Microsoft today made a number of announcements around its Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) tools, which are being bolstered with both Windows 8 support and an all-new tool, User Experience Virtualization. Beta versions of UE-V and Application Virtualization (App-V) 5.0, another excellent MDOP entry, are now available.

I’ve been writing about MDOP for several years now, but my 2010 article, A Look At Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), is a good place to start. MDOP is a suite of desktop management tools that are currently offered only to Microsoft’s Software Assurance (SA) customers (and, for a small additional per license fee, to Windows Intune customers as well). In its current guise, MDOP 2011 R2, this suite includes virtualization technologies like App-V and Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V), management tools such as Microsoft BitLocker Administration and Monitoring (MBAM) and Microsoft Advanced Group Policy Management (AGPM), and the Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT). (It also includes an Asset Inventory Service (AIS) tool that was discontinued just this week.)

Since we’re heading into the Windows 8 selling season, Microsoft is starting to update its MDOP tools for the new operating system. Last week, the company announced a Beta version of DaRT that is compatible with Windows 8 and key Windows 8 features like PC Repair. And this week, we get a peek at two new betas, for UE-V and App-V 5.0.

User Experience Virtualization

When discussing its virtualization solution portfolio, Microsoft includes a couple of features related to user state virtualization that I’ve always felt were a bit lacking. That’s changing, however, with the release of User Experience Virtualization, or UE-V, which brings true user state virtualization to the mix. With UE-V, organizations will be able to easily virtualize, or centrally store, users’ customized Windows and application settings for both traditional Windows desktops and hosted VDI infrastructures, where the desktop experiences are delivered to thin clients from a data center. It works with both locally-installed applications and virtualized applications (through App-V), and allows users to move from PC to PC and retain the same experience without any manual tweaking

From what I can tell, this is the final piece of the user state virtualization experience puzzle, and when combined with current capabilities like offline folders and folder redirection, a complete solution appears. UE-V, like folder redirection, also works online via a hidden cache, so you can work from anywhere. But these solutions together should provide a much faster “back to work” experience when a user signs onto a new PC for the first time.

The UE-V Beta is available for download now from the Microsoft Connect web site.

Also, for more information, please read John Savill's FAQ, What is User Experience Virtualization?

Application Virtualization 5.0

App-V has been part of MDOP since the beginning, providing a way for businesses to stream or install individual and isolated virtualized application packages to PCs, instead of requiring desktop users to access applications via a single virtualized environment, as with Windows Virtual PC. The isolation bit has always been a strong point for App-V, but in some cases it’s a bit too restrictive. Some businesses need a way to couple applications together for integration reasons, for example, and then deploy them together. So in App-V 5.0, Microsoft is providing this capability, plus a new, web-based management console that replaces the old rich client console.

App-V aficionados will be interested to discover that App-V 5.0 does away with the Q: drive as well. And for VDI use, where the heavy storage is all in the data center, the offline cache can be turned off so that apps are only streamed, significantly reducing the local disk requirements.

App-V 5.0 also features Windows 8 compatibility and support for features like DirectAccess, Windows To Go, and App Blocker.

The App-V 5.0 Beta is now available for download from the Microsoft Connect web site.

There’s a lot more to say about each of these products, and of course I expect to see further MDOP news in the weeks and months ahead. But I’ll have a deeper write-up about UE-V and App-V 5.0 available next week.