Microsoft frees up virtualisation licence options

As Microsoft officially released its Application Virtualisation 4.5 software today, it also announced several licensing changes around virtual desktops and application virtualisation, while omitting a long-anticipated one.

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As Microsoft officially released its Application Virtualisation 4.5 software today, it also announced several licensing changes around virtual desktops and application virtualisation, while omitting a long-anticipated one.

Enterprises will welcome some of the changes but dislike others, analysts said.

Starting Jan. 1, the Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktop (VECD) virtualisation licence will be expanded to accommodate some specific IT management needs.

According to Scott Woodgate, director of Windows product management, it will allow enterprises to deliver virtual Windows desktops to client PCs that are owned and controlled by employees.

It will also allow IT managers to deploy virtual desktops to PCs used by contract workers or firms. And employees who occasionally work from home will be able to use a Windows virtual machine either streamed from a server to their home computers or from a USB thumb drive.

Virtual desktops are typically deployed only to PCs directly managed by central IT. These changes will give IT managers more flexibility, according to Paul DeGroot, an analyst with the independent firm, Directions On Microsoft.

"Now you can reduce the startup time for your favourite contract development shop in India. So it's useful that [Microsoft is] expanding this," DeGroot said.

For the convenience, however, Microsoft plans to charge $110 per PC per year for the first two scenarios. For contract workers who work less than a full year, the cost will be pro-rated in an as-yet-undetermined way, Woodgate said. Both scenarios include the cost of Software Assurance (SA) which is a prerequisite in order to buy and use VECD.

To enable occasional VDI on employees' home computers, Microsoft plans to charge $23 a year. That would not include the cost of SA, which DeGroot says is an additional $33 to $55 per device per year.

To further add to the cost, Microsoft will continue its longstanding policy of requiring a license for every device that is to be used, no matter how little it is used or how short of a duration, rather than grant IT managers the money-saving option of buying a pool of concurrent licenses it can share among all its users.
Concurrent licensing is being adopted by some vendors, especially Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) vendors. Not Microsoft, however, which is "an old type of company with an old way of thinking," according to Brian Madden, an independent virtualisation analyst.

"We live in a world of Windows apps, and that's not going to go away anytime soon. So why should Microsoft get progressive? They have zero incentive to be," he said. "They are doing exactly as they should be doing, as a publicly traded company with fiduciary duties."

Microsoft lets hosting companies stream any application - except Microsoft's App-V 4.5, formerly known as SoftGrid Application Virtualisation when Microsoft bought it in 2006, was released to manufacturing today, Woodgate said.

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