The MED-V v1 SP1 Release Candidate is now available

This week we recently released a new version of MDOP that includes six virtualization and management tools for Windows desktops. Along with the new App-v 4.6, we have also released the MED-V v1 SP1 Release Candidate, with support for Windows 7 32 bit and 64 bit for download. It’s final release is expected on April 2010 as mentioned in the MDOP blog announcement earlier this week.

I had the opportunity to sit and chat with Ran Oelgiesser, Sr. Product Manager for MED-V and have him answer some of the common questions about MED-V:

Stephen: Why would I look to use MED-V?
Ran: When you upgrade from Windows XP (or even Windows 2000) to Windows 7, you need to map and test all your business applications. It’s not a secret that some applications will not work on Windows 7, and while there are many ways to fix them, there is always a small set of applications that are more stubborn and could not be fixed.

So what MED-V (or in length – Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization) does, is running a virtual Windows environment (Windows XP or Windows 2000) to enable all those incompatible applications to operate in their “native” environment. And the great thing is that the user just launches those applications from his Windows 7 start menu and gets a completely seamless experience.

Stephen: So I can deploy Windows 7 without all of my critical applications being 100% compatible?
Ran: Yes. That’s one of the major advantages that MED-V brings in the way you think about deploying a new operating system. In the past you could not take advantage of any of the new features and productivity gains of a new OS until you had all of your critical applications 100% compatible or fixed. With MED-V you can deploy Windows 7 even if you have a few critical applications that still require Windows XP.

Stephen: So should you do that for any application that does not run in Windows 7?
Ran: Actually no. I’d recommend that you first try to run the application in compatibility mode and use all the tools we provide to fix the application. A great place to start is in the Springboard App Compat Zone. Only when applications cannot be fixed, you should use MED-V. Even then, I wouldn’t keep the application in a virtual Windows XP environment forever. MED-V should be used as transitional solution – eventually you should be able to upgrade the application to a new version that support Windows 7 (or if it’s a home-grown application, fix it).

Stephen: When I deploy MED-V, does the end user see and interact with a virtual machine?
Ran: No, to the end user the applications running in Windows XP look and feel like they are installed directly on Windows 7. Users will see icons for their applications in the Windows 7 start menu, they can even create shortcuts for them on the desktop. When they launch the application it appears as a window, they never see the Windows XP virtual machine running in the background. Their applications just work. A great way to see this in action is in this quick MED-V demo walkthrough.

Stephen : Is this solution good for client applications or also for web applications?
Ran: It could also be a solution for web applications. In some cases internal portals and web applications still require Internet Explorer 6 to function properly, and this gives you a great way to run only those web sites in Internet Explorer 6, within the virtual Windows XP environment, while all other sites run in Internet Explorer 8 – Again it’s all seamless and hidden from the user – you define which URLs require Internet Explorer 6.

Stephen: This sounds a lot like the Windows XP Mode for Windows 7 – what’s the difference between the two?
Ran: It is and it isn’t… Windows XP Mode, is a preconfigured Windows XP environment that is available for customers who have Windows 7 Pro and above. It’s great as long as you are ok with manually configuring each virtual environment separately. When it comes to larger deployments, you’d need a way to deploy those virtual machines, provision and customize them accordingly, control their settings centrally and finally support and troubleshoot. That's what MED-V is providing… It adds everything an IT Professional needs to deploy and manage virtual PCs in his or her environment. That includes: virtual image deployment and customization, policy-based provisioning, control and centralized monitoring.

Stephen: Will MED-V require Hardware Assisted Virtualization CPU (e.g. Intel vPro/VT or AMD-V) like Windows XP Mode does?
Ran: No. MED-V V1 SP1 is based on a version of Virtual PC 2007 for Windows 7 that works on any desktop hardware. Even with next version of MED-V (2.0), we will benefit from Hardware Assisted Virtualization if available - but MED-V will not require them.

Stephen: How can I get MED-V?
Ran: MED-V is part of MDOP for Software Assurance customers, which contains five other products besides MED-V. We recently published an article about 7 reasons for deploying MDOP you can learn more about some of the other challenges MDOP helps you solve. You can also get the beta software at Connect even if you are not an MDOP customer yet…

Stephen: What are the typical steps in deploying MED-V?
Ran: Sure.The image deployment is pretty simple.

  1. Create a base Windows XP (SP3 recommended) virtual image – similar to a standard desktop image – no need to include all applications the user is ever going to need
  2. Distribute MED-V and Virtual PC software (standard MSI files) via System Center Configuration Manager or any other software distribution infrastructure
  3. Use MED-V administration console to package the virtual image
  4. Distribute the package via System Center Configuration Manager (or again - any other infrastructure for that matter) to a predefined path on the client
  5. MED-V will use your settings to join the virtual image to your Active Directory domain
  6. The virtual image can now be managed and patched as any other domain-joined desktop
  7. Specifically you can deliver applications according to the user needs with System Center, App-V or any other management software

The one component you’d need to install is a Windows Server 2008 R2 server for authenticating and provisioning the Windows XP applications based on Active Directory users and groups. That’s the main control center for MED-V deployments.

Stephen: Where can I learn more on deploying MED-V?
Ran: Best is to start with the Quick Start guide (and the Quick start policy XML file) to create a test environment and explore the key product features.Once you are done you could move on to the Evaluation Guide to learn about the deployment and management options of MED-V. A set of “how-to” videos are available for IT Administrator self-training as well as a ton of content in the MDOP Med-V area on Springboard.