Microsoft sabotages Windows-via-the-cloud services

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Desktop as a service becomes more attractive to cloud providers and users -- but Microsoft wants nothing to do with it

EMC VMware made much of its dual-prong approach to overcoming challenges in cloud infrastructure with its vCloud Suite and end-user computing arena with its new Horizon suite. A great deal of work remains, but the goal of these two suites is to eventually provide a holistic approach stretching from the user's desktop (whether a traditional desktop or mobile device) all the way through the infrastructure nuts and bolts that allow delivery of application services.

Missing in the myriad PowerPoint presentations was VMware's VDI product, VMware View. It doesn't seem to fit into either suite and is left floating somewhere between cloud infrastructure and end-user experience delivery without a clear home in either.

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Part of me hoped to see View eventually find its way into the vCloud Suite so that public and private cloud operators could deliver Windows instances via the cloud (called desktop as a service, or DaaS, by the industry). It's true that View would need to be heavily refactored to make this jump because it currently integrates directly with VMware vCenter to automate the provisioning of desktop pools and is incompatible with vCloud Director. At the moment, VMware seems to have no appetite to overcome that challenge.

The reason it lacks the appetite, though, is not because VMware sees no value in selling vCloud Director to provide DaaS. No, the issue is that Microsoft's licensing rules have made it virtually impossible to carry off.

Microsoft's licensing stands in the way

However, Microsoft has repeatedly blocked VDI from delivering on its promise by architecting its licensing terms to make it substantially more expensive to implement than traditional desktop infrastructure. In the past, you could blame Microsoft's largely failed attempt to entice business to upgrade to Vista from XP. Had these initial XP deployments been virtualized, Microsoft might have been denied the recurring revenue stream provided by physical desktop replacements. Today, the resistance likely has more to do with Microsoft's desire to push its own cloud-based services such as Office 365 or the fact that Microsoft does not have its own DaaS offering and sees no value in letting others provide what it doesn't.

No matter the motivations, Microsoft has dealt DaaS a substantial blow by failing to include any of its desktop operating systems in its service provider licensing agreements via the program that lets IaaS providers rent access to Microsoft licenses to hosted customers. (It's how services such as CloudOn deliver Microsoft Office environments to the iPad, for example.)

Instead, the only way a provider can legally offer Windows DaaS services is for the customer to buy its own Microsoft Windows license for devices (either Windows 8 with Software Assurance or Windows Virtual Desktop Access licenses, depending on the device). That completely eliminates the pay-as-you-go benefit of using the cloud.

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