We have all been there. You see an email come across in the subject line that you’ve seen before. You release a loud sigh, because you already know the response to the email before you even open it. How? Well you’ve been asked the same question before on numerous occcassions and give the same response. For me in particular, the subject in the email is “SPLA and VDI” It’s not frustrating, it’s just I hate saying “no” (just ask my son – a bit spoiled I admit)
I try to write about different topics, but I also like to give updates and understanding to various topics that really hit home; VDI is one of them. You can read my previous article here In this post, I will break VDI into two parts: defining VDI and moving forward.
What is a virtual desktop in the licensing world? You should think about virtual desktop as a software assurance benefit. Like license mobility, software assurance is required. Unlike license mobility, there is no option to install in shared infrastructure. Let me repeat – no option to install in shared infrastructure. One more time…no option to install in shared infrastructure. What are the options?
Since VDI/VDA is a software assurance benefit, your customer must purchase their desktop OS with software assurance to have VDI rights. That means if they did not purchase with software assurance, there is no option for them to use virtual desktops from a true licensing perspective. What if the machine is a dummy terminal with no software assurance option available? The end-user would be required to purchase a VDA license for each device. VDA license is kind of like a device CAL, it just provides the user access to a virtual instance. If your customer has not purchased VDA or software assurance on the OS, they need to reconsider if they want a virtual desktop.
Some service providers are under the impression that they can sell a desktop OS perpetually to the customer and host it for them in a dedicated environment. They have the dedicated environment part right, but an OS sold to an end-user does not grant that end-user access to a virtual desktop without software assurance (SA). Secondly, you have to be an authorized reseller to sell perpetual licenses (non SPLA) to consumers. Third, you cannot buy a Windows desktop license yourself and host it to third parties. Anything you buy outside of SPLA is for your internal employees only. Last, not only should you not buy licenses and host, but do not install on servers that is also used for your internal use. That is a big compliance headache. Where is it written that you cannot host on servers internal employees are also accessing? It’s not. That’s what makes it a headache. Just don’t shoot the messenger!
So why can’t the end-user just go to Best Buy or some other retailer, purchase a retail copy, have you (the service provider) host it for them? That not only is a compliance risk, it is also not very economical. Download the FAQ guide here
What are your options? The good news is Azure, AWS, and all the others have the same rules. They cannot offer desktop OS in the public cloud. This is probably the best FAQ guide I’ve read around Azure and it applies really to all IaaS providers. Check it out here
What you can do is offer Windows Server to emulate a desktop using RDS. I get it, not the same thing but I think it is a more of a compelling solution from a cost perspective (and be compliant). Dedicating a physical server and virtual server is not always the most profitable solution. I’ve said this before, I think the bigger issue is Office. RDS now has mobility rights, I think Office should too.
If I was a service provider, I would work with someone who is an expert in SPLA based licensing and an expert in software assurance benefits. As you can see from my previous posts and with VDI, software assurance is a requirement for most cloud based licensing solutions. In years past, SA (Software Assurance) was only leveraged for organizations that wanted the latest version on software and pay annually for the licenses under their agreement. The “cloud” has changed that. Fast forward to today and customers want to move to the cloud but leverage their existing licenses. Have you been asked that before? How do they accomplish that? The answer is Software Assurance. They need SA to use license mobility, they need SA for VDI, they need SA for hybrid scenarios such as the SAL for SA SKU’s, and they still need SA for latest version rights and pay annually. If I was a Microsoft shareholder, I would applaud that move. It’s a way to add additional revenue on top of the licenses they purchased all the while giving customers the benefits they are after.
So if you ask, “why does Microsoft not allow VDI in a shared environment?” My answer is “why would they?”
Thanks for reading,
August 13, 2014 at 11:53 am
Great post, as always. Personally, I think the VDI SA requirement is more of a pain for on premises implementations than for solution providers. I know my clients are shocked to find out they can only run their VDI from one device. It kind of defeats the purpose (at least one purpose – mobility).
I have no problem offering a server desktop to emulate a workstation desktop. In fact, I think it’s a better solution, as you point out. I totally agree with you, though, that, from an SPLA perspective, Office is really the bigger issue. I wish there was concurrent usage licensing for Office.
August 13, 2014 at 12:27 pm
Hi Tim, thank you! Agreed, Office is a sticking point for a lot of providers.