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Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack for Software Assurance

Enterprise-class windows  
Enterprise-class Windows

A key component of the Optimized Desktop, Windows Vista Enterprise is the premium business operating system for organizations with multiple PC environments such as mobile workers, office workers, and contract workers. Learn more.

Dynamic desktop management technologies  
Dynamic desktop management technologies

Management tools such as the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) enhance the manageability of Windows, streamline your business, and drives down desktop total cost of ownership (TCO). Learn more.

Virtualization as a key enabler  
Virtualization as a key enabler

For customers exploring various deployment models, the Optimized Desktop for Windows provides unique licensing and virtualization technologies. Learn more.

Comprehensive, flexible desktop scenarios  
Comprehensive, flexible desktop scenarios

Depending on the usage scenario and business needs, the right level of balance between user flexibility and centralized control would be different across various user groups within each organization. Windows Optimized Desktop Scenarios give organizations the ability to choose the client computing scenarios that best meet the unique needs of their businesses. Learn more.

Task worker Office worker Mobile knowledge worker Remote desktop access from anywhere access Contract and offshore developers
Task worker Office worker Mobile knowledge worker Remote desktop access from anywhere access Contract and offshore developers
How to Buy Windows Vista Enterprise and the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack for Your Organization

Windows Vista Enterprise is available to Volume License customers who have PCs covered by Microsoft Software Assurance. Software Assurance helps minimize the costs and maximize the value of your Windows investment. It provides integrated solutions for all phases of the software lifecycle—providing you the most cost-effective way to acquire the latest software.

Volume License customers are also eligible to acquire an optional subscription license for the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack for Software Assurance. This suite of technologies helps you reduce application deployment costs, deliver applications as services, and exercise better management and control of enterprise desktop environments. Together these technologies deliver the most cost-effective and flexible Windows desktop management solution.

Microsoft responded to its struggle to sell Software Assurance (SA) on Windows clients based on new version rights alone by expanding the benefits of SA and adding a new tier of value at additional cost. Microsoft’s Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) can change the cost-benefit equation for SA on Windows clients, and organizations that cannot cost-justify SA alone may be able to cost-justify investments in SA when the value of MDOP is considered.

Key Findings

  • Although the cost of MDOP ($7 to $10 per user per year) is quite low for the features included, it requires SA at $30 to $40 per user per year, and use of MDOP components must cease in the event that SA or the MDOP subscription is not renewed.
  • Organizations should expect MDOP to be fluid – with new features being added and existing ones moving into other offerings (for example, embedded in Windows itself or moved from MDOP to SA) from time to time.
  • In some cases, use of a single MDOP component for a majority of users will justify the cost of MDOP for organizations that already have SA on Windows.
  • Organizations that have not been able to cost-justify SA based on the features of Windows Vista Enterprise edition may be able to cost-justify SA and MDOP if two to three MDOP components are used.


  • Organizations must recognize that licenses for all MDOP components are nonperpetual and each user requires SA on Windows as a prerequisite for subscribing to them.
  • Organizations should assign a dollar value to each MDOP component and estimate the percentage of users that will benefit from each.
  • Organizations that have not been able to cost-justify SA on Windows clients alone should investigate whether the benefits of MDOP change the situation.
  • Organizations that standardize on MDOP tools need to ensure that future budgets account for annual fees associated with SA and MDOP.
MDOP is typically used with Windows Vista Enterprise- or XP-based clients, though certain features are available only in Vista. In its latest incarnation, it offers five essential capabilities. These capabilities are:

OS recovery. Although Vista does include a Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE) for OS recovery, MDOP extends this capability with the Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT), a comprehensive set of recovery tools that includes ERD Commander, Disk Wipe, and Hotfix Uninstall. (On XP, a slightly more limited DaRT is available via a WinPE-type boot CD.) A new version, DaRT 6.0, shipped earlier this month with a new standalone system sweeper utility that lets you detect and remove malware (including rootkits) from a system while it's offline.

Application virtualization. Via Microsoft's SoftGrid Application Virtualization technologies, MDOP licensees can stream or install individual virtualized application packages, instead of requiring desktop users to access applications via a single virtualized environment. The primary advantage of this scheme is compatibility: You can do such things as install multiple versions of applications, each virtualized and packaged individually with its own specific set of DLLs and prerequisite files. In a recent demo, I was able to run three different versions of Microsoft Word simultaneously on a single PC, for example. I feel that this technology may be the key to the way future Windows versions handle backwards compatibility, incidentally.

Asset inventory. The Asset Inventory Service is delivered as a hosted service with client-installed agents that report to Microsoft servers in the Internet cloud. This has the advantage of not requiring environments to create their own asset management infrastructure, which can help you determine whether you're in compliance with your software licensing.

Centralized crash and error management. Using the Microsoft System Center Desktop Error Monitoring tool, you can redirect crash and error reporting to your own servers and utilize Microsoft's knowledge-resolution database: If Microsoft knows the cause of the problem, it will point you to the appropriate knowledge base (KB) article for resolution. You can also optionally choose to continue passing crash and error data along to Microsoft so that it can continue its public reliability improvement efforts. (The Desktop Error Monitoring tool supports in-place upgrading to System Center Operations Manager 2007 as well.)

Advanced policy-based management. Microsoft has added a change control system to Group Policy so that Group Policy changes can be tested in an offline environment before being deployed and be rolled back more easily. There is also a more granular level of delegation with different roles, such as admin, editor, reviewer, and so on.

Microsoft will be adding a sixth tool to MDOP in the coming months as well. The company recently purchased Kidaro, which makes desktop virtualization management software. I was told in a recent briefing that this software provides an infrastructure for deploying and managing virtualized applications, using Virtual PC-based technologies, on desktop PCs. We can expect to see this software in an MDOP update by the end of the third quarter of 2008.

What this all adds up to is a comprehensive set of utilities that no enterprise should be without. And that, really, is the only problem I see with MDOP: It's currently available only to SA customers. These tools, especially the amazing DaRT recovery tools, should be made available to all of Microsoft's business customers and, potentially, could ship with Windows as well. Microsoft tells me that it's looking into other distribution options. But for now, MDOP is the fastest-selling SA benefit released thus far.

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