Vista and Virtualization
Vista UPDATE, Thursday, April 5, 2007

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COMMENTARY
- Vista and Virtualization, by Karen Forster
- When Non-Technical Users Want Full Admin Rights, by David Chernicoff

READER CHALLENGE
- March 2007 Reader Challenge Winners
- April 2007 Reader Challenge

NEWS & VIEWS
- Community, tips, threads
- News: Top Retailers Chime in Regarding Vista

RESOURCES
- Featured white paper, Web & live events, announcements

PRODUCTS
- Kidaro Corporate "To-Go" Desktop Virtualization
- Get a Best Buy Gift Card

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==== Vista and Virtualization ====

by Karen Forster, karen@windowsitpro.com

Deployment, App Compat, Management, Diskless PCs, Terminal Services

Have you noticed lately that virtualization seems to be the answer to every question? Last week at Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) 2007 in San Diego, I saw a variety of virtualization solutions, and Microsoft made a bunch of announcements that included some form of virtualization. So I thought I’d recap some interesting information related to Vista and virtualization for app compat, deployment, and management, plus a new Vista licensing offer involving “diskless PCs” and a subscription license called Windows Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktops (VECD). (For a quick explanation of virtualization at the hardware, OS, and application levels, see “Virtualization Technologies,” http://www.windowsitpro.com/articles/articleid/93137/Virtualization_Technologies.html.)

Deployment, App Compat, Management

If you’re a Software Assurance (SA) customer, Microsoft is offering the Desktop Optimization Pack for Software Assurance in an effort to help you get Vista up and running fast and bypass problem areas such as app compat. The package includes SoftGrid Application Virtualization, Asset Inventory Service, Advanced Group Policy Management, and the Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset. (For details on 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 ).

Two New Vista EE Licensing Options

For large enterprises, Microsoft announced at MMS two new centralized architectures for Vista Enterprise Edition. These new architectures are based on virtualization and fast networking and enable new deployment models and licensing for environments requiring centralized desktops and diskless PCs (i.e., PCs with no hard disk and therefore no local Windows OS or data storage).

Microsoft is offering a subscription license, Windows Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktops (VECD), for organizations that want to use Windows in virtual machines centralized on server hardware. If you’re thinking Terminal Services, you’re right. This solution lets “minimum footprint devices” (aka thin clients) connect via Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) to a server running Terminal Services.

Scott Woodgate, a director in the Windows Business Group, said, “VECD enables customers to deploy and run Windows Vista Enterprise in virtual machines on server hardware. It provides a Windows experience that is centrally executed in the data center and delivered out to either PCs or thin clients. Using VECD with PCs provides a flexible combination of local and remote computing, including mobility and offline usage.”

With regard to Terminal Services, Woodgate explained, “Functionally, Terminal Services is really a superset of VECD. Terminal Services is a mature, proven, and highly scalable technology for centralizing desktops and applications. In comparison, VECD is new and we consider it an early-adopter model. VECD likely has a lower price-performance ratio than Terminal Services--due to the hardware requirements of virtual machines--but it does have the benefit of the same application compatibility and isolation boundaries as Windows Vista.”

Explaining the diskless PC option, Woodgate said, “We are working with our partners so they can provide the software to enable diskless PCs, and they will likely enable two different scenarios for customers. In the first scenario, each employee’s hard drive is stored individually on centralized storage hardware. In the second scenario, shared images are used by a group of users. Our licensing enables both of these scenarios so that customers can work with our partners to determine if these are valuable architectures within their desktop environment.”

The VECD license, which is available only to SA customers, is based on an annual, per-device subscription fee. The fee depends on whether you are licensing PCs or thin clients. The diskless PC licensing is free for current Vista Enterprise customers as part of the existing SA license.

Woodgate said that “these are still nascent technologies and new architectures, and we think that only a select few customers are planning to broadly implement these centralized desktop models today.”

Virtual Future

Going back to my observation that virtualization is the answer to just about any question, I was interested in Woodgate’s comments about the future: “Now that we’ve licensed Windows Vista Enterprise in these new ways, we’re interested in getting feedback from the Software Assurance customers that will take on the role of early adopters and start trialing diskless PCs or VECD in production over the next few years. And of course, we will continue to examine new and flexible ways to provide Windows solutions to our customers based on their needs.

"Later this year, we will release System Center Virtual Machine Manager to increase physical server utilization, centralize management of virtual machine infrastructure, and rapidly provision new virtual machines.

