Microsoft Changes Windows Licensing

…or “Yaw’ll run and git your shotguns, ’cause those pigs are a-flyin!”

Mark November 3, 2014, in your calendar as a red-letter day and living proof that leopards can change their spots. On this day, Microsoft changed the terms of Windows licensing for its flagship desktop operating system, Windows Enterprise. In an update to the terms and conditions of its Enterprise edition, Microsoft now offers the option to purchase Windows desktop operating systems on a per-user basis as well as a per-device basis, thereby opening up BYOD (bring your own device). Even more amazing, this user-based license negates the hated VDA (Windows Virtual Desktop Access).

According to the Microsoft licensing website, with per-user licensing you can:

  • Free your users to use or access Windows Enterprise across all their devices.
  • Deliver Windows Enterprise across devices through local install, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), or Windows To Go.
  • Gain the simplicity of counting users instead of counting all of their various devices—enabling BYOD scenarios without the need to track every device and license.

The chart below (from Microsoft’s licensing site) clearly shows that a per-user license negates the requirement for a VDA license and grants the user access to a Windows instance on “any device.”

Access Rights to Windows Enterprise
Access Rights to Windows Enterprise

This has been a long time coming and has been eagerly awaited by the VDI and DaaS communities. With the advances in storage and flash acceleration, desktop licensing has, up until this announcement, been a very large line item in any VDI or DaaS deployment. Now, properly licensed Microsoft operating systems, which include Windows 8.1, 8.0, 7, Vista, and XP, qualify for this terms and conditions change.

That said, there are some hoops to jump through. According to the site, the following conditions must be met:

  • A licensed, qualifying Windows operating system must already be installed on the device that will be assigned the Volume Licensing Upgrade license. The following table lists base operating system licenses—including preinstalled original equipment manufacturer (OEM) versions—that are eligible for upgrade.
  • You must remove the existing qualifying operating system from the device to deploy the Volume Licensing Upgrade license, unless the PC is covered by Microsoft Software Assurance.
  • If you want to install or run more than one licensed operating system at one time (including the qualifying operating system), you can either:
    • Acquire Microsoft Software Assurance for your Volume Licensing Upgrade license, or
    • Purchase full Windows licenses separately.
Windows 8.1 Qualifying Operating Systems
Windows 8.1 Qualifying Operating Systems

It is not perfect, but it is a lot fairer for the VDI and DaaS industries and a very good step in the right direction. The majority of Enterprise users now have more than one “main” device on which they undertake their work. With this new announcement, providers of VDI and DaaS solutions can at least fight on a more even licensing field. One dark cloud to this announcement is that “Windows licenses [that] are available through Volume Licensing are upgrade-only licenses and can only be acquired on top of a base OS license. These licenses are not a replacement for a pre-existing full OS license.” What this appears to say is that there is still an uplift in cost over a per-device license, and as with Enterprise licensing, the baseline cost is mainly dependent on what you can negotiate with Microsoft during your Enterprise license negotiation stages.

Posted in End User Computing, IT as a Service, SDDC & Hybrid CloudTagged , , ,

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