Microsoft earlier in 2009 changed its Windows licensing for desktop virtualization environments, paving the way for a host of new scenarios for IT administrators, according to a report from Forrester Research. The new Microsoft licensing plan makes it easier and cheaper for enterprises to delve into desktop virtualization initiatives for contractors, outsourcers and employees who use their own PCs, the report says.
is making it easier for enterprises to embrace desktop
virtualization, according to a report from Forrester Research.
In a report issued April 9, Forrester analyst Natalie Lambert said new
Windows licensing from Microsoft-which in the past had been a deterrent for
businesses interested in desktop virtualization-could help fuel a surge in the
adoption of the technology.
"With the latest licensing rules, Microsoft has now made possible
popular [desktop virtualization] scenarios that IT ops pros have been clamoring
for," Lambert wrote in the report, which was developed along with
Forrester analyst Simon Yates, Christopher Voce and Margaret Ryan.
Microsoft updated its Windows licensing for desktop virtualization
at the beginning of 2009,
Lambert said. However, although the new licensing plan will help enterprises
interested in desktop virtualization, the key continues to be Microsoft's
Software Assurance program, she said.
For licensing local desktop virtualization on company-owned PCs, not much
has changed since Forrester last looked at the issue in June 2008, Lambert said
in her report. If a company subscribes to the Software Assurance program, it
can run up to four virtual machines on top of the Windows host operating system-including
Vista, XP, 2000 and earlier versions-on a single
physical PC. If a company needs five or more virtual desktops, it will need to
buy more copies of Windows.
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However, without Software Assurance, a company can't run virtual desktops on
top of the PCs.
For all other desktop virtualization scenarios, enterprises will need
Microsoft's VECD (Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktop) license. This
encompasses initiatives that include running a Windows client OS in a hosted
desktop environment-on a server in a data center-or on a PC that isn't owned by
the company, such as a contractor's machine or one owned by an employee.
With the VECD, costs vary depending on the device the operating system is
running on, Lambert said. If the device is owned by the company and covered by Software
Assurance, the cost is $23 per device per year. This includes any system
connected to a hosted desktop, which includes users who want to connect to the
central hosted desktop not only at work, but also from home.
However, for thin-client devices connected to a hosted desktop, or for PCs
that aren't covered by Software assurance, the cost is $110 per device per
year. A change in this scenario is that, unlike in the past, the VECD license
lets noncorporate PCs-for example, those used by outsourcers and contractors,
or those owned by the employee-connect to the hosted desktop environment. That
cost is still below the list price of $199.95 for Vista Home Basic and XP Home,
and $319.95 for Vista Ultimate.
With the VECD, users can store an unlimited number of virtual desktop
systems on physical disks in the data center, which will enable IT staff
members to "create, play with and destroy VMs without worrying about
complying with their license agreement," Lambert said. "In addition,
these VMs can move between servers and storage as needed, allowing for a
dynamic environment that caters to user performance needs at any given
time." However, the license limits to four the number of virtual desktop
machines that can connect to the hosted desktop at a single time.
Overall, the new licensing rules open up options that were hindered under
the older licenses. Contractors can now use their own PCs in a company's
office. In addition, employees can now bring their
own Windows-based PCs to work,
a scenario that is gaining in popularity,
though it does present headaches for IT administrators over such issues as
The new licensing also increases the mobility of a company by enabling
employees with corporate PCs to bring their Windows desktop home on a removable
Lambert said for enterprises looking to expand their use of desktop
virtualization, the new licensing scheme from Microsoft removes a key hurdle.
"As Windows licensing makes more and more scenarios possible, desktop
virtualization is coming to the forefront of computing," Lambert wrote in
the report. "While just one year ago, Microsoft handcuffed many organizations
that attempted to legally license Windows Client in a virtualized world, they
have made steady improvements to pave the way for new computing
models-specifically, models that move away from a standard, physical corporate