Microsoft VDA licensing and VMware

Since I am a Microsoft / VMware guy, for my very first post I would like to talk a little bit about Microsoft’s new VDA licensing model. This was publish by Microsoft back on July 1st, 2010. I have to admit that I did not see the change coming in any press releases, but it is a welcome change. As a Microsoft and virtualization guy, I have to keep on top of these things! By now, everyone has been accustom to purchasing Windows Datacenter edition (per physical socket) for host servers to cover as many Microsoft OS’es as you can cram into a box. But what about the end points that access these virtual servers? Most of the companies I have worked for have had Microsoft Software Assurance across all Microsoft platforms, which covers you when accessing all those virtual machines you crammed within your hosts. But what about an environment where different departments or even different projects within a company buy pockets of Microsoft licenses for workstation, with no Microsoft SA. What a nightmare! Especially if we are talking about thousands of workstations. How about we toss in some Linux machines or iPhones that want to access Microsoft VM’s. In the IT field, we can’t expect everything to be smooth from company to company.

Along comes Microsoft VDA (Virtual Desktop Access). OK, so I’ve got 200 Linux machines that want to access Microsoft VM’s. Let’s create a PO for VDA licenses, which is going to run us 100$ per Linux machine = $20,000 per year. Now we have another 300 Linux based thin clients? That’s going to be another $30,000 per year. We we also have another 100 Windows XP workstations that were purchased with retail licenses for the financial department (and no Microsoft SA), we’ll need another PO for $10,000 per year. Or you have the option to purchase Microsoft SA for these Windows XP workstations. As far as I know, there is no option to purchase Microsoft Software Assurance for non-windows operating systems (correct me if I’m wrong).

The perks with this new licensing model:

  1. Rights for the primary user to access corporate VDI desktops from non-corporate PCs, such as internet cafes and home PCs. This is huge! Since I am the main users of my Linux based thin client at work, I can now go home and use my desktop to access my virtual machine at work! Thanks Microsoft!
  2. You are now permitted to access up to 4 virtual machines concurrently, even from your home PC!
  3. If you purchased Microsoft SA, you no longer need to buy VECD to access the virtual machines. It is included with SA. That saves $23 per year. So if I have 5000 Windows desktops covered under SA that need to access virtual machines, I just saved $115,000 on cost. Thanks

But you have Microsoft SA covering your XP workstation at work at you want to use your iPhone or your rigged up toaster at home with a MAC OS to access your virtual machine at work, you will need to purchase a VDA license ($100 per year) for those devices not covered by SA. So even if you purchase a thin client with a non-Microsoft OS installed or you wire up your refrigerator’s LCD screen with Ubuntu, you still need to purchase a Microsoft VDA license to access the Microsoft virtual machine you need to get to. Yes, one of the goals of virtualization is to cut costs, but there is no getting around the licensing models. Everyone wants to get paid. I believe the Microsoft licensing model has always been a confusing – hate relationship with most people, but it is nice when they attempt to simplify the process. Every vendor has a licensing model, you just have to wrap your head around how it falls into your VDI deployment strategy.

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