These restrictions impacted virtualization providers but not Microsoft directly since it didn't have a competing technology at the time. But now that the Redmond giant is ready to enter the tablet market with Windows 8, the virtual desktop infrastructure has been reconfigured to allow for a more relaxed set of rules.
Here's where things get even more interesting. If a user's nonlicensed personal device happens to be a Windows RT device, the company doesn't need to buy the additional CDL to cover the user's accessing of their primary SA-covered desktop. According to Erwin Visser, senior director in the Windows commercial group, when used as a companion of a Windows Software Assurance-licensed PC, Windows RT will automatically receive what is being called "extended VDA" rights. Visser added, "These rights will provide access to a full VDI image running in the datacenter which will make Windows RT a great complementary tablet option for business customers."
The Windows RT extended VDA license does away with restrictions, and it provides coverage for personal as well as company-owned devices in VDI scenarios. It also provides support for both public and private networks. But now Microsoft is basically assessing a penalty on organizations that don't buy Windows RT tablets. It's not good enough that an iPad user has a PC with SA on Windows; they also need to purchase a new Companion Device License.
Microsoft has been a big proponent of going after VMware for its server virtualization licensing changes made with the introduction of vSphere 5.0. VMware's licensing change has been dubbed a "vRAM Tax," and Microsoft has been relentless using it in various FUD campaigns when going head-to-head with its rival. But the Redmond giant is now creating a sort of "tax" of its own for people or organizations choosing to use competitor technologies, such as the Apple iPad or Android-based tablets.
At the end of the day, these licensing updates may be about Microsoft trying to stall competitors in the tablet market, but it's also about Microsoft wanting to get paid. The big problem for organizations isn't whether Microsoft should or shouldn't be getting paid (of course it should) -- it's about the confusion caused by the layers upon layers of licensing created. Some of these license policies may have been understandable back in the '90s when companies had a one-to-one user-to-device ratio, but today's modern business world and modern user doesn't fit that old school methodology. It sure seems like it would be a much simpler world if Microsoft would move its Software Assurance over to a per-user model rather than per device.
Microsoft is trying to solve a licensing problem that many organizations don't even know exists. To add to that confusion, once again, Microsoft isn't providing a way for these same organizations to track which users are using personal devices at work in order to know how many CDL add-ons are even necessary! Will companies have to buy a CDL for every user just to be safe? Or should they purchase a percentage and hope for the best? Without a mechanism in place to remotely track whether or not they are in compliance, some customers may be looking at much higher licensing costs if they were to face an audit.
If you thought VDI licensing for Windows 7 was confusing, welcome to the "upgraded" licensing for Windows 8.
This article, "Microsoft targets iPad, Android users with tablet virtualization license fee," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in virtualization at InfoWorld.com.