VMware View Client and Citirix Receiver for iPad – truly free of charge?

Arriving fashionably late to the party in March VMware have  launched the View Client for the iPad.

The announcement was doubtless welcomed by iPad owning View users and brings VMware in line with the competition. Citirix and Quest both have an iPad client for their respective solutions; with a number of vendors, including iTap, Jaadu, Wyse providing RDP clients via Apple’s Appstore.

While some vendors have a charge for their iPad client – VMware has followed in the practice of Citrix and Quest and made their client free for download.

Yet, there is no such thing as a free lunch. While there may be no charge for the client app, is there a cost implication to the business? And of course, I’ve written “iPad” but as the iPhone loses to ground to the wealth of Android devices, it would be fair to say that the question of “what-is-the-cost-of-connecting-to-your-services-with-a-new-generation-mobile-thing” covers a range of devices that are being brought into the work place: not only the cool tablet de jour courtesy of Mr Ive, but the ever more popular Android smartphones and tablet devices such as the Motorola Xoom or the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

There may be an executive clamor to introduce these devices, the cost of installing the relevant client may appear to be nothing and the services of IT may not be needed to perform the installation – but, what licenses need to be available to allow access using these new kids on the block?

How free is a free VDI client on a tablet or a smartphone?

In our article on Microsoft licensing for VDI, we discussed license options for virtualised desktops. However,  in a Microsoft centric environment  “the desktop” is not the only component that needs licensing.
Step by Step
In the first instance, you’ll need to have Client Access Licenses to access Microsoft services.  As we mentioned earlier this week, Microsoft have recently modified the Client Access License Bundle.  There are now two suites that can be purchased – Core and Enterprise. You can find out more about the Microsoft CAL Suites here.

Client Access Licenses can be assigned to devices or users. If you are supporting more devices than users make sure that you are using the “user” license model rather than the “device” model.

To access a virtual desktop, devices such as a tablet or a smartphone require a Windows Virtual Desktop Access (Windows VDA) license. It is important to realise  Windows VDA is a device-based subscription. It is currently available for $100/year/device through all major Microsoft Volume Licensing (VL) programs, but that does mean using a tablet to access a desktop environment has a cost associated with it.

Windows VDA covers the OS license, but what about the applications? If you allow users to access, say, Microsoft PowerPoint, or Project what licenses are required then? We’ve discussed before that licensing Microsoft Office with VDI isn’t straightforward. Fundamentally - Microsoft has licensed MS Office by end-point device.  If the company owns the iPad/smartphone and you’re allowing users to use that device to access MS Office via VDI – you must have an MS Office license assigned to the device. Its slightly more fun if the user owns the device.

But surely, you cry, if I’ve licensed the user’s primary device and that is under Software Assurance (SA) – Roaming Use Rights come into effect? To you I say two things. One, don’t call me Shirley (that gag works better vocally doesn’t it?, note-to-self) but more importantly Two, under the product use rights it is important to note that “Roaming Use Rights are not applicable when the user is in the office.

This means if the user brings their iPad into the building and uses VDI to access MS Office applications – you need to have a fully licensed Office assigned to their device. That is, as well as having a Windows VDA license for the iPad, you also need to have an MS Office license as well.

Its also useful to note that if users share a device regardless of whether you’ve got SA, roaming use  rights are not available. So, if your main office has a number of thin-clients shared by users who hot-desk; and those users bring in their own tablet devices so they can work dynamically – to comply with MS licensing you need to have a VDA license for each tablet/smartphone and (if they’re using  MS Office apps) an MS Office license.

No More Games
You may be right in thinking “That seems complicated – how do I manage that?” VDI vendors focus on the licensing of their own product – but they offer  no solution for core Microsoft OS and applications.  Solutions from the likes of AppSense’s Application Manager and CentrixSoftware’s Workspace Discovery allow you to monitor application license use – but it still only application usage. Indeed, even AppSense, who have the only solution Microsoft authorise to manage access to MS Office licenses, would require a complicated rule set to ensure that Office is only available to roaming users.  More importantly, as yet, there is no method of managing VDA license consumption: Microsoft’s recommendation is that “you just count them”. How and when is left up to you.

This makes understanding and complying with the Microsoft licenses complex. You need to know how many devices are being used and the nature of the connection.

You could of course, ignore the problem: not bother to record instances and allow access at home or in the office. Microsoft would be hard  pressed to evidence the extent to which you are breaking the agreement. If anything it highlights the inconsistency and absurdity of MS’s licensing policy in a virtualised environment.

Face the Music
There are a wealth of options to enable productivity to be enhanced by allowing access to applications and data from a range of devices. As I mentioned at the start, while this article may have a title that focuses on the iPad – this is not about “the iPad”, it is about “devices that are not the primary PC” .

I’ve included briefly the licensing requirements for the Windows OS and MS Office.  You are of course able to use alternatives (such as a non-Mircosoft OS License); or consider applications and data on the mobile device itself. The issues here are simple:

  • To change the desktop OS is no simple undertaking in terms of reconfiguration and retraining for users
  • Allowing users to use “local” applications on their devices means the data is local to the device. This has implications for integrity and security of your business data.

The majority desktop applications are based on a Microsoft OS platform; and documents and email are managed using the Microsoft Office suite. Providing access to a virtualised desktop environment does provide compelling advantages:

  • Data is never held on the remote device, allowing a greater level of security and control
  • By using the same applications there is a more consistent user experience and so less time wasted redoing and re-learning.

As we’ve mentioned before Microsoft’s current licensing policies are not desktop virtualisation friendly. Ideally Windows VDA would be replaced by a Windows Virtual User Access VUA license, allowing access to services for a named user, regardless of device. This does of course, change the model of delivery completely, and moves away from requiring the use of a device that has a Windows OS  license embedded. But, as we ponderously move towards having applications hosted within a browser, having a per-user model is going to be far more prevalent.

Personal device use may seem appealing in reducing the demands on IT support – but to fully comply with the license agreements can incur additional license charges, and those charges are difficult to manage.
Despite the advertising blurb attached to the free clients, the headaches for finance and IT are not over yet.

Andrew Wood (144 Posts)

Andrew is a Director of Gilwood CS Ltd, based in the North East of England, which specialises in delivering and optimising server and application virtualisation solutions. With 12 years of experience in developing architectures that deliver server based computing implementations from small-medium size business to global enterprise solutions, his role involves examining emerging technology trends, vendor strategies, development and integration issues, and management best practices.

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