Microsoft liberalises virtualisation options

Microsoft liberalises virtualisation options

As Microsoft officially released its Application Virtualisation 4.5 software, it also announced several licencing 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 January 1, the Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktop (VECD) virtualisation license will be expanded to accommodate IT managers facing several situations. According to Scott Woodgate, director of Windows product management, one such situation is to allow enterprises to deliver Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) Windows desktops from servers to client PCs that are owned and controlled by an employee.

Another is to allow IT managers to deploy VDI desktops to PCs used by contract workers or firms. The third scenario is to allow employees who occasionally work from home to use a Windows virtual machine either streamed from a server to their home computer or to run 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 favorite 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), what is 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 virtualization 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 Virtualization when Microsoft bought it in 2006, was released to manufacturing today, Woodgate said.

The application will be available to Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) customers in a few weeks as part of the MDOP 2008 R2 release. This version will support 11 languages and will offer improved security and management, Woodgate said.

The news was detailed on Microsoft's MDOP blog.

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