If you’re a Software Assurance (SA) customer, you can take advantage of Microsoft’s Desktop Optimization Pack for Software Assurance to help you get Vista up and running fast and bypass problem areas such as application compatibility. The package includes SoftGrid Application Virtualization, Asset Inventory Service, Advanced Group Policy Management, and the Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset. (For details about all of the technologies in the Optimization Pack, see http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/windowsvista/buyorupgrade/optimizeddesktop.mspx.)

Application virtualization effectively eliminates conflicts and incompatibility between applications. Microsoft’s SoftGrid, which is available only to SA customers, is a powerful but complex solution for application virtualization. Applications run on demand as network services—without ever being installed. SoftGrid requires Active Directory (AD) and brings all the benefits associated with AD integration. However, implementing SoftGrid is no easy task. (For details, see the review, “Softricity SoftGrid 3.1,” http://www.windowsitpro.com/article/articleID/46974/46974.html .) SoftGrid virtualizes all aspects of the application and has a cool streaming application deployment capability, but streaming requires a physical server.

If you’re not an SA customer but want to consider application virtualization, you might be interested in an alternative approach: Altiris Software Virtualization Solution. SVS isolates applications and data in “Virtual Software Packages.” SVS virtualizes only calls to the system and registry and doesn’t virtualize functions such as system and COM calls. SVS is easy to deploy and use. Although it lacks some of SoftGrid’s enterprise-strength integration, it also lacks SoftGrid’s complexity. (For more information, see http://www.altiris.com/Products/SoftwareVirtualizationSolution.aspx.)