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Microsoft Readies Desktop Optimization Tools for SA Customers

Microsoft is readying to ship in January a suite of tools that aims to make it less painful for volume customers to deploy and manage applications and desktops.

Dubbed the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack for Software Assurance, the suite combines four tools that provide application virtualization, asset inventory services, and diagnostics and recovery as well as advanced Group Policy management.

Microsoft SoftGrid provides just-in-time application virtualization and is designed to simplify deployment of applications over a network.

SoftGrid is a Windows application virtualization tool that turns applications from locally installed programs into virtual services that are centrally managed and deployed on-demand to users. Applications are turned into data that can be delivered and run anywhere, independent of the infrastructure.

Microsoft announced its intention to buy out the Boston-based Softricity at its annual Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in late May, completing the purchase in late July. High on the list of products Microsoft acquired with Softricity is its SoftGrid application virtualization package.

Now renamed Microsoft SoftGrid, the package virtualizes applications so they can run on mulitiple PCs and other licensed desktops without being locally installed -- running instead as individual networked services. That also enables centralized deployment and management, minimizing compatibility problems and providing employees additional ways to access applications, according to a company statement.

Also in the suite is Microsoft Asset Inventory Services, which is designed to analyze all programs on employee PCs, and provide up-to-date inventory information with a centralized viewpoint.

The third tool, Microsoft Diagnostic and Recovery Toolset, is designed to enable IT departments to quickly pinpoint the causes of PC problems, recover lost data and provide post-crash analysis. That includes providing the ability to recover unbootable devices, according to Microsoft documents.

Finally, the Microsoft Advanced Group Policy Management component provides tools for advanced Group Policy control. These tools enable delegation of role-based administration, version tracking and rollback of group policy objects (GPOs). They also provide tracking, diagnostics, auditing and rollback of GPO changes and feature undelete and offline editing tools.

The component increases control over GPOs and rules within Windows' administrative management system -- and is intended to allow IT administrators to delegate or assign administrative control of specific tasks based on employees' titles or roles, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft will offer the Desktop Optimization Pack globally as an add-on subscription for customers with Software Assurance agreements. Customers with Open Value, Select, Enterprise Agreement (EA), EA Subscription and Campus and School agreements will be able to subscribe through volume licensing, for an estimated $10 a year per desktop.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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