Hail the Microsoft RDS CAL-more than just a renamed TS CAL

Microsoft Terminal Services has become Remote Desktop Services (RDS) in Windows Server 2008 R2. As such, the Client Access License (CAL) changed its name as well.

Not only did the CAL name change but, it costs more. Such is the way of things. However, for that increase not only are you able to access new functionality Microsoft have additionaly included a Microsoft Application Virtualization for Terminal Services (App-V for TS) license.

This does not only have a bearing on Presentation Virtualization deployments, but could well impact the growth of other vendor’s Application Virtualization solutions.

Four Key Changes
The new RDS CAL introduces four key changes:

1) Equivalence of Windows Server 2008 TS CAL & Windows Server 2008 RDS CAL
If you already own 2008 Terminal Services CALs you don’t need to buy 2008 RDS CAL. If you own 2003 TS CALs, you will need to buy the new RDS 2008 CALS.

2) 2008 RDS CAL costs more than a 2008 TS CAL
With 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services Microsoft introduced new services into their default offering that had previously only been available with the addition of third party services from the likes of Citrix, Quest, 2x and Propalms:

  • Simplified management with a single broker for both Session Desktops and VDI Desktops
  • Provides the user a rich remote experience, bringing the experience closer to that enjoyed by users accessing local computing resources such as multi-montor support, bidirectional audio and enhancements for rich media content
  • Improved application compatibility and management of RD session host servers with the inclusion of Microsoft Application Virtualization for TS

3) Transition Pricing & Availability of TS CAL and RDS CAL
With all this additional functionality, the price of an RDS CAL has increased by approximately 5%. It is no longer possible to purchase Windows Server 2008 TS CALs, but up until December 31, 2009 RDS 2008 CALs can be purchased at the equivalent price (i.e. lower) of 2008 TS CAL.

Importantly, as of September 1, 2009, all users or devices connecting to Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Session Host Server or Windows Server 2008 Terminal Server managed with Microsoft Application Virtualization for Terminal Services no longer need to acquire a separate Microsoft Application Virtualization CAL for Terminal Services.

4) Inclusion of Microsoft Application Virtualization for TS with the 2008 TS CAL and 2008 RDS CALs
Microsoft rightly point out that application compatibility and management are significant drivers of cost for many Presentation Virtualisation implementation.  Application Virtualization saves time and money and reduces risk: it helps manage the size of the farm, reduces time to deploy applications, and guards against applications conflicting.

By including App-V for TS as part of the TS and RDS CALs, Microsoft are actively promoting the adoption of App-V for TS.  As its now part of the core license, the App-V CAL for TS will not be available for purchase after November 1st 2009.

It should be noted, this does not affect App-V for Desktop licensing on Windows.  App-V for Desktops continues to be included and licensed via the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) with no change.

Impact of App-V for RDS

While the new features of RDS are useful, Microsoft still concede that RDS is aimed at low complexity environments. RDS on its own does not have a major impact on the value added by other vendors’ Presentation Virutalization Enterprise solutions.

Moreover with 2008R2 only supporting x64 environments, take up of the App-V functionality on 2008 R2 platforms isn’t going to happen until the new App-V client release which is scheduled for early 2010.

However, 2008 TS implementations can make use of App-V now. With the many benefits of Application Virtualization the default and simple option would be to make use of the App-V license already available as part of the RDS CAL. A first casualty is likely to be Citrix’s Application Streaming feature which may well cease to be actively developed.

Many Desktop Virtualization solutions are not solely hosted virtual desktops – they have a large element of Presentation Virtualization i.e. Terminal Services or now, Remote Desktop Services present. If there is no cost for deploying App-V as the Application Virtualization solution for a large proportion of your estate, it follows there is less benefit in introducing another solution for your non-RDS environments and have to manage different solutions.

This announcement means that Presentation Virtualization solutions, although more costly for licenses in the short term, now have a readily available Application Virutalization solution which will offset that with savings in reduced estate size and time and effort for application deployment. However other Application Virtualization vendors are either going to lose that market or have to innovate far faster to justify overriding a new default option.

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