Some time ago I wrote a blog post about Microsoft Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) licensing that was introduced back in July 2010. For those that don’t want to read the whole article the summary of VDA was as follows.
- You need to licence the endpoint accessing a windows VDI Desktop.
- It’s £100 per year per endpoint.
- Multiple endpoints each need a licence, i.e. home PC, office thin client, iPad
- VDA included if endpoint is Windows and is Software Assured
I remember at the time thinking that this was going to hinder VDI deployment projects. The additional on-going cost of licensing every potential endpoint a user may use was going to push TCO up, increase the time for ROI to be realised and generally make VDI a very unappealing prospect. Don’t even get me started on how difficult this makes it for service providers to create a Windows Desktop as a Service offering.
Recently one of my esteemed colleagues at EMC (another vSpecialist by the name of Itzich Reich who’s blog you can find here) sent out an email about Microsoft releasing a customer technology preview (CTP) of a product called Windows Thin PC (WinTPC). In summary this is a slimmed down version of Windows 7 and is designed for the re-purposing of old PC equipment as thin client devices.
It has a couple of features worth mentioning for those technically minded people out there.
- RemoteFX support for a richer, higher fidelity hosted desktop experience.
- Support for System Center Configuration Manager, to help deploy and manage.
- Write filter support helps prevent writes to disk, improving end point security.
WinTPC and / or VDA
So how does this new product fit in with the rather expensive VDA licensing? Well the good news is that WinTPC can be used to access a VDI desktop without the need for a VDA licence. On the downside WinTPC will only be available as a benefit of Software assurance for volume licensees. Now seeing as the VDA licence doesn’t apply to an endpoint that is windows based and covered by software assurance it makes no real difference from a licensing point of view which option you go for. So if you have software assurance the choice is yours, if you don’t, well coughing up for VDA licences each year is your only option I’m afraid.
What WinTPC does allow companies to do is maximise existing PC hardware investments. This should allow companies to offset some of that initial upfront cost often associated with VDI projects. Microsoft’s idea is that companies can try out VDI using WinTPC and existing PC assets, when these PC’s become end of life they can swap over to using windows embedded devices without needing to change the management tools. Now VDI is not cheap, capital costs can be high, savings are usually made in operational and management costs later down the VDI journey. As I mentioned at the start of this post, the VDA licence has not helped VDI adoption as it increases both capital and operational costs due to it’s annual subscription cost model. Will this new release from Microsoft help reduce costs?
My opinion, I personally think Microsoft are in a tricky position, they’re somewhat behind the curve on the VDI front and I always felt the VDA licence was designed to slow VDI adoption while they gained some ground on the competition. If anyone chose to forge ahead, regardless, well Microsoft would generate some nice consistent revenue through the VDA licence. So the prospect of a WinTPC release is a nice touch by Microsoft during these hard economic times but not everyone can benefit. What I would like to see is Microsoft offer this outwith Software Assurance, sell it as a single one off licence cost as an alternative to the annual subscription model used with the VDA. Give your customers the choice and let them get on with their VDI journey, be part of it as opposed to being the road block!
If you are interested in learning more, check out the links below. To download the CTP version of WinTPC then go to Microsoft Connect and sign up to download it, would love to hear what you think.