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Run older Windows applications on Vista with Virtual PC Express

Older Windows applications can run on Vista's Enterprise Edition with Virtual PC Express.

Jonathan Hassell
One big selling point of Microsoft Windows Vista is virtualization. Windows Vista Enterprise Edition will contain a one-license copy of Virtual PC Express, which allows users to run older operating systems and, therefore, older Window's applications within Vista. This eases migration pains in a number of ways.

Ease Windows Vista migration pains

  • Legacy applications can continue to operate in a new environment, so IT administrators and representatives can gain some of the manageability and performance improvements in Windows Vista without having to make a major investment in updating older software.
  • Testing goes faster as Vista deployments can be rolled out complete with supporting environments for older applications within single disk files. Less variation, less support and less headache -- or so it goes.

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As a VAR or VAP you have probably toyed with supporting solutions that involve hosting applications in environments other than the local session console. Citrix ICA (Independent Computer Architecture) solutions -- where older applications are run on a centralized terminal server and the screen and keyboard images are piped over a network -- were quite popular in the past. Setting up such an environment can offer a lucrative opportunity when packaged appropriately.

As virtualization continues to become more popular, and as users' desktop hardware continues to become more powerful, more environments can become completely virtualized, making the desktop computer the equivalent of a mainframe and each environment the equivalent of a "dumb terminal" from the old days.

Applications to run in virtual environments

What sorts of applications are ripe to be run in virtual environments?

  • Legacy accounting software applications are commonly incompatible with new operating system releases. Many firms invest significant data and time in their financial management software; they are loath to spend money licensing a new package and converting old data from it. Virtualization offers a drop-in solution for this type of software.
  • DOS-based programs, like manufacturing floor software or point-of-sale systems, are expensive. There's no need to dump them when Vista and Virtual PC Express become available. Buy inexpensive new hardware and run these programs within virtual machines.
  • Older operating systems may be used in tier-two and tier-three technical support operations. Imagine having a library of operating systems on disk, ready to run with a double click of a mouse. If you are a software vendor, chances are you can use this type of solution internally and benefit from doing so. The time it takes to resolve customer issues drops significantly.

Virtualization and Vista channel opportunities

What are some business opportunities for the IT channel around virtualization and Vista?

  • Upsell Windows Vista Enterprise to customers. This edition comes with the appropriate software, Virtual PC Express, and allows your clients to get all the benefits of virtualization using technology built right into their operating system of choice.
  • Do a "virtualization walkthrough." Look for inefficiencies, older applications, opportunities to consolidate machines, and similar areas in which virtualization can bring savings to your customers.
  • Emphasize down-level rights for your volume-license customers. Most bulk licensing agreements with Microsoft give your customers the right to use older operating systems when purchasing a license for the most recent operating system. Many agreements can be amended to include virtualization rights, sometimes a little r no cost, so it's worth checking out.

About the author: Jonathan Hassell is an author, consultant and speaker residing in Charlotte, North Carolina. Jonathan's books include RADIUS, Learning Windows Server 2003, Hardening Windows and most recently Windows Vista: Beyond the Manual. His work is seen regularly in popular periodicals such as Windows IT Pro Magazine, SecurityFocus, PC Pro and Microsoft TechNet Magazine. He speaks around the world on topics including Windows administration, networking and security.

This was last published in December 2006

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