V workspace.
  • New Internet Explorer redirection options -- IT administrators can redirect legacy Web applications using wildcards, sites, at the page level, or by specifying a port 
  • Automated guest hibernation at shutdown -- The MED-V workspace is seamlessly suspended when the user logs off or shuts down the Windows 7 host.

In the end, MED-V appears to be another way for Microsoft to migrate people from Windows XP to Windows 7. It's a simple and very achievable goal, but one that probably falls way short of the vision Kidaro painted as an innovative startup more than two years ago. 

The final version of MED-V 2.0 is expected sometime in the first half of 2011, but if you want to get a jump start on using it, you can download the public beta from Microsoft Connect. Interested beta participants need to register or have an account on Microsoft Connect in order to get started.

This article, "Microsoft opens MED-V 2.0 beta to the public," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in virtualization and cloud computing at InfoWorld.com.

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