It's that time of the year again: Microsoft on Monday issued the latest version of its Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) management and security tools suite for Software Assurance customers. Dubbed MDOP 2014 R2, the new suite focuses largely on improvements to Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V) and User Experience Virtualization (UE-V).
MDOP is basically split into three parts. Under the virtualization umbrella, we see App-V and EU-V, plus Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V). Then there are two management tools—Microsoft Advanced Group Policy Management (AGPM) and Microsoft BitLocker Administration and Monitoring (MBAM)—and one restore tool, the excellent Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolkit (DaRT).
Only App-V and EU-V have been updated in this release. But it's not all that surprising that MDOP 2014 R2 doesn't include more changes: Many of these tools are quite mature, and with Microsoft between OS releases—Windows 10 won't ship until late 2015—next year's entry will almost certainly be quite a bit more involved. Plus the firm's R2 releases tend to be smaller anyway.
Here's a quick peek at what's new.
App-V 5.0 SP3—Microsoft really knows how to name these things—is the latest version of the firm's application virtualization solution. It features enhancements to connection groups which lets you better integrate sets of virtualized applications that need to work together and can be deployed and managed as a single unit. These groups also support optional packages so that different groups of users can enable different options for different users.
Microsoft notes that App-V SP3 also include improvements around publishing control, App-V Server infrastructure updates, sequencing improvements, and modifications to the integration between virtualized and non-virtualized local applications. It also includes performance improvements in application publishing and launch, and all of the changes it previously released as part of the App-V 5.0 SP2 Spring Update.
UE-V 2.1 is the latest version of Microsoft's user experience virtualization solution, which is a fancy name for what we used to call roaming settings. It lets managed organizations centrally store a user's Windows and application settings, creating a consistent and familiar environment no matter which PCs the users use.
In version 2.1, UE-V picks up support for Windows credentials roaming, settings backup and restore, support for external settings storage—including OneDrive for Business—and some new extensions to existing Office 2013 settings support. That OneDrive for Business support was apparently a top customer request, and it means you can now store your users' settings in your approved enterprise cloud storage provider.
Customers with Software Assurance can download MDOP 2014 R2 from the Microsoft Volume Licensing Service Center. But the release is also available for evaluation to paid MSDN and TechNet subscribers. I thought the TechNet downloads had closed shop already, but with TechNet disappearing, perhaps Microsoft would consider making MDOP more broadly available regardless.