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Microsoft Virtualization Day: Helping IT professionals do more with less

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Old 01-22-2008
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Microsoft Virtualization Day: Helping IT professionals do more with less
I'm relaying the following article on behalf of my colleague Shanen Boettcher, General Manager of Windows Product Management for the enterprise. It's the first in a series of posts from Shanen exploring what we're doing to make it simpler and easier to introduce and get the most out of virtualization of Windows in enterprise environments.
Today we're making a series of announcements outlining our company-wide strategy for virtualization from the desktop to the datacenter.
For all the hype and excitement in the industry, the primary scenario of using machine-level hardware virtualization to consolidate server machines has been used on less than 10% of hardware servers. While virtualization started in server consolidation, it is only a small piece of the value offered by virtualization. Nowadays virtualization is not a single technology; instead, it is a collection of technologies that can be applied to all aspects of the server and the desktop. Less than 1% of desktops take advantage of virtualization and yet machine virtualization, application virtualization, presentation virtualization and even profile virtualization are upcoming virtualization techniques that when applied can increase the flexibility, business continuity, security and agility of desktop deployments. Application virtualization -- the notion of reducing conflicts between applications running on a single copy of Windows -- is especially important for the desktop and interest in this technology is very high. Microsoft Application Virtualization (technology we acquired and improved from the application virtualization leader Softricity) became the fastest-ever selling enterprise product at Microsoft, with four million units sold in less than a year. Profile virtualization enables users to take advantage of separating their documents and profile information from Windows, making it easy to get working again on a new machine in case of a stolen or dropped laptop. Presentation virtualization provides the ability to work remotely. More and more virtualization vendors are moving toward creating a comprehensive set of technologies that interoperate and are managed consistently, and we are strongly focused on providing customers with these solutions.
We have a vision that focuses on businesses employing our virtualization toolset to more simply and cost-effectively manage their IT environments. We're calling that vision Dynamic IT. Dynamic IT is aiming to help IT professionals get more out of their computing resources across both server and desktop environments. One of the benefits of this initiative is to enable IT managers to dynamically make changes or add capacity to their deployments in a matter of minutes instead of hours (or even days). In a phrase, Dynamic IT is about efficiently getting the necessary resources to users and computers at any given moment and with a minimum of hassle and effort. We expect this vision to result in a whole new era of datacenter and desktop PC management, all hinging on virtualization technologies and Windows.
Central to the vision of Dynamic IT is the concept of the Optimized Desktop. The Optimized Desktop refers to virtualizing a user's applications and profile together so that they follow that user, regardless of the location of the PC in use at the moment. An example of this all-too-common scenario is a run-of-the-mill user happily working on their laptop in a taxi, but absent-mindedly leaving the taxi without the laptop. Fortunately, the laptop was BitLocker-encrypted, so the lost information was "safe" from prying eyes -- but for many users today it would have been lost data. However, that changes entirely with virtualization: taking advantage of application virtualization and profile virtualization, we provision a new laptop for the user, including installing their applications, resetting their desktop wallpaper and restoring their documents in only a few minutes and with no manual steps. It's pretty impressive and really how we expect people will be deploying Windows Vista to their mobile workforce. When presentation virtualization is used alongside the Optimized Desktop, it helps in allowing users remote access to individual LOB (line-of-business) applications running in the datacenter, and can even run whole Windows desktops virtually on the server (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, or VDI) for certain enterprise users.
The point of all this is that virtualization eliminates the need to "hard-wire" any single computing resource across the computing stack (operating system, applications, presentation, storage and network). By enabling virtualization across an entire enterprise deployment, we aim to help IT managers keep up with the changing needs of their individual business by speeding up deployment while reducing risk and cost.
With all the flexibility that virtualization brings, great management tools are essential to enable IT Pros to apply business rules and policies to each level of resources and data. The most successful vendors will provide the full stack of virtualization capabilities, coupled with management tools that can span both the physical and logical datacenter. Because companies will not convert their whole datacenter to virtual over night, they benefit greatly from management tools that work the same across both environments, helping consistently manage both virtual and physical resources from a single management suite. This is where we believe Microsoft has the best and most complete offering with System Center 2007.
Per today's announcement, we are now offering a comprehensive set of products and technologies to enable virtualization at all layers of the computing stack, from datacenter to desktop to management:
  • Hyper-V (Beta), the brand-new hypervisor architected on top of hardware virtualization technologies from AMD and Intel that is an exciting new feature of Windows Server 2008
  • Microsoft Application Virtualization (aka Softgrid) for running specific applications in a virtualized environment
  • Folder Redirection and Offline Files for user profile virtualization in scenarios such as hot-desking or PC replacement
  • Virtual PC 2007 for creating and managing virtual desktops
  • Terminal Services for presentation virtualization
In addition, Windows Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktop allows for an entire desktop to be hosted on a server and remotely delivered to a desktop device.
With all that said, virtualization itself is not a panacea. It is a great enabling technology, but alone does not translate to business value. Virtualization will require broad platform support, integration with other products, mapping virtualization to specific needs of a given company, and implementation best practices and guidance in order to help customers make the most of virtualization in their businesses. MS as an entire organization is strongly committed to making it very easy for our customers to deploy, manage and use virtualization throughout their entire environment, from the datacenter and network to the desktop PC and application stack. In addition to redefining virtualization within the IT environment, we've also undertaken a number of initiatives designed to make it easier still to integrate virtualization as an IT professional:
  • We've acquired Calista Technologies, whose technology in combination with our virtualization portfolio will enable people to watch video, listen to audio and enable remote workers to receive a full-fidelity Windows desktop experience without the need for high-end desktop hardware
  • We are partnering with Citrix to develop a desktop connection broker, which will create the ability to further optimize the desktop experience. Our joint offering will be based on Windows Server 2008 and Windows Optimized Desktop solutions, extended with Citrix’s XenDesktop and Presentation Server products, and managed by System Center
  • With Windows Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktop, we're simplifying the license for Centralized Desktop to help ease virtualization of hosted desktops
  • By modifying virtualization in Windows Vista Home Basic, we are extending virtualization rights to allow virtualization throughout all versions of Windows Vista
  • Regarding application virtualization of Microsoft Office: we're providing new and clear guidance on support of Microsoft Office when virtualized with Microsoft Application Virtualization
  • To help customers evaluate, plan, secure and deploy Microsoft virtualization technologies across desktops and datacenters, we've introduced four new Solution Accelerators that will be available at the Windows Server 2008 launch in February. This is a set of free guidance resources and tools to help customers effectively plan and deploy virtualization technologies, including Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V, Windows Server 2008 Terminal Services and Microsoft Application Virtualization
Our virtualization toolset continues to be used by IT professionals to realize the tangible benefits and quick returns on investment at the core of the Dynamic IT initiative. Are you doing all that you can to maximize your IT investments by enabling virtualization in your computing environment? Check out our tools listed above to find out more, or go here to learn more about virtualization in Windows in general.
This is only the first of a series of posts on virtualization in Windows and the concerted efforts around it occurring throughout MS. Expect to hear more from me about virtualization in Windows Vista in the very near future.
-- Shanen

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