Getting To Know MED-V In Windows 7
This white paper introduces MED-V (Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization), Microsoft's enterprise-oriented tool for delivering legacy applications in virtual machines running on clients across your business network. The author discusses topics such as whether you need MED-V and how to get it, requirements, core features, and implementing and managing MED-V.
Through a free download, Microsoft offers "Windows XP Mode" for Windows 7: essentially a virtual machine running Windows XP. Windows XP Mode (the subject of a separate Global Knowledge white paper, Windows 7 and "Windows XP Mode") is useful for running older applications and hardware devices that do not work properly under the native Windows 7 operating system but that the organization deems necessary, or at least highly desirable. Windows XP Mode lets such applications and devices run in their expected and accustomed operating system, side-by-side with native Windows 7 applications. That, in turn, lets IT planners move to Windows 7 more quickly than they might otherwise be able to.
While Windows XP Mode is fine for business users (it's not supported on Windows 7 Home editions) who have occasional needs to run a legacy OS in a virtual machine, it's not exactly a "managed" solution. For example, IT administrators don't have a Windows XP Mode management console, so there's no convenient way to deploy, update, restrict, control, or report on virtual machines. For example, if you want to disable Windows XP Mode for certain users, your only tool is the sledgehammer approach of using AppLocker to forbid running Virtual PC (vmwindow.exe) entirely.
This white paper introduces MED-V (Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization), Microsoft's enterprise-oriented tool for delivering legacy applications in virtual machines running on clients across your business network. You could think of MED-V as the administration layer missing from Windows XP Mode. This product has its origins in the Kidaro Managed Workspace software that Microsoft acquired when it bought Kidaro in 2007. The areas discussed here include the following.
Do You Need MED-V?
How Can You Get MED-V?
Challenges of MED-V
Please note that MED-V's current version is 1.0 SP1 at the time of writing.
Do You Need MED-V?
MED-V is all about getting incompatible applications to work with a new operating system. The first point to make is that using a virtual machine - be it with Virtual PC, MED-V, or any other technology - to run legacy software is just about always less desirable than modifying or updating the software to run under the native operating system.
So, before turning to MED-V, it's wise to spend time trying other ways to get your apps to run under your OS of choice: haranguing the vendor to provide updates, tweaking the EXE's compatibility settings, and/or spending some quality time with the (free) Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT). (If you need to run legacy hardware - such as the perfectly functional Kodak digital camera I'd been using for years until the manufacturer decided to drop driver support, a common lament these days - then your non-virtualization options may well be more limited.)
Your company is small, or
The number of users needing virtualization of a legacy OS is small, or
Your only incompatible applications are few in number - and
Your desktops are running Windows 7
then you may be content with Windows XP Mode. Bear in mind that it requires hardware-assisted virtualization (Intel VT or AMD-V), although that shouldn't be too much of an issue with modern hardware. It also requires Windows 7; Windows XP Mode isn't available for Vista, because Vista doesn't support Virtual PC. So if you have Vista desktops, you'll want MED-V.
Once you get past a certain size, however, managing two (or more) operating systems simultaneously may put added strain on users and support staff alike. Those virtual XP machines need patching, antivirus, antimalware, etc., just like any workstation OS. You may need to update those VMs periodically. And if you give users the ability to customize or design their own VMs, some will be successful, some will have trouble, and consistency across the network can suffer.
So these are some of the things to think about when deciding about MED-V. Finally, you may also wish to consider the approach of having users remote in to centrally hosted virtual machines, instead of running VMs on their own local workstations. Microsoft dubs this approach VDI, for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, and it's built around Hyper-V and Terminal Services (oops, I mean Remote Desktop Services). Server-based virtualization is architecturally very different from client-based virtualization, but both can help organizations overcome legacy application compatibility concerns.
Administering and Maintaining Windows 7
MCSA: Windows 7 Boot Camp for Desktop Administrators
MCSA: Windows 7 Boot Camp for Desktop Support Technicians
Planning and Managing Windows 7 Desktop Deployments and Environments