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Examining what's new in Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack 2012

The Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack aids with Windows management and virtual apps. MDOP 2012 includes updates to User Experience Virtualization.

Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack 2012 includes one new tool -- User Experience Virtualization -- and significant updates to two other tools -- Application Virtualization 5.0 and Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset 8.

The latest version of Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) provides virtualization technologies to help organizations simplify application deployment, improve application compatibility and personalize the user experience. In addition, MDOP 2012 provides management technologies to help deploy, manage, monitor and repair Windows features.

Along with User Experience Virtualization (UE-V), Application Virtualization (App-V) 5.0 and Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT) 8, MDOP provides three other products: Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V), Advanced Group Policy Management (AGPM) and Microsoft BitLocker Administration and Monitoring (MBAM).

User Experience Virtualization

The new UE-V tool lets users jump from one Windows 7 or Windows 8 device to the next and allows their application and desktop settings to follow them. As a result, users don't need to reconfigure their settings each time they log on to a new system.

Explorer options, desktop backgrounds and task bar configurations can now roam where the users roam, whether they're working directly on their desktops or connecting to virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environments.

Administrators can control UE-V implementations through templates, agents and a central file share. The templates define which applications and settings can roam. UE-V includes out-of-the-box templates for Windows 7 and Windows 8, as well as for a number of applications, including Office 2010 and Versions 8 through 10 of Internet Explorer. In addition, administrators can create their own templates so they can control which applications and settings roam with users.

The UE-V agent is a lightweight utility that runs on the client systems. It facilitates the process of controlling and saving user configurations. Administrators can use System Center 2012 Configuration Manager or another distribution tool to deploy the agent to the Windows computers or VDI environments. The file share provides a central location for deploying the agents, as well as for storing the user settings.

Application Virtualization 5.0

The App-V 5.0 tool lets users access almost any application from anywhere, without having to install the application on their own systems. App-V streams only as much of the application as the user needs at a given moment.

The application works much like a locally installed program, providing the user with similar experiences, regardless of whether the application is virtualized or a desktop installation. As a result, users don't have to change how they use the application just because it's virtualized.

App-V 5.0 also makes it easier for both virtualized and locally installed applications to communicate with one another. Plus, administrators can turn off an application's local storage and instead use shared storage to better manage VDI disk demands. App-V also provides a new Web-based management console to better administer application interaction, and it is now integrated with PowerShell, so management tasks can be automated.

Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset 8

As the name suggests, DaRT 8 is a diagnostic and recovery tool for unbootable or locked-out systems. PC users can use access media (USB, CD or DVD) to run the tool. After users boot into their systems, they can then hand over local control to a remote technician. DaRT can also be deployed directly to a PC's hard disk or via a preboot execution environment. In addition, administrators can use System Center Configuration Manager to deploy DaRT.

One of the main updates to DaRT 8 is that it now works on Windows 8 devices, with their Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) and globally unique identifier (GUID) tables. DaRT 8 has also added support for USB media deployments and PowerShell, making it possible to script tasks. In fact, DaRT's image-creation wizard is built on top of PowerShell cmdlets, which lets administrators use scripts to mount, create, apply, dismount and burn DaRT images.

More about MDOP

Although much of the hoopla around the MDOP 2012 release centers on UE-V, App-V 5.0 and DaRT 8, other components have also received recent updates, which have been rolled into MDOP 2012. In June 2012, for example, Microsoft released its first service pack for AGPM, still in beta at the time, as well the beta version MBAM 2.0.

AGPM provides a management tool for Windows group policies, and MBAM simplifies the deployment of BitLocker, a drive-encryption technology. Note, however, that MBAM 2.0, as it was released in MDOP 2012, is still in beta.

As with its predecessors, MDOP 2012 is an optional toolkit available to Microsoft's Software Assurance and Windows Intune subscribers. TechNet and MSDN subscribers also have access to MDOP for testing.

Microsoft says that it has sold more than 44 million MDOP licenses, so clearly, organizations are benefitting from the MDOP technologies. And with the new UE-V tool, plus the updates to the App-V and DaRT products, MDOP promises to be better than ever. The MDOP virtualization and management technologies can help administrators save time and improve the user experience across desktop systems.

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