Microsoft announced plans to release a set of new desktop tools that will augment and improve Active Desktop in helping IT managers get their arms around their application assets.
Desktop Optimization Pack for Software Assurance will ship in January and consists of four tools. The first is Asset Inventory Services, which scans and discovers all applications on employee PCs to provide an accurate software inventory.
Second is Advanced Group Policy Management increases control over Group Policy Objects (GPOs) and allows administrators to assign control of specific tasks based on an employee’s titles or roles.
The Diagnostic and Recovery Toolset is an update to Dr. Watson, making it possible to quickly pinpoint the causes of PC troubles, recover lost data and prevent future downtime with post-crash analysis.
Finally, the SoftGrid “virtualizes” applications so they can be run off a server as individual networked services, enabling central deployment and management.
Gavriella Schuster, senior director of the Windows client product marketing group at Microsoft, said the inventory and advanced group policy tools will provide for finer grain control over applications and make migrating to Vista easier.
“The challenge IT has told us is they have to do a lot of backtracking offline,” she said. “There’s no way of checking if you roll out a policy beforehand and you can’t roll it back on the individual computer, so you have to go make manual changes.”
The Optimization toolkit will allow managers to do off-line tests to see the impact of policies or new applications on their existing applications. That way they can figure out if a new application or firewall will crash computers on the network before deploying it.
Softgrid will eliminate potential crashes between two conflicting applications by putting the apps in a sandbox, so they never interact, share memory space, or conflict over libraries.
Terry Blake, director of IT procurement for Expedia, said the Desktop Optimization Pack is an improvement over Active Directory and provides greater knowledge of the desktops. “It tells me what’s out there so I can start to make informed decisions on how I want to operate things,” he said.
Blake thinks the tools will make it easier to deploy Vista. “By giving us a better understanding of what’s out there, we’re going be better able to develop cohesive upgrade plans that don’t require us to go back and fix things.”
Microsoft will ship the Desktop Optimization Toolkit in pieces, with Softgrid coming in January. The rest will come out through the spring and summer. The price for the toolkit will be $10 per desktop per year.