150 applications and 2,000 workstations. And only 24 hours in a day.

Around 80 IT Managers of colleges and universities attended last year's IT Forum - a conference dedicated to looking at how Microsoft technologies can be implemented to support business critical IT services.

One of the technologies that most grabbed people's attention was the SoftGrid applications, which allow you to deliver a virtualised application to a desktop, without having to install on every machine. By using application streaming, it means you can avoid having to install on every single machine, and even run incompatible applications at the same time on a single PC. Some education institutions have piloted, and then deployed it during this year (there's even one local authority using it to handle school deployments).

We've now repackaged it as part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimisation Pack (MDOP for short), which is available to Campus and School Agreement customers at pretty low cost.

You may wonder why people are deploying it? Well, this research from IDC, from 132 IT Managers using the package, point out the results that they have seen:

  • 52% agreed that it simplifies desktop administration, automating processes for deploying, patching, updating and terminating applications.
  • 56% agreed that it allows them to rapidly deliver applications to a broad user community whilst reducing installation and testing work.
  • 52% report that is has accelerated application lifecycle management.
  • 65% reported that it had reduced the volume of help desk calls and the length of calls.
  • And..(whisper this carefully)..43% reported that they will be able to reduce the IT resources dedicated to desktop administration.


When asked to describe the savings, almost half described them as 20%+ a year (one in 10 described them as 60%+). The diagram on the right shows the breakdown.

There's a lot more in the report about the other aspects of MDOP, including Asset Inventory Management and Advanced Group Policy Management, and a nice summary of the different MDOP components. In a nutshell:

  • Microsoft SoftGrid (formerly Softricity SoftGrid)
  • Microsoft Asset Inventory Service (formerly AssetMetrix)
  • Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (formerly Winternals Administrator’s Pak)
  • Microsoft Advanced Group Policy Management (formerly Desktop Standard GPOVault)
  • Microsoft System Center Desktop Error Monitoring (formerly Agentless Exception Monitoring from Ops Manager 2007)

The particular problem it resolves in universities and colleges is how to manage hundreds of incompatible applications, and deploy them to shared computers, IT labs and specific departments. But judging by the report, you'll solve your problems at the same time as those of your service users!

Read the full IDC report and then read more about MDOP

Comments (2)

  1. Jeff says:

    It also breaks any software licensing scheme that locks software to a particular computer using a hardware profile to identify it.  Microsoft software doesn’t suffer, though.  It sure would be nice if Microsoft offered a 3rd party API to their machine-id code for this purpose.  Then all software could run on Softgrid.

    Until then, Softgrid may have reduced the number of phone calls coming into IT departments, but it has increased the number of support phone calls coming into independent software vendors.

  2. Ray Fleming says:

    Hi Jeff,

    I know we’ve started changing licensing schemes to make it easier to manage the more complex scenarios that virtualising brings. I guess that the issue has been cropping up in the commercial sector for a while, as virtualisation has increased, but perhaps this is a new problem for education (and also linked to some of the specialist software applications used, which have high price tag outside of education).

    What do others think?

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