Agencies can test Windows configuration using virtual machines

Microsoft Volume License Services

The Office of Management and Budget has released a set of virtual machines that will allow agencies to test to their software against OMB's standard configuration for Microsoft Windows.

The downloadable software is a virtualization container with either a full implementation of Windows XP Professional Service Pack 2 or Vista. Both versions are configured to OMB's Federal Desktop Core Configuration (FDCC). Agencies can install their own software within the virtual version of Windows to check and correct incompatibilities.

In addition to the test copies, the FDCC Web site also includes technical information and a section answering frequently asked questions.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Defense and Homeland Security departments, and Microsoft collaborated to develop these virtual machines.

In March, OMB called for agencies to use a central configuration for Windows desktop computers by Feb. 1, 2008, in order to improve security and reduce maintenance costs. In addition to having these virtual machines for testing, agencies will also soon have the Security Content Automation Protocol (S-CAP), a NIST-developed protocol that describes in Extensible Markup Language the configuration guidance and benchmarks.

"Your agency can now acquire information technology products that are self-asserted by information technology providers as compliant with the Windows XP and VISTA FDCC, and use NIST’s S-CAP to help evaluate providers’ self-assertions," wrote Karen Evans, OMB’s administrator for e-government and information technology, in a memorandum announced the release of the virtual machines. IT "providers must use S-CAP validated tools, as they become available, to certify their products operate effectively under these configurations, and agencies must use these tools when monitoring use of these configurations. Related resources (e.g., group policy objects) are also provided to help facilitate agency adoption of the FDCC.”

Microsoft plans to make images of an FDCC-configured Windows available for download on its own site.

Joab Jackson writes for Government Computer News, 1105 Government Information Group publication.

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