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Are You Licensed to Virtualize

Get Your Ducks in a Row Before You Grow

by James Nagurney

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This month I wanted to highlight the growing trend of Virtual Desktops or VDI. The question I get most frequently regarding VDI is “How does this affect my overall cost of Microsoft licensing?” The answer might surprise you. Let’s take a look at a few of the finer points of Windows VDI.

First, keep in mind that the Windows OS licensing that you have installed on your device currently does not give you the rights to view a virtual desktop that resides on a centralized server. Likewise, the Windows Server licensing on your server does not give you the rights to virtualize desktops. The license that legally gives you the right to create a virtual desktop on a centralized server and present that on an end-user device is called Virtual Desktop Access or VDA. VDA is not a VDI delivery system; it is simply a license to do VDI with a Windows OS. You will still need software to deliver the virtual desktop, be that App-V, VMware View, XenDesktop, etc.This month I wanted to highlight the growing trend of Virtual Desktops or VDI. The question I get most frequently regarding VDI is “How does this affect my overall cost of Microsoft licensing?” The answer might surprise you. Let’s take a look at a few of the finer points of Windows VDI.

VDA licensing is per device, not per user, which makes things a little more complicated. So your VDA license would be assigned to your primary machine, not the primary user of the machine. To make matters even more complicated, for each primary device that has a VDA licensing assigned to it, you may identify a primary user. (The exception to this would be shared workstations where several people are accessing their own virtual desktop through the same machine—in this case, you may not define a primary user.) Why is it important to identify a primary user? This comes into play when the user has secondary devices, such as a notebook, tablet, or smartphone, on which they are also receiving their virtual desktop. Up to 4 secondary devices can be covered by one Companion Subscription License or CSL. Confused yet? Here is a slide that I often use to illustrate this:

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VDA can be purchased as a stand-alone subscription (which is appropriate for thin clients and outside contractors, and comes in around $90 per year) or through Windows SA (which is appropriate for typical desktop computers and laptops). So VDA is actually an SA benefit, and therefore if you have SA today, you have the rights to virtualize desktops. And likewise, if you drop your SA, you lose the rights to virtualize your desktop. Also, if you have Office on your virtual desktop, and are using secondary access VDI, you must have SA on that Office license. Software Assurance is what grants Office “roaming rights.”

Back to our original question, how does VDI affect my overall cost of Microsoft licensing? In a VDI scenario, you still need an Office license and all appropriate CALs, so much of the licensing would stay the same. However, due to investments in Software Assurance, VDA, and possible CSL, your software costs may go up. The real savings of VDI tend to be soft-savings, i.e. extending the life of your workstations, reducing time and man-hours for updates, making software management easier, etc. Overall, many customers tell me that even with the possible increased cost of the licensing, the outcome of VDI is a dramatic decrease in IT costs.

As you might suspect, the information above only scratches the surface on VDI and VDA licensing. There are many unique situations that require us to dive deeper into the Product Use Rights to ensure compliance. But hopefully this gives you a good overview of VDI with Windows, and helps to dispel some of the misconceptions that we know are out there regarding the topic. As always, you can contact an Account Manager for more details.

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