I hinted in one of my final posts before holiday, that there would be some big announcements taking place in and around the virtualisation space. Well, firstly, Windows 7 Release Candidate launched, and there is a tonne of information about that, here:
Whilst Windows 7 is great, and my use of the Release Candidate has been fantastic, it’s the virtualisation that I’m interested in, which brings us on to Windows XP Mode and Windows Virtual PC. Let’s face it, whilst Vista was good, Windows 7 is better, and many organisations see Windows 7 as their next logical port of call, when it comes to their desktop OS. This is all well and good, but it’s quite a jump from an OS that is years old, to a brand spanking new one, and whilst most stuff will work fine, what about the niggling applications that you can’t take across to natively run on Windows 7? Virtualise them, with App-V? Yep, you could do, but if the application isn’t designed to run on Windows 7, chances are, virtualising it won’t help. It needs to run in it’s native environment – XP. Bring in Windows XP Mode for Windows 7.
What is it?
Well, taken from the previous link, “XP Mode consists of the Virtual PC-based virtual environment and a fully licensed copy of Windows XP with Service Pack 3 (SP3). It will be made available, for free, to users of Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions via a download from the Microsoft web site. (That is, it will not be included in the box with Windows 7, but is considered an out-of-band update, like Windows Live Essentials.) XPM works much like today's Virtual PC products, but with one important exception: As with the enterprise-based MED-V (Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization) product, XPM does not require you to run the virtual environment as a separate Windows desktop. Instead, as you install applications inside the virtual XP environment, they are published to the host (Windows 7) OS as well. (With shortcuts placed in the Start Menu.) That way, users can run Windows XP-based applications (like IE 6) alongside Windows 7 applications under a single desktop.”
As you can see from this image below, courtesy of WinSuperSite:
Seamless to the Windows 7 desktop, is a localised application, Word 2007, with all it’s Aero Glass loveliness, yet also, an XP-based Word 2003 instance running side by side. This Word 2003 instance is actually running in the XP Virtual Machine, running on Windows Virtual PC (Beta), in the background to the main OS. The apps that are installed within the XP VM, can also be exposed into the Start Menu of the Windows 7 OS, so again, it’s all seamless to the end user, which is the aim of the game.
Rafael, over at WithinWindows, has a detailed overview, from a technical perspective, of XP Mode, split into 2 parts:
James has also been busy and posted some good stuff about XP Mode.
So, this XP Mode relies on Windows Virtual PC, which is currently in Beta. What’s new in Windows Virtual PC over the old Virtual PC 2007? This table summarises it pretty well:
I think you’ll agree, there’s some nice features in there, but there is a reliance on having the relevant AMD or Intel virtualisation technologies on the chips.
How does this ‘invisible’ XP VM running on Windows 7 compare with Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualisation (MED-V)?
This is important. MED-V, for those of you not familiar, is very much like XP Mode, in the sense that the end user just sees the XP apps presented to them into their Vista Start Menu, yet that ‘invisible’ XP VM has been distributed centrally, in a managed fashion. The end result to the user is very similar, but there are a number of differences to be aware of, which James, and Scott have both done great jobs in weighing in with their views.
In a nutshell, if you’re a smaller business and you need app compatibility for Windows 7, you’ll use the free XP Mode. If you’re a midsize or larger organisation and you want to centrally manage your XP VMs that are running on your users’ devices, you’d use MED-V. Both great technologies, and both meet the needs of certain scenarios.
That’s enough about the client stuff – give me the news on the server side!
Well, first up, we’ve released the Release Candidate of Windows Server 2008 R2, which with it, brings the next release of Hyper-V. No ‘within 180 days’ launch stuff this time – Hyper-V R2 will launch with Windows Server 2008 R2. No waiting around :-)
If you don’t know what’s in Hyper-V R2, and would like to know more, I’ve provided a detailed overview video over on the Virtualboy TV site.
With the release of Server 2008 R2, also comes the relevant Windows 7 client tools (the Remote Server Admin Tools, RSAT) to download, so you can manage your R2 servers from Windows 7 client. You can grab those bits here.
As you can imagine, the Price Comparisons are flying about all over the place, but that’s not a discussion I want to get into on my blog. There’s some great technologies out there now, each with varying feature sets, and after all, competition drives innovation.
The final bit of news is that Hyper-V Server 2008 R2, which I discussed in detail here, has also been released to the web, in it’s Release Candidate form. You can grab that here. The guys at the virtualisation blog have also weighed in with their views, and the obligatory cost comparison.
Hopefully that’s given you enough to be going on with – there’s a lot to take in there, but I’d urge you to start testing R2 and Windows 7. I’ve just signed up for our internal testing of DirectAccess, which is a feature which removes the need for VPN access to access your internal systems and file shares etc. I no longer need VPN, wherever I am in the world! It’s great! That’s just one example of where Windows 7 combined with R2 is making my life easier. Go on, give them a try.
For ease, I’ve grouped the best download links below:
XP Mode looks great-should make things a lot easier! One thing I've comes across confusion over which chips support Hardware Assisted Virtualization, so I've put a list together here:
Nice one Rich!