SoftGrid app-virtualization: Another way to offer software as a service

SoftGrid app-virtualization: Another way to offer software as a service

Summary: Is streaming Office via SoftGrid Microsoft's answer for enterprise customers considering Google Docs & Spreadsheets? (With a hosted or at least ad-funded version of Microsoft Works being Microsoft's competitor to Google Docs & Spreadsheets for individuals and small businesses?)

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MDOP, the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, is the fastest-selling-ever Volume Licensing product from Microsoft, according to the company. Since Microsoft introduced MDOP six months ago, customers have bought 2 million licenses for MDOP.

MDOP consists of a number of different tools and technologies, all of which are developed being enhanced and maintained by Microsoft's System Center team: SoftGrid application virtualization, diagnostics and recovery toolset, advanced group-policy management, an inventory-asset service and desktop error-monitoring capabilities. (As reader Ryan McCarthy with SoftChoice Corp. correctly noted, Microsoft acquired, not built, these technologies: SoftGrid from Softricity; Asset Inventory from AssetMetrix; Advanced Group Policy from Desktop Standard; and Diagnostic Toolset from Winternals.)

If I were to guess which of these might be most enticing to customers, I'd say SoftGrid might be the biggest carrot. And if it's not yet the crown jewel of MDOP, I'd predict it will be by the time Microsoft issues its next MDOP refresh.

(Keep in mind that the only way customers currently can get MDOP and SoftGrid is to sign up for Software Assurance, Microsoft's annuity-maintenance licensing program. Based on early information on Microsoft's plans for Windows 7, it sounds like the Redmondians plan to continue to offer existing and forthcoming MDOP services as carrots/sticks to get more folks to sign up for Software Assurance.)

SoftGrid -- technology Microsoft acquired when it bought Softricity in early 2006 -- lets users run applications without actually installing them on a local machine. This allows companies who want to make available a single image of Office or even a custom line-of-business application to multiple users to push it out to them without having to touch each desktop. It also will aid companies in deploying application patches, as only the changed/updated bits will be streamed to users' desktops (rather than all of the bits, including those which haven't changed), she said.

"SoftGrid just pull (the bits) that are needed," said Gavriella Schuster, Senior Director of Product Management of the Desktop Optimization Pack team."IT doesn't have to do all the regression testing it normally does. It doesn't need to check in advance for potential application conflicts and crashes. It's especially good for users with lots of custom business applications."

SoftGrid also allows users to work offline, since the bits that are installed on a user's desktop remain there, Schuster noted, even when the machine is disconnected from the corporate network.

SoftGrid application virtualization "version 1" (which is part of the current MDOP) allows users to stream applications to any desktop inside their firewall, Schuster explained. But the next version will allow users to stream any application that can be virtualized to their desktops or the Web, she said.

(Applications that cannot be virtualized are anything with a boot-time install, like virus-scan software, Schuster said.)

Is this the way Microsoft will offer medium- to large-size businesses Office as a "service"? Instead of fielding a Web-based version of Office, why not just convince users to stream it using SoftGrid?

Schuster wasn't willing or able to talk about Microsoft's competitive positioning plans.

"MDOP turns a desktop into a set of dynamically delivered services," is as far as Schuster would go.

Where do you think Microsoft is going with SoftGrid? Is streaming Office via SoftGrid Microsoft's answer for enterprise customers considering Google Docs & Spreadsheets? (With a hosted or at least ad-funded version of Microsoft Works being Microsoft's competitor to Google Docs & Spreadsheets for individuals and small businesses?)

Topics: Microsoft, Cloud, Hardware

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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5 comments
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  • What happened to RIA's

    I made a few comments on my blog.

    I really don't understand why Microsoft can't just simply embrace RIA's and Hosted enterprise applications. Every serious system I've used at a major Canadian retailer / distributor was hosted. From ERP to Demand Planning to Order Management. This seems like a silly way to continue to promote Windows.

    http://mattstark.blogspot.com/2007/07/microsoft-softgrid-app-virtualization.html
    thastark@...
  • What happened to RIA's

    I made a few comments on my blog. Link Below.

    I really don't understand why Microsoft can't just simply embrace RIA's and Hosted enterprise applications. Every serious system I used at a major Canadian retailer / distributor and at the big Banks was hosted. From ERP to Demand Planning to Order Management to CRM. This seems like a silly way to continue to promote Windows. I seriously doubt the developer community will embrace this. But I'm sure enterprise infrastructure groups will. It's sad.

    http://mattstark.blogspot.com/2007/07/microsoft-softgrid-app-virtualization.html
    thastark@...
  • The name is very clearly hidden (talk about oxymorons)

    That's like saying "Microsoft innovation"
    Or "Microsoft security"
    "Microsoft interoperability"?
    "Microsoft compatability"?

    Anyhow, their EULA (hidden, practically
    speaking), very clearly explains that you
    are not purchasing a product, but merely
    renting a service. Ergo, that's all
    Microsoft has ever provided, "software as a
    service".

    So the cat's out of the bag. Let's just name
    it what it is: "Software As A Service". Why
    not? Too many people are discovering the
    dirty little secret anyway.
    Ole Man
  • SoftGrid sounds good, but....

    Presently anything with a device driver can't be virtualized, and the softgrid team doesn't recommend virtualizing Office and Adobe reader since so many applications assume access to the functionality of these apps.

    As we looked, there were fewer and fewer apps that could be virtualized so it will fit niche needs at best.

    Like the quote in the article - this would work all right for custom built apps or other line-of-business apps.
    grillin_man
  • Message has been deleted.

    dumb-luck