Test Center: A cure for Vista's compatibility blues
Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization taps an anemic virtualization engine to bridge the gap with legacy Windows XP and Windows 2000 applications
Trim Transfer minimizes the network overhead associated with deploying VM images by first indexing the contents of the client system and then reusing the client-side copies of any common components (DLLs, executables, help files) to dynamically assemble the VM. Depending on how much the VM and host system have in common, this can dramatically reduce the number of blocks the MED-V client needs to download from the server -- a big deal for IT shops with lots of WAN links or otherwise overburdened networks.
I tested the Beta version of MED-V under Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista. Installation of the server-side components was straightforward, though some of the steps -- such as creating a SQL Database for collecting logging data and manually configuring the MED-V Virtual Directory in Internet Information Services -- could have been automated.
Otherwise, the product worked much like its Kidaro predecessor. I began by creating a baseline VM image, then provisioned it for deployment by specifying various lockdown options (such as blocking clipboard support or access to local drives) and defining the access control list through Active Directory. After that, it was a simple matter of copying the VM image to a shared repository folder and accessing it via IIS and the MED-V client running on Vista.
Overall, MED-V worked as advertised, which is to say that it provided me with a simple way to integrate legacy Windows applications with more modern incarnations of Microsoft's desktop flagship. In fact, my only real complaint about MED-V -- aside from its shaky Virtual PC underpinnings -- is that it isn't part of the core Windows OS. Bottom line: The MED-V management console (see screen image) makes it easy to provision new workspace images for deployment, and seamless integration between MED-V and the Vista host allows users to run virtualized applications as if they were executing locally (see screen image).
V for all
It's a sad truth that Windows Vista was rejected by IT primarily because it broke so many legacy applications. User Account Control, combined with the inevitable tweaks to various common libraries and kernel resources, has tripped up more than a few Windows XP and pre-XP holdovers. By squirreling away MED-V and its MDOP sibling, APP-V, as part of an exclusive package for volume customers, Microsoft is denying vital relief to the broader community of Windows users, many of whom have stuck with the platform despite the myriad compatibility hurdles such loyalty has engendered. These shops deserve a break, and forcing them to sign up for an expensive and restrictive site licensing program in order to preserve their legacy investments, even as they actively embraced the Windows Vista party line, is simply unfair.