There are some physical things in life that I like to associate with as part of my identity. My Jeep Wrangler is one of them. My laptop is not. How I live and work is not defined by a physical compute device, but rather by my online identity. Email, Twitter, accessing documents and meeting notes on SharePoint, tracking client engagements in Salesforce, evaluating and testing virtualization solutions in my lab – those are all part of my day. My PC? It’s just what connects me to my online work space and personal space. Sorry Latitude D820, but you mean nothing to me.
From talks with colleagues and clients, I know I’m not alone. My device doesn’t define me, and certainly doesn’t hold all the data and applications I need to do my job. So what does all this have to do with Microsoft licensing? Well in my opinion, they’re getting it.
I’m not going to rehash much of the excellent commentary already out there on yesterday’s Microsoft announcement. See these posts for more background information on the Microsoft announcement:
- The sleeping giant awakes - Microsoft gets desktop virtualization right (Simon Bramfitt)
- Microsoft announces changes in desktop/server virtualization and VDI strategy – UPDATED (Alessandro Perilli)
- Microsoft VDI Inertia (J. Tyler Rohrer)
As Simon noted in his blog, VECD licensing is going away and the right to run a desktop OS as a server-hosted virtual desktop is now included with Microsoft’s Software Assurance (SA). For devices not covered by SA, organizations can purchase Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) licenses at a cost of $100 per device per year. Furthermore, Microsoft’s license transfer restrictions still apply. So if you want to license a virtual desktop for external contractors, you can assign a VDA license to each contractor system. If a contractor completes a project and leaves, you can re-assign the license to another contractor’s device (you just can’t reassign the license more than once per 90 days).
Simon also mentioned that “extended roaming rights” is the big deal in the announcement, and it is. While not perfect (Simon describes the issues), it’s a step toward licensing a desktop for a user and not a device (sure technically we’re still talking about device licensing, but the user can access his desktop from a myriad of personal devices). So let’s call it an alpha release of per-user licensing. Does a per-user model solve all of our problems? No. But organizations want it offered as a choice, and it’s good to see that Microsoft is listening to their customers.
Looking past the good news that came out of yesterday’s announcement, considerable work remains. Microsoft has still not addressed the service provider market. Considerable clarity is still needed for licensing virtual desktops on shared infrastructure. For example, if a user needs a Windows desktop for a week, he essentially has to pay for 90 days worth of licensing. Why? Even with VDA, the service provider technically has to associate the VDA with the subscribers physical device and can’t transfer it for another 90 days. The result is that desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) is far more costly than it should be. This problem will grow once companies like HP, IBM, and Dell offer client hypervisors, and look to offer services where user desktop VMs are automatically replicated from their personal system to the cloud. Again, this takes us back to a physical device not defining the user. For the IHVs, they get the opportunity to sell additional services to make up for the low margins they see on hardware sales. Sooner or later Microsoft will have to address this issue, and let’s hope it’s sooner.
On the support side, Microsoft’s internal application teams need to step up and offer clear support statements for the leading client and application virtualization platforms. Officially supporting App-V would be a nice first step. The push for Microsoft client applications to fully support the major client virtualization solutions must come from the top. I’m hopeful that Microsoft’s key executives will make that push.
Finally, let’s not forget that even with SA, Windows Server OS licenses cannot be virtualized (without mobility restrictions). Instead, most large enterprises have to upgrade to Data Center edition licenses (for practical purposes) for the sake of virtualizing. I talked about this issue extensively in this post, so I won’t repeat the details here. If lifting licensing constraints for client virtualization is good, I’d argue that doing the same for servers would be even better, especially if you look at the amount of servers already virtualized today.
Microsoft customers – you’re voice is being heard. Now’s a great time to pat Microsoft on the back. However, it’s not time to back off. Keep communicating your licensing needs to Microsoft. It’s clear that they are listening, and taking steps to make your life easier.