Desktop virtualisation: Vista's secret weapon?

Incorporating it into the OS is intended to raise deployments

As Microsoft continues to recommend that business customers not pass over Vista in favour of the forthcoming Windows 7, it has been working quietly to improve its software for desktop virtualisation, which could in the future alleviate obstacles such as application compatibility that have plagued Vista adoption.

Last month, Microsoft closed its acquisition of Kidaro Technologies, a desktop-virtualisation software vendor. It plans to use technology from that company to create a new product called Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualisation, which will be released in the first half of 2009, according to a post on Microsoft's Windows Vista Team Blog.

Desktop virtualisation software allows a business to run an entire desktop, including the OS, as a virtualised container on a network. Specifically, Kidaro's software allows users to run applications from multiple versions of Windows at the same time on a desktop, with seamless windowing and menus so it is not confusing to users, according to the blog, which is attributed to Chris Flores, a communications director at Microsoft. This scenario alleviates the problem of having to bring older applications up to date with a new OS running locally on a client machine.

Microsoft will combine desktop-virtualisation technology from Kidaro into the Microsoft Desktop Optimisation Pack (MDOP) of software to create the forthcoming Enterprise Desktop Virtualisation software next year. Microsoft has been offering MDOP for Vista since last July to make it easier for business customers to deploy the OS across multiple desktops. The package includes application virtualisation and desktop- and asset-management software from several Microsoft purchases, including Softricity, AssetMetrix, Winternals Software and DesktopStandard, and is designed to help business customers deploy a new OS and then manage client desktops.

In recent months Microsoft executives both privately and publicly have been stumping for the company's application- and desktop-virtualisation strategies. As business customers have been slow to adopt Vista, both scenarios can help solve at least one of customers' major gripes with the OS: getting older applications to run, and run well, without a lot of recoding or reconfiguring.

At a recent talk, chief software architect Ray Ozzie promoted Microsoft's desktop-virtualisation strategy, stressing how it will alleviate compatibility problems.

"It's really the ultimate way of ensuring that if you have written an application in the desktop environment that you can run it in another version of the OS," he said at the Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference in New York. "As we make further and further improvements in the desktop, we'll make use of virtualisation technology to ensure that compatibility."

Application compatibility has been one of the reasons businesses have been slow to adopt Vista, a fact that has not been lost on Microsoft. The company recently released a white paper encouraging businesses to adopt Vista amid increasing reports that commercial customers will skip it in favour of the next version of the client OS, code-named Windows 7, which is due out late next year or early 2010.

The paper, "The Business Value of Windows Vista: Five Reasons to Deploy Now," is outlined on another Windows Vista Team Blog entry. The five reasons to deploy Vista sooner rather than later, according to Microsoft, are that Vista improves the security of PCs and data; unlocks the potential of mobile PCs; makes employees more productive; speeds return on investment; and reduces support and management costs.

It remains to be seen whether Microsoft's continued Vista promotional efforts will work. Its virtualisation efforts, however, could make a better case for deploying Vista than any marketing the company has done so far, if customers begin to leverage them before Windows 7 hits the market.

Keith Brown, a network administrator for Gwinnet Medical Centre in the Atlanta metropolitan area, says that his company doesn't foresee adopting Vista until next year if at all, citing application-compatability issues as a key reason for holding off.

However, using desktop virtualisation software is one way to avoid that problem, and will be a great aid to OS deployment in the future once the technology is more widely used, he says. "Virtualised software allows you to work around [compatibility issues] — this is a big-time thing," he says.

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Tags managementMicrosoftvistadesktop virtualisation

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