Partnership Of Microsoft And Citrix Intensify VDI Spotlight

The virtualization community, my employer, and every Virtualization Service Provider I know is neck deep in virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). Already important because of Windows 7 migrations, the announcements last week from Microsoft and Citrix seemed to have raised the intensity of an existing white hot spotlight on VDI. When Microsoft, the world’s leader in the desktop operating system market, decides to change their position to make it easier to implement and license virtual desktops then we all have to stop and understand what has happened. There has been a significant change, and there are good things in the future for those moving to virtualized Windows desktops. However, understanding exactly what these changes are and how they impact us continues to be a moving target changing rapidly each year.

This post is my summary of research about the latest Microsoft and Citrix announcements. I’m linking and quoting several bloggers and analysts to help VM /ETC readers (and myself!) digest the details of the new licensing and promotions. I also the outline the actual products that make up the Microsoft and Citrix VDI solution, and then finally point to some interesting reactions and perