MED-V: More info


MED-V (Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization) is part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) and has come to the fore somewhat recently, along with Windows 7’s XP Mode.

A number of people had heard of MED-V and knew that it let you run older apps in a virtual environment on new OS’s (such as Windows 7). Then, when MS announced XP Mode for Windows 7 the question became “Why do we need MED-V?”. In short we need MED-V because it’s excellent-so let’s look at why 🙂

XP Mode allows single users to run an app in a local XP VM, and that’s it. It’s a local instance which needs to be looked after by that user/helpdesk but individually on that machine…MED-V however, gives numerous central management controls and that is where it comes into it’s own.

The four key points it offers are:

  • Virtual Image Repository
  • Centralized Management and Monitoring
  • User Policy and Data Control
  • Seamless user experience

Virtual Image Repository: This gives a company a central repository to store all the different virtual images they need (XP, Mac OS, Linux etc) which can then be retrieved by end users and/or automatically deployed. There is also an automated process for keeping the VM’s updated with any changes to the build image. Med-V also allows for automated first-time setup such as:

  • specifying computer name
  • setting up the network
  • joining the domain.

Centralized Management and Monitoring: MED-V can be integrated into Active Directory (AD) to enable VM provisioning based on group policies. There are features aimed at helping Helpdesk too including a central database of all client activity and the ability to easily revert a VM back to it’s original state.

User Policy and Data Control: One of the cool features MED-V offers here is the ability to automatically re-direct specified websites to the Virtual Machine, so if a certain site only runs in IE6 and corporate standard is IE 8, the VM will handle it.

Seamless user experience: Virtual Machine applications are available via the host OS Start menu and apps published via MED-V are still available when offline.

So MED-V is a grown up version of XP Mode that gives corporates the ability to easily, safely and centrally manage a Virtual environment for application compatibility.

All this information is from the awesome free MS e-book “Understanding Microsoft Virtualization Solutions” and there’s a whole lot more in there too…go download it here.

MED-V


MED-V or Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization is like SUPER XP mode 🙂

As great as XP Mode is, it has caused a few problems where people are now wondering if MED-V has been replaced-it hasn’t.

First up-MED-V is used for virtualizing legacy applications so they can be run on new OS’s like Vista and Windows 7. Yes that sounds a lot like XP Mode but MED-V introduces a whole extra management layer for use in the corporate world-specifically:

“MED-V provides important centralized management, policy-based provisioning and virtual image delivery to reduce the cost of Virtual PC deployment”

Stephen L Rose has got a great post over on the Windows Team Blog about the differences between these 2 technologies so, rather than re-invent the wheel I’m going to respectfully copy & paste 😉

How does MED-V adds management to Windows Virtual PC?

To provide a managed, scalable solution for running virtual Windows XP applications, MED-V addresses many of the IT challenges around deployment and management including:

  • Deployment – deliver virtual Windows images and customize per user and device settings
    • Automate first-time virtual PC setup based on an IT customized script – including assignment of a unique computer name, joining to AD domain
      (for instance: assign the virtual PC a name that is derived from the physical device name or the username to simplify identification and management)
    • Adjust virtual PC memory allocation based on available RAM on host, so that the virtual PC does not take significant resources from the user
  • Provisioning – define which applications and websites are available to different users
    • Assign virtual PC images according to users and groups
    • Define which Windows XP applications will be available to the user through the start menu
    • Define which websites (e.g. internal sites that requires a previous version of Internet Explorer) are redirected automatically to Windows XP
  • Control – assign and expire usage permissions and Virtual PC settings
    • Control the network settings of the Virtual PC (e.g. whether it connects through NAT or DHCP, whether its DNS is synchronized with host)
    • Authenticate user before granting access to the Virtual PC
    • Set expiration date, after which the Virtual PC is not accessible to the end user
  • Maintenance and Support – update images, monitor users and remotely troubleshoot
    • Update images using TrimTransfer network image delivery – update a master Virtual PC image, and MED-V will automatically distribute and apply the changes to all endpoints
    • Centralized database aggregates events from all users, and provides troubleshooting information on malfunctioning virtual PCs
    • Administrator diagnostics mode allows faster resolution of Virtual PC issues
    • Run on multiple platforms – MED-V will work on both Windows 7 and Windows Vista, and will not require processor-based virtualization support

MED-V is available only as part of MDOP and thus is only available to certain volume licence customers with active Software Assurance.

This technology builds on Microsoft Virtual PC and the new version has got some great new features including:

USB Support: Access USB devices connected to your Windows 7 machine directly from the Virtual Machine.

