MDOP 101 – What’s so great about the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack?

If you haven’t already heard of it, you will: The Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, or MDOP for short, is an add-on subscription for customers with Microsoft Software Assurance (SA) coverage for their Windows desktops.

The five core components of MDOP are SoftGrid Application Virtualization, System Center Desktop Error Monitoring, Asset Inventory Service, Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset, and Advanced Group Policy Management.

There’s a lot of great stuff in MDOP, but the application virtualization and error/diagnostics/recovery tools really caught my eye.

Application Virtualization with SoftGrid

Microsoft Application Virtualization (as you know from reading this blog, the word “SoftGrid” is disappearing, sadly!) transforms applications into virtualized network-available services that are not installed on user desktops or laptops, but are instead delivered as a service. This allows you to centralize your applications and the management of those applications. We’ve looked at (we think) all of the application virtualization products out there, and AppVirt gets it right.

As opposed to the ways of traditional Electronic Software Distribution (ESD), when users need new applications, you simply add those users to the list of users authorized for those applications, and voila, the application icon appears on their desktop. There is no installation, and no desktop visit required. None! This feature alone has sold more copies of MDOP than I can count.

This technology also makes having roaming users and disaster recovery easier with applications being centrally managed and delivered since the applications are tied to the user’s logon and not the machine.

Another really unique use is when new versions of an application need to be tested side-by-side with the previous version(s) of the application. Each version is isolated from the other in their own virtual “bubble,” so there’s no conflict and you can quickly see the results without the need to use different machines or load/unload different versions. I could have used this back in my application development days.

Decreased PC Sick Days with MDOP

We’ve all had the experience of encountering a PC that is either failing, generating an error (or the dreaded “unknown error” – my personal favorite!), or, if you’re having a really super day, won’t even boot.

System Center Desktop Error Monitoring (DEM) is one of the unsung heroes of MDOP. It provides an insight into application and operating systems issues.

You know the routine: many times if a PC “hangs” or at least stops responding, your users will merely turn the power off and re-boot the machine. Problem solved for today, but what about tomorrow? Will this error happen again? Will this error spread and begin to affect your other users? Will your users throw up their hands and say ”Nothing Changed! I Swear!” or “I don’t know why it’s hanging! But I just flip the power switch and it works again!”

Enter System Center Desktop Error Monitoring.

DEM provides an agentless way to track these events, identify their frequency, and provide crash details and automated responses to a centralized console that you control. This gives you a better clue as to what’s been going on and where to look in the PC, without relying on silent or unreliable user reports.

Having this head-start is so much better than just a short time ago (perhaps last week for some of you?) when you needed to look at everything on a sick PC just to try to figure out where to start diagnosing the real problem. Seriously: I’m sure you can imagine how the time savings from not having to do this is worth it. On top of this, DEM arms you with the tools to forecast problems down the road, and gives you the chance to take corrective steps before things get out of hand.

BUT: what if you’ve got a PC that is totally busted? DEM can tell you about it but it seems quite certain that once you know about it, you’ll be expected to do something about it. Well, MDOP’s got some IT Admin love for that too: a Swiss Army toolkit to allow you to resurrect dead PCs and pro-actively manage PC failures leading to better stability and reduced downtime.

The Diagnostic and Recovery Toolset (DaRT) can help you save time and reduce the challenges associated with troubleshooting and repairing system failures. The challenges include unusable PCs, issue diagnosis, and repairing unbootable or locked-out systems.

The toolset provides options for recovery, even when Windows Safe Mode or normal boot will not function. That’s a big benefit right there since you now have a better chance of not needing to reload or re-image the entire PC!

DaRT’s off-line boot environment helps you quickly restart computers, recover deleted files, remove malware whilst the computer is off-line and therefore protect the other computers on the network. Your desktop technicians will thank you if they have this tied to their utility belt.

Other coolness: DaRT’s ERD Commander boots PCs into a windows-like repair environment. Crash Analyzer determines the most likely cause of a crash. System Restore lets you safely remove changes that could be causing the system to malfunction. Taken together, this toolset allows you to work more quickly to minimize downtime due to lost productivity thus reducing associated support costs. Copy and paste that last sentence: your boss is going to love it.

Real quick: if you’re an SA customer with Microsoft, and are managing PCs, you are going to really want to get your hands on MDOP. It’s a great suite of products that we’re really excited about here on the team, as we’ve seen our customers’ real-world solutions reduce costs and downtime as well as increase productivity not only of information workers, but of over-taxed IT staff.

Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack