Microsoft VECD Updates and Licensing Windows in a Virtual Environment

21 03 2010

In case you haven’t heard yet, Microsoft showed signs of budging on VECD licensing this past Thursday, 03/18/10. The VECD, or Virtual Enterprise Centralized Desktop, license is a requirement for running a Windows workstation operating system in a virtual desktop infrastructure. Ever since VDI came to fruition, Microsoft has been requiring customers to pay $110 per year to license devices which are not covered under SA, i.e. thin clients, or $23 per year for devices which are covered under SA, such as existing workstations. The cost compounded with the license being subscription based, as well as the requirement for a license to cover all devices in a customer environment and not just address concurrent access, has made the license very unpopular. In a lot of cases it has been the single biggest hurdle to full adoption of VDI as a feasible enterprise desktop strategy.

The recently announced changes will drop the charge for devices covered under SA to $0, and the price for devices which do not fall under SA will be reduced to $100 beginning July 1, 2010. This license for customers who do not want to subscribe to SA is now called Virtual Desktop Access or VDA. Another key aspect of the new licensing is the ability of a CAL purchased for a user’s primary work device to cover other devices for access, which should theoretically help to drive down cost. While this is a step in the right direction, MS still has a long way to go on the non-SA device cost. After all, replacing workstations with thin clients is one of the major goals around VDI and reducing/simplifying the desktop footprint at the user end.

For customers who do not already have a thin client strategy in place or who do not want to rip out all of their workstation hardware, especially if there is plenty of life left in the existing devices, converting them to thin clients is a good option. Several of the thin client conversion solutions leave the underlying Windows OS in place. Therefore, leveraging this lower cost option for reducing management at the workstation level can help to drive down overall CAPX requirements for adoption of VDI because you’re not purchasing new user hardware on top of the other initial expenditures, and you’re not paying for the VECD licensing. This should translate into some decent improvements with TCO/ROI as well as a more palatable cost per user.

While I’m on a roll with Microsoft licensing, the white paper at the following link provides an excellent overview of licensing Windows in a virtual environment, courtesy of Paul Davey at Xtravirt.




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