Microsoft removes VM hardware requirements, improves XP mode

Microsoft logoMicrosoft made a slew of virtualization announcements today, affecting both current and future products. Arguably the most important tidbit is that the company has removed the virtualization layer's hardware requirements for the XP Mode available in Windows 7. Those already running XP Mode don't need to bother updating since they already have it working, but users who were unsure of their PC hardware can grab the update and try out XP Mode on Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Enterprise, or Windows 7 Ultimate. The update is available for Windows 7 32-bit (3.7MB) and Windows 7 64-bit (4.1MB).

Microsoft has been criticized for complicating things by having XP Mode only work on processors that supported either Intel's VT or AMD's AMD-V. This requirement was troublesome and confusing, as many Intel owners weren't sure if their CPU supported hardware virtualization, and if it did, whether it was turned on in the BIOS. Now that problem has been eliminated, removing a barrier to the adoption of Windows 7 among small and mid-size businesses that still cling to Windows XP.

Redmond revealed two new features that directly affect Microsoft's desktop virtualization platform. Microsoft Dynamic Memory is an enhancement to Hyper-V that will allow users to adjust the memory of a guest virtual machine on demand. IT administrators will thus be able to pool all the memory available on a physical host and dynamically distribute it to virtual machines running on that host as necessary. Based on changes in workload, VMs will be able to receive new memory allocations without a service interruption.

Microsoft RemoteFX, which is based on the IP that Microsoft acquired and continued to develop since acquiring Calista Technologies over two years ago, enables users of virtual desktops to receive a rich, 3-D, multimedia experience while accessing information remotely. It functions independently of any graphics stack and supports any screen content, including Windows Aero, full-motion video, Flash and Silverlight content, and 3D applications. Because it uses virtualized graphics resources, RemoteFX works on a wide array of target devices, which means it can be deployed over both thick and thin client hosts and a wide variety of network configurations.

Partnership and licensing changes

Microsoft today announced an alliance with Citrix Systems, and launched CitrixandMicrosoft.com. New VDI promotions are available for qualified customers to choose from today. The Rescue for VMware VDI promotion allows VMware View customers to trade in up to 500 licenses at no additional cost, while the VDI Kick Start promotion offers new customers a 50 percent discount off the estimated retail price. The two companies will also be working together to enable HDX technology in Citrix XenDesktop to enhance and extend the capabilities of the aforementioned Microsoft RemoteFX platform.

The licensing changes are slightly more interesting, as they're supposed to make it easier for businesses to let workers remotely access their systems via virtualized desktops, though they both will only come into effect on July 1, 2010. The first is that Windows Client Software Assurance customers will no longer have to buy a separate license to access their Windows operating system in a VDI environment, as virtual desktop access rights will become a Software Assurance benefit. The second is that Windows Client Software Assurance and new Virtual Desktop Access license customers will have the right to access their virtual Windows desktop and their Microsoft Office applications hosted on VDI technology on secondary, non-corporate network devices, such as home PCs and kiosks.

Redmond made all these announcements as part of a webcast on DesktopVirtualizationHour.com that kicked off a bigger virtualization push. Microsoft and its partners plan to host events to educate customers on the comprehensive portfolio of desktop and datacenter virtualization solutions in 100 cities worldwide. You can watch the videos on the website, or read more details about the announcements at one of the blog posts linked below.

Source: ars technica

Tags: Microsoft, Windows 7

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