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Windows Vista Virtualization: What You Need To Know To Get Started

Running Vista in a virtual machine gives users access to all of the operating system's features while avoiding hardware and application-compatibility obstacles. Here's a primer to get you started, with a link to a free, downloadable e-book.

Microsoft's release of Windows Vista and its Service Pack 1 coincides with one of the greatest revolutions in the IT industry: the coming of virtualization technologies. VMware, Oracle, Citrix, Symantec, Sun Microsystems, Thinstall, Microsoft, and others have entered the fray to release products that are oriented towards virtualization.

(click image for larger view)

Running Windows Vista through desktop virtualization.

These products fall into two main categories.

  • Machine virtualization lets you run complete operating systems within a virtualized layer on top of physical hardware, making better use of hardware resources. This level of virtualization is proving to be a boon to organizations at many levels seeking server consolidation, desktop virtualization, disaster recovery planning, and more.
  • Application virtualization lets you "sandbox" applications so that they do not affect the operating system or other applications when deployed to a system. Application virtualization, or AppV, will make it much easier to manage application lifecycles because applications are no longer "installed" on systems, but rather, copied to systems.

Both of these technologies have a significant impact on Vista adoption. Overall, it is a good thing most organizations haven't moved to adopt Vista yet because they will be able to take advantage of virtualization in their deployment. Here's how.

Use Machine Virtualization With Vista

A major barrier to Vista adoption is the hardware required to make the most of its feature set. While the base hardware requirements for Vista are not too unusual, considering the type of hardware that is available now, they are still important. Hardware refreshes are expensive, so whether you have 10 computers or 10,000, you need to plan and budget for hardware refreshes.

The table below outlines two sets of requirements for Vista: Vista Capable and Vista Premium PC configurations. The first allows you to run the base-level Vista editions and the second lets you take advantage of all of Vista's features.

  Vista Capable PC Vista Premium PC
Processor At least 800 MHz 32-bit: 1 GHz x86; 64-bit: 1 GHz x64
Minimum Memory 512 Mbytes 1 Gbyte
Graphics Processor Must be DirectX 9 capable Support for DirectX 9 with a WDDM driver, 128 Mbytes of graphics memory*, Pixel Shader 2.0 and 32 bits per pixel
Drives   DVD-ROM drive
Accessories   Audio output
Connectivity   Internet access
* If the graphics processing unit (GPU) shares system memory, then no additional memory is required. If it uses dedicated memory, at least 128 Mbytes is required.

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