The latest ‘buzz word’ (well, OK, phrase) doing the technical conference circuit this year is that we have entered the “post PC era“. This conjures up images of lots of happy corporate users going about their daily work without any form of Windows desktop to access their applications and data, using <delete as applicable>.. iPad, MacBook, tablet computer, a home PC etc…..(it’s complete piffle, of course, for several years at least, because of all the legacy applications being run by businesses today that require a Windows environment. Until EVERY application in a business is somehow virtualised, executes in the browser or is made web accessible, then you’ll be needing that ‘ol skool Desktop).
To illustrate the point, from the ‘amazing-but-true’ department, I met a client last week still running a Windows 3.1 application …. I am not anticipating them moving that particular application into HTML5 anytime soon.
So, given all the very real and proven benefits of running a hosted virtual desktop, and how much users love it for the most part (whether in your own data-centre = VDI, or someone else’s = DaaS), Microsoft licensing is often perceived as – and where ‘perception is reality’ actually is – a barrier to adoption for many organisations.
The almost impenetrable world of MS Licensing for hosted virtual desktops is a very real deterrent, as much for its complexity and convoluted logic, as for its costs.
The root cause of the confusion amongst both customers and MS’s own re-sellers is the decision to continue to license Windows by device rather than by users. This is a quaint throw-back to the days when ‘Desktop’ literally meant a box on or under your desk and nothing else. This approach has thrown up some truly bizarre scenarios (for example: bring your own iPad to work and legally access your Company hosted desktop from the Starbucks across the street under your company’s SA agreement, but then bring the same device into the office and access the same desktop and you suddenly need an additional VDA license).
Rather than fix the root cause here and license the user Microsoft, hilariously quoting ‘customer benefits’ that they are seemingly alone in being able to identify, have invented yet another license called the Companion Device License (you guessed it, customer pays again!, for the same desktop).
The implications of this are enough to give IT managers sleepless nights – instead of enjoying the benefits of users securely accessing their hosted desktops from any device, from anywhere, suddenly the IT department is faced with a mountain of work simply to track which user is accessing their desktop from which device, and from where, to remain in compliance … for devices they probably don’t manage or even own. Houston, we have a problem…
Give up now then?
… err, NO actually. In the real world Companies will buy the correct number and type of licenses for what they believe their users will actually do and the devices they think their users will use to access their virtual desktops. Of course Microsoft would rather you just forgot the whole thing and went back to PC’s – but the benefits of hosted desktops are just too good to miss for both users and Companies.
As for the cost – well, it is an additional cost that can be an unpleasant surprise for the unprepared. The good news, however, is that in my recent client experience there is enough cash benefit available in most business cases to justify the investment (and then some), even with these costs taken into account.