"Looking ahead to Windows Server Longhorn, codename for the next version of Windows Server, we will introduce a new hypervisor-based virtualization architecture that will provide customers better reliability, greater scalability, and dynamic capabilities to virtualize most workloads in their infrastructure. Windows Server Longhorn also will include Terminal Services Gateway--a feature that will enable customers to access both their TS and VECD desktops remotely. Beyond that, Microsoft will be making broad investments to offer customers a set of virtualization products that will be more dynamic. These investments will span multiple disciplines, ranging from the desktop to the data center, and will fuel our overall virtualization strategy.”

I’d like to hear what you think about these new licensing options and virtualization in general. How interested are you in virtualization? Is application virtualization a way to smooth your organization’s transition to Vista? What virtualization technologies are you currently using and planning to use?

Vista Tips

I'll leave you with something practical after all this Microsoft information. Paul Thurrott has been collecting Vista tips from readers, and he’s got quite a cache. You can scan through the latest batch at http://www.winsupersite.com/showcase/winvista_tips6.asp.

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==== When Non-Technical Users Want Full Admin Rights ====

by David Chernicoff, david@windowsitpro.com

I recently broke one of my own rules and agreed to configure a notebook computer as a favor to a friend. The notebook belongs to the owner and president of a company that generates $10 million in annual revenue but has fewer than 10 people in office operations and no internal IT support.

As usual, when configuring a computer for a non-technical user, I made sure that all system protection tools were installed and active, including antivirus, antispyware, and disk clean-up software and a firewall. However, I wasn’t able to lock down the computer and create a limited-capability account because the owner wanted full administrative rights, despite not needing them.

As you've probably guessed, a few months later I received a request to solve a problem the computer was having. Initially, I heard that the problem was that the desktop background kept changing, but by the time I had the computer in hand, it was regularly experiencing the blue screen of death. Not surprisingly, after I got the virus-scanning utilities running, they removed a selection of viruses and Trojan horses from the system. When the system was up, I discovered that nothing on the computer, including the OS itself, had been updated in almost six months. The antivirus protection was outdated, and none of the OS patches issued by Microsoft had been applied. Although few of the updates required user intervention because I had configured automatic updates and installations whenever possible, the computer's owner had ignored the updates that did require a user to click in a pop-up window. Antivirus scans and applications such as Windows Defender that I had set up to run at night--at the request of the company--were never run because the computer wasn't left on overnight.

After quite a few reboots, Web site visits, and installations, I sent the notebook back to its owner along with a set of instructions about how to keep it updated. Maybe the owner will follow my directions, although I hold little hope of that happening; the last I heard, if there are any more problems the owner wants the computer wiped and everything reinstalled. I simply said that if I see that notebook again, I'll bill at my full hourly rate--the rate for customers who don't follow directions.

Tip –

Readers often complain to me that they can't easily read visually busy Web sites. Fonts used on theWeb are often small, so as to cram as much information as possible on the screen, and even a high-resolution monitor doesn't prevent some users from getting a headache.

Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 7.0 has an easy way to deal with that concern, by allowing users to zoom in and out on the contents of an IE 7.0 window. You might have noticed the small magnifying glass and “100%” in the lower right corner of your IE 7.0 window. If you hover over the number, you get a menu of settings to increase the size of the page. Alternatively, on number pad or keyboard you can press Ctrl+ to zoom in and Ctrl- to increase and decrease the size of the image in the window, or hold down the Ctrl key while you use the scroll wheel on your mouse to zoom in and out.

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==== Reader Challenge ====

by Kathy Ivens, challenge@windowsitpro.com

March 2007 Reader Challenge Winners

Congratulations to the winners of our March 2007 Reader Challenge. First prize, a copy of "Windows Vista in a Nutshell," goes to Jim Turnbull, of England. Second prize, a copy of "Windows Vista: The Definitive Guide," goes to Gordon Meltzer, of New Jersey. Both books are from O’Reilly Media.

An incorrect answer for Question #1 of the March Challenge appeared briefly on our Web site (the answer should be True). It’s my fault, because I didn’t test all versions of Windows. The Subst command can map a drive to an unshared subfolder of a shared folder in Windows Vista and Windows XP, but not in Windows 2000 (you can assign the drive letter, but you can’t get there). (If you'd like to refresh your memory as to the March challenge and answers, go to this link: http://www.windowsitpro.com/Articles/ArticleID/95334/95334.html?Ad=1 )

April 2007 Reader Challenge

Solve this month's Vista UPDATE challenge, and you might win a prize! Email your solution (don't use an attachment) to challenge@windowsitpro.com by April 16, 2007. You MUST include your full name, and street mailing address (no P.O. Boxes). Without that information, we can't send you a prize if you win, so your answer is eliminated, even if it’s correct.

