Way back in February I blogged here about Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization, aka MED-V. In the past few weeks, Microsoft has announced that it will offer a free download to buyers of Windows 7 in the Business, Ultimate, and Enterprise versions called Windows 7 XP Mode. Essentially what this provides is a copy of Virtual PC with a Windows XP SP3 license and install image, so that users can easily build and add an XP-based virtual machine to their toolset, primarily as a platform for legacy applications that won’t work with Vista or Windows 7.
I now understand that XP Mode is a kind of do-it-yourself or roll-your-own version of what MED-V provides as an adminstrator-handled and centrally managed capability for businesses at all scales (though it started with an enterprise target specifically in mind), Microsoft Product Manager Ron Oelgiesser told me yesterday that “even businesses with 100 or 200 users who want to run virtualization” can benefit from MED-V technology. Simply put, it’s designed to allow trained IT professionals (administrators) to design, build, and maintain standard VM images, and to make delivering those images to end users as simple as opening a utility and picking a virtual machine by some readily intelligible name for use (for example “accounts payable” or “call center”). Behind the scenes, the admins are responsible for putting those VM’s together, and updating them as new drivers, updates, and other changes come down the road. Users simply load them and use them as needed, which represents a technique for making good use of virtualization that’s just about as easy as it gets.
From the admin side, things aren’t too shabby either. Microsoft provides a QuickStart guide that shows them how to put VMs together, and test them to make sure they work as desired, then make them available for general access and use with the MED-V client components on end-user desktops. MED-V comes as part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack that is only available to customers who sign up for Microsoft Customer Assurance. Best of all, according to Oelgiesser, the incremental cost of adding a MED-V component to an existing Assurance subscription is “less than $10 per seat per year.” Considering that this includes an XP SP3 license on which to run legacy apps, as well as a nifty set of tools for packaging, distributing, and managing VMs, this is a fantastic value.
Thus, even though MS will be giving away the XP Mode components with higher-end Windows 7 licenses, I predict that MED-V will also enjoy considerable adoption and use, even from SMBs. Oelgiesser confirms that MS feels bullish on MED-V as well, and indicates that some adoption for Vista has already begun among existing Assurance program participants. Should be interesting to see how this all turns out, once Windows 7 goes commercial.