I'm relaying the following post on behalf of my colleague Shanen Boettcher, General Manager of Windows Product Management for the enterprise:
We’ve talked several times, most recently in May, and earlier in January, about our vision for the Optimized Desktop, and the critical role desktop virtualization plays within it. Today we’re announcing that we’ve reached a number of important milestones in helping customers harness the power of an Optimized Desktop, in which physical and virtual resources are centrally managed by IT, and seamlessly deployed to users via technologies like application virtualization. This enables IT managers to maintain complete control over user desktops, which results in higher uptime and levels of performance company-wide, but also drives end-user productivity by giving them great performance and flexibility on a computer that doesn’t feel “locked down”. In short, the Optimized Desktop eliminates the “tug-of-war” that exists between IT and end-user needs in a traditional desktop infrastructure. You’ve heard me talk about this before, and today, we’re taking the Optimized Desktop even further.
Application Virtualization with App-V 4.5: a win-win for end users and IT managers
First, I’m proud to announce that App-V 4.5, formerly SoftGrid Application Virtualization, has hit “RTM” (Release To Manufacturing) status, which means that it will be available as part of the forthcoming MDOP 2008 R2 release in the next several weeks. App-V 4.5 epitomizes what the optimized desktop is all about; centrally managed IT providing a seamless, unobtrusive, highly flexible solution for end users. It’s a win-win – IT maintains control over the infrastructure to ensure uptime, performance and end-to-end license compliance, and users have instant access to their applications, without worrying about software installs, application management, or potential software conflicts. It’s a completely customized, on demand approach to desktop management…and one that any fan of “instant gratification” will love!
App-V 4.5 is a big step forward towards making application virtualization a universally deployed desktop technology. Besides changing the name and making it the first Microsoft-branded release, we’ve included new capabilities that will help IT support large-scale virtualization implementations across many sites and provides multiple delivery options, including over-the-internet application delivery. Newly added support for eleven languages makes this a truly global release. Dynamic Suite Composition (DSC) provides administrator-controlled virtual application communication and interaction, and compliance with Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing and Secure by Default initiatives – two of our most important IT security programs - was also introduced in this release. A more detailed list of technical specifics is available on the App-V blog.
While App-V 4.5 is powerful by itself, great management unleashes its true potential. As I’ve said before, management is the killer app for virtualization, and it’s also the keystone of an Optimized Desktop infrastructure. With Microsoft management tools, you’re able to see a holistic view of your entire physical and virtual infrastructure which enables you to effectively manage resources and proactively prevent problems. This is why the release of System Center Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr) 2007 R2 and the System Center Operations Manager 2007 Management Pack for App-V 4.5 servers, and the App-V Group Policy Administrative template are so important. With these tools in hand, customers can natively integrate App-V 4.5 distribution and streaming technology into their Configuration Manager infrastructure, eliminating the need for separate tools to deploy, manage and track licenses for App-V 4.5 applications, and giving their IT departments the ability to more effectively control IT resources from a single location. Ask any IT administrator, and he or she will tell you that that’s an enormous time-saver and stress-reducer. For more technical details of how System Center and App-V work together to give IT admins easier control over their environment, visit the System Center Team Blog.
App-V 4.5 will also feature a new Service Providers License Agreement (SPLA), officially called Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.5 Hosting for Desktops, which will enable service providers to use App-V 4.5 to deliver third-party ISV developed applications to customers via the Software as a Service (SaaS) model. SaaS powered by App-V is a key enabler to closing the “digital divide” that exists between large enterprises with robust IT capabilities, and small businesses with limited resources. By outsourcing IT functions via service providers, small businesses are able to focus less on maintaining an IT infrastructure and more on growing their core businesses, which in turn allows them to compete more effectively in the marketplace. It’s an important opportunity for businesses to optimize their desktops, even if they lack the resources to build them out in-house.
New Licensing Changes Address Tomorrow’s Challenges
The Optimized Desktop isn’t just about addressing today’s challenges. To help give IT departments the flexibility to make their Optimized Desktop infrastructure ready for the next generation of users, we’re expanding the Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktop (VECD) license beyond VDI to provide additional flexibility for emerging use cases in the Enterprise. This proactive licensing change, which will take effect January 1st, 2009, will enable several nascent user scenarios:
· Employee owned machines: Traditionally, computers are purchased as company assets and distributed to employees based on job function. Some companies are trialing permitting users to buy the PC of their choice with a company stipend. The changes enable early-adopter companies to let users purchase with the PC of their choice, but still perform business tasks in a secure, standard Windows Vista desktop image running in a virtual machine. IT departments can enable this scenario via VECD for $110 per PC/year.
· Contract Workers: Companies can use VECD to deploy a standard, sandboxed, Windows Vista virtual machine for use on contractor machines for $110 per PC/yr. By enabling all workers, even contractors, to work with a standard image, companies can improve productivity and reduce IT headaches by enforcing application, security, and document standards.
· Desktop-based employees who occasionally from home: VECD also enables desktop-based workers to take a local copy of their Windows Vista virtual machine to any VECD covered Windows machine at work or to take it home. VECD permits this scenario for $23 per PC /year.
Microsoft + Partners = More flexible solutions for customers
Finally, it’s important to note that the Optimized Desktop concept isn’t just a Microsoft initiative. Rather, it’s something that our vast partner community is working towards as well. They know, as do we, that by working together, we’re able to provide the most flexible, complete desktop experience possible. That’s why I am proud that Citrix, one of Microsoft’s longest standing partners, will release a new version of Citrix® XenDesktop™ desktop virtualization solution that will integrate with Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 (SCVMM) for quick provisioning and intelligent placement of virtual machines, and enable Windows Vista desktops to run on Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V. This integration is another example of how Microsoft and Citrix partnering to provide server hosted desktops and providing users with deployment choice as part of an Optimized Desktop strategy.
You’re probably thinking to yourself “Wow! That’s a lot of news!”, and you’d be right! But if you step back just a bit, you’ll see the real picture come into focus. This isn’t a series of isolated announcements; it’s a unified set of important advancements that drive the value - and the promise - of an Optimized Desktop as part of our broader virtualization strategy from the desktop to the datacenter. With today’s announcements, and the announcements that you’ll see from us in the coming weeks, Microsoft is moving forward and delivering on its promise to provide customers with a suite of virtualization, management and licensing options that truly optimize their computing experience by delivering scenarios that strike the right balance of end-user flexibility and productivity and IT Pro management and control.