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An organization deploying Windows 7 can be daunted with many issues. User training, setting migration, and application compatibility can all keep a Windows administrator up at night! The first two can be easily surmounted with proper planning. The third can prove a bit more difficult. While technologies, like the Microsoft’s Application Compatibility Toolkit, make this simpler; a critical application refusing to work with Windows 7 can completely derail a migration schedule.
Microsoft’s Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) can solve nearly any compatibility problem. MED-V is the enterprise version of Microsoft’s XP Mode. Choosing between XP mode and MED-V can be a bit difficult though. The table below breaks down the major differences between MED-V and XP Mode to make selection easier.
|Acquisition:||As a part of MDOP which is available through the Software Assurance program||Free with Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate, or Enterprise|
|Deployment method:||Central deployment||Individual configuration per user|
|Application configuration:||Central installation on VM||Individual application installation|
|Maintenance||Remotely||At individual workstation|
If an organization has one or two incompatible applications that are used by a small group of consistent users, XP Mode would be the way to go. An organization with widespread incompatible applications or a few incompatible applications used by many users, MED-V will be the preferred solution.
In order for a client to use MED-V, two installations and a first run setup must take place. All three can be completely automated though. The first installation is Windows Virtual PC. For specific instructions on deploying and updating Windows Virtual PC, please see this. It is a best practice to update Window Virtual PC after the second installation and first run setup. This ensures that update will not interfere due to a required restart. The second installation is the MED-V Host Agent. Documentation for automatic deployment can be found here. The final setup is the MED-V workspace. The MED-V workspace packager allows for the automation of the first time application and VM setup.
The MED-V workspace packager simplifies the configuration of an XP VM and the installation of applications into six steps. Most administrators will want to review the planning steps and to prepare a baseline Windows XP image that is compatible with MED-V beforehand. Documentation for these steps is provided in the Workspace packager.
Microsoft simplifies the MED-V lifecycle by centralizing workspace package creation and management.
When creating a MED-V workspace package, the first dialog prompts for a workspace name and location. To make workspace management easier, it is wise to give each workspace a unique name that logically links it to the incompatible application.
Step 1 of the Workspace Package Wizard
After selecting an XP image that has been customized for MED-V, the workspace package wizard allows for the customization of first time use. This step automates one of the biggest inconveniences of XP Mode. Because the complete customization can be automated, end users need not be aware that a critical application is running under a virtual machine.
Some organizations may want for a completely unattended setup without any notification. Zero user interaction = happier users.
One particular note of interest in the workspace package wizard is the ability to manage the Startup options. If an application is used at regular intervals (ex: a direct deposit application that is only used once a month), a Windows administrator may want to let end users manage the workspace startup as opposed to automatically starting the application at user logon.
The Startup and Networking page on the workspace package wizard allows for the customization of workspace initiation.
After all settings have been configured, the workspace package can be created. The biggest factor in creation time is the size of the XP image. Most workspace packages are created and compressed in ten or so minutes.
With 38 Microsoft seconds remaining, the workspace package creation makes for a good coffee break.
After finishing the workspace package creation, the wizard will display any errors found. The test package completed successfully.
All portions of package creation completed successfully.
The final step is to deploy the workspace package to end user machines. While the deployment of the workspace package is beyond the scope of this article, specific instructions can be found here. MED-V, the final piece of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack is certainly the most difficult to setup. However, it is a crucial tool for the successful migration to Windows 7.