I choose winners at random from the pool of correct entries. I’m a sucker for humor and originality, and a cleverly written correct answer gets an extra chance. Because I receive so many entries each month, I can't reply to respondents, and I never respond to a request for an email receipt. Look for the solutions to this month's problem at http://www.windowsitpro.com/articles/index.cfm?articleid=95712 on April 17, 2007.

Take the Challenge

At a Vista seminar, I was talking to an IT consultant who has clients that will be upgrading to Vista. One of his clients has a staff of mobile workers who come into the office periodically to sync information about inventory and customer credit status. The laptop users connect to docking stations by selecting the appropriate hardware profiles when they boot their computers. He asked me if there was anything special about hardware profiles in Vista that he should know about. I started my reply with, “There sure is.” What did I say after that? (Don’t worry, you don’t have to guess my exact words to be eligible for a prize, just provide a general summary of my response.)

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==== COMMUNITY, TIPS, THREADS

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Tip from David Chernicoff:

Readers often complain to me that they can't easily read visually busy Web sites. Fonts used on the Web are often small, so as to cram as much information as possible on the screen, and even a high-resolution monitor doesn't prevent some users from getting a headache.

Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 7.0 has an easy way to deal with that concern, by allowing users to zoom in and out on the contents of an IE 7.0 window. You might have noticed the small magnifying glass and “100%” in the lower right corner of your IE 7.0 window. If you hover over the number, you get a menu of settings to increase the size of the page. Alternatively, on your number pad or keyboard you can press Ctrl+ to zoom in and Ctrl- to increase and decrease the size of the image in the window, or hold down the Ctrl key while you use the scroll wheel on your mouse to zoom in and out.

Editor's Note:
Many of us don't work in all-Microsoft shops. So get on over to the TechX Interoperability Web site and UPDATE email newsletter, where the editor and writers are experts in the challenges you face every day: http://techxworld.com/community/reg

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What's going on in the Windows XP forum today?
"Automating IP printer addition"
http://forums.windowsitpro.com/web/forum/messageview.aspx?catid=36&threadid=47855&enterthread=y

Windows Vista forum: Got an opinion on Vista? (Of course you do.)
"Things I like/Things I don't"
http://forums.windowsitpro.com/web/forum/messageview.aspx?catid=247&threadid=84749&enterthread=y

==== NEWS & VIEWS

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==== Top Retailers Chime In RE: Vista ====
by Paul Thurrott, thurrott@windowsitpro.com

Despite lingering concerns that Windows Vista isn't making much of a dent after over a month of general availability, retailers are reporting that demand for the new operating system is indeed strong. Both Best Buy and Circuit City report that consumer interest in Vista-based PCs is particularly strong: Best Buy says that sales were up 10 percent in the past month, while Circuit City didn't order enough Vista-based PCs to meet demand.

Of course, Best Buy and Circuit City have gone down different paths in recent months. Best Buy is surging, with profits up 18 percent year-over-year in the most recent quarter, thanks to increased sales of its PC and other electronic profits. Circuit City, meanwhile, is floundering. The company lost $12.2 million in the most recent quarter and responded by firing its top salespeople in order to save money. It's inability to stock enough Vista-based PCs was a direct result of its financial problems, Circuit City admitted.

Regarding Vista, its success is still somewhat fuzzy. When you combine Microsoft's numbers--20 million units sold in 30 days--with these reports from top electronics retailers in the US, Vista appears to be doing quite well. But it's worth noting that Vista benefitted from pent-up demand due to its five-year gestation, while the market for PCs today is quite a bit larger than it was five years ago when XP first arrived. That said, PC makers are expected to ship over 250 million units this year, and the vast majority of those PCs will utilize Windows Vista. So no matter how you measure it, Vista will be the dominant computing platform at some point in the near future.

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==== PRODUCTS

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by Caroline Marwitz, products@windowsitpro.com

Kidaro announced the Kidaro Corporate "To-Go" desktop virtualization solution for USB flash drives. Corporate "To-Go" addresses the problem of how to provision and manage the desktops of remote users, including road warriors, telecommuters, and contract workers. Kidaro's solution loads a virtual desktop, Kidaro Managed Workspace, onto a USB flash drive. Administrators can decide which resources to offer users in Managed Workspace, including OS type, applications, security tools, and desktop management tools. The user plugs the flash drive into his or her computer, and after authentication receives access to the configured resources from the Start menu or a Web browser. Rather than providing remote users with laptops or pushing policies and updates to existing corporate laptops, companies can use the Corporate "To-Go" flash drive to provide employees with a corporate-managed, encrypted, virtual machine that operates on top of the employee's laptop or desktop OS. Users experience a seamless UI, and IT administrators gain life cycle control, from creation and deployment to monitoring and policy management. For more information, visit the Kidaro Web site at http://kidaro.com.

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