Clip Board Sharing: Copy and paste between your Windows 7 desktop and your Virtual desktop.

Printer Redirection: Print directly from your Virtual PC.

More can be found over at The Windows Team Blog.

Windows 7 XP Mode Pre-requisite


The inclusion of “XP Mode” in Windows 7 is great news, the ability to run legacy apps inside the Windows 7 desktop is going to allow so many more people to upgrade to Microsoft’s awesome new Desktop OS. There is however, one pre-requisite that might mean that not everyone can use this new feature-and that is the need for Hardware Assisted Virtualization (HAV) which is a property of the physical processor.

Intel call this Intel-VT(x) and AMD call it AMD-V and it is tricky because not all processors include this feature. Certainly most (if not all) processors older than 3-4 years won’t be HAV capable and it seems there are still some CPU’s available now that don’t have it. I have seen on blogs (Gizmodo/Engadget etc) and heard from co-workers and the like that finding which processors are compatible can be quite difficult so below is my attempt to clarify the situation. I would like to point out that I’m purely software so CPU’s aren’t my forte-thus if you see any errors/omissions in the below, please let me know 🙂

Intel Processors that support HAV:

Intel’s site is really rather good with great feature comparison charts for all their processors. I’ve made an Excel sheet (which I then had to convert in to a .ppt for WordPress) showing which do/don’t support Intel-VT which is here. Intel’s page is here.

AMD Processors that support HAV:

AMD’s site isn’t anywhere near as good and I had a tough time finding much useful info. The AMD-V page contained this:

amd

and Wikipedia says:

“AMD-V operates on AMD Athlon 64and Athlon 64 X2 with family “F” or “G” on socket AM2 (not 939), Turion 64 X2, Opteron 2nd generation[1] and 3rd-generation,[2] Phenom, and all newer processors. Sempron processorsdo not include support for AMD-V.

On May 23, 2006, AMD released the Athlon 64 (“Orleans”), the Athlon 64 X2 (“Windsor”)and the Athlon 64 FX (“Windsor”)as the first AMD processors to support AMD-V. Prior processors do not have AMD-V.”

If anyone can shed any more definitive light on the AMD chips, please let me know.

**Update** I’ve got some more info and resources to help see if you can benefit from XP Mode.

I don’t know which Processor I have:

Not to worry, the document I put together above tells you which processors support Intel-VT and this link tells you if the CPU in your machine is one of those 🙂

http://www.intel.com/support/processors/tools/piu

Just download the small app and run it to find out if your Intel chip supports VT.

XP Mode still isn’t working:

Hardware Assisted Virtualization isn’t as straightforward as it perhaps could be, so there’s quite possibly one more step you need to take even if your CPU supports it. Often, HAV is turned off in the BIOS by default and so needs to be activated before you can start. This isn’t the same for every PC so Microsoft have put together some general instructions for Dell, HP & Lenovo here. (The AMD CPU Checker should also be available via that link but it’s not currently working for me).

As you can see, the vast majority of Intel chips that will be in use do support hardware assisted virtualization, and thus Windows 7 XP Mode, but it’s best to check to make sure.

If you find your processor doesn’t support HAV, I’d strongly recommend getting a new CPU/machine that does so you can fully take advantage of the new features of Windows 7.

I hope that helps 🙂

What is XP Mode?


XP Mode is new feature of Windows 7 that will be available in the Release Candidate (it wasn’t in the beta) and I think it wil be a game changer.

It is a simple, yet quite brilliant, concept-using Virtual PC 7 as a base, it lets you run XP only applications inside Windows 7 🙂 You might think, “Well why not just use Virtual PC?”…the biggest problem with using Virtual PC, VMWare Workstation etc is that you have 2 separate desktop entities causing you to switch back and forth without much interoperability but that’s not an issue here. XP Mode lets you run the legacy applications actually inside Windows 7, this screenshot from Paul Thurrott’s Supersite for Windows shows IE 8 & IE 6 running alongside each other in Windows 7:

vxp_ie_windows

As a feature this really is a biggie. So many people, especially corporate, are still running on XP and the vast majority of them are doing so becuase of app compatability. For example, our CRM system doesn’t work with Vista so as much as I’d love to have that as my work OS I simply can’t…however that’s all changed now. I’ll be able to use Windows 7 with XP mode and, like Hannah Montana, have the best of both worlds 😉

From a licensing perspective, it’s worth noting that XP mode will only be available in Pro, Enterprise & Ultimate editions.

From a technical perspective, Windows 7 XP Mode requires processors with Hardware Assisted Virtualization. Not all CPU’s have this, so a list of those that do is here.

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