Virtualization Day: Virtual Machine Manager R2 RTM and Windows 7 XP Mode

The quest to test Windows 7 XP mode and preparing for Hyper-V Live Migration

It must be Virtualization Day at my office as right in the middle of test out XP Mode on Windows 7 with some VoIP software, Microsoft announces System Center Virtual Machine Manager R2 is RTM (released to manufacturing). We have a number of projects in the office centered around virtualization, including setting up more servers under Hyper-V Server and testing out XP Mode in Windows 7. If you're running Hyper-V, you'll definitely be interested in VMM R2 RTM as this is the version containing the long awaited Live Migration management feature. We recently talked about Live Migration with Eric Jewett on the Converging On Microsoft Podcast, which is part of the Windows Server 2008 RTM. With System Center VMM we're seeing the management component of the live migration puzzle fall into place. I'm recording a podcast tomorrow with a member of the Integrated Virtualization Team, so we'll get the full skinny on SCVMM and live migration. The podcast should be up in the next couple days.

Out testing with Windows 7 XP Mode has gone surprisingly well. After install a KB patch, downloading the XP Mode installation (includes the new Virtual PC and XP mode image), everything installs relatively easily. One note; you'll want to make sure you're doing this on new enough CPU and motherboard hardware that has Intel's and AMD's virtualization support. That's a requirement of XP mode, which will limit XP mode's applicability (and usefulness) by excluding hardware with the needed virtualization support - very likely just the people who would want XP Mode today.

One of the best things about XP mode is its application virtualization support. You don't have to run Windows XP in a full window and pop in and out of it to use one of its applications. Individual apps in XP Mode can be made to run as a standalone virtual app, which hides the XP virtual machine and puts the app in its own native window. Other than the Start menu item, you wouldn't likely know the app is actually an XP mode virtualized app just from looking at it on the screen.

Another thing I think you'll like about Windows 7 XP Mode is it's integration into the Windows domain and single sign on. I thought we'd have to add the XP virtual machine into the Windows Domain, but you don't. XP Mode proxies your network session so you don't have to log in again to the domain, and it maps all your shares to shared drives in XP mode so they are accessible. It was surprisingly seamless. Right now we're working on getting our VoIP client (that isn’t Windows 7 compatible) to support the USB headset so it's accessible in XP Mode. Headsets can be tricky devices on any normal PC so this will be a real test of XP mode. I'll let you know later how it goes.

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