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Microsoft Jumps On Virtualization Launch Event With 'App-V' Release

Fending off rivals VMware and Citrix, Microsoft is opening up a number of new licensing schemes for client virtualization, including offering App-V to the hosting community.

Microsoft got an early start Wednesday on next week's one-day virtualization launch event, an ode to all things Microsoft virtualization, by releasing the latest version of Microsoft Application Virtualization, formerly known as SoftGrid, and overhauling its client licensing scenarios.

For Microsoft as for its main competitors, VMware and Citrix, application virtualization is only one piece of a larger virtualization puzzle that aims to make business computing more flexible, available, secure, and energy efficient. At the event, called "Get Virtual Now," top Microsoft execs plan to put together those pieces, discuss Microsoft's virtualization roadmap and unveil new virtualization partners.

Along with Microsoft Application Virtualization, also known as App-V, the company also offers presentation virtualization product in Terminal Server, server virtualization in the recently released Hyper-V, desktop virtualization in both Virtual PC and the recently acquired Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (formerly Kidaro) and management in System Center Virtual Machine Manager.

Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.5, like previous versions, streams an application from server to PC, where the virtual app is cached and runs in a sandboxed environment so it doesn't corrupt the registry or interfere with other apps. The new version of App-V is the first run entirely through the Microsoft ringer. It has endured rigorous enterprise readiness testing and adds improved security, better integration with Microsoft's virtualization management software, support for 11 languages, and the ability to package applications and add-ins together in a virtual application image.

Microsoft is opening up a number of new licensing schemes for client virtualization, including offering App-V for the first time to the hosting community to enable delivery of streaming third party line of business apps (though not yet Microsoft software). As of next January, it will also enable new uses for Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization, including as a corporate computing environment for employee-owned PCs and contract workers and as a virtual copy of Windows on a USB key for employee use on home computers.

However, App-V is included only as part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, a suite of desktop management tools that also includes a diagnostics and recovery tool, Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization, an asset inventory service, group policy management and error monitoring. It's sold only as a $7 to $10 add-on available to customers who also buy a Software Assurance maintenance and support license. That means companies can't buy either Microsoft's new desktop virtualization or app virtualization software as a standalone product.

Regardless of its packaging, Microsoft has high hopes for broad adoption of App-V.

"We think application virtualization is the functionality that will be everywhere," Scott Woodgate, director with Windows Client product management, said in an interview. "Application virtualization on the desktop will be as ubiquitous as virtualization in the data center. [With App-V 4.5], we expect broad deployments across the customer base."

Among Microsoft's app virtualization customers are the State of Indiana, telecom services firm T-Systems and the largest public school district in Virginia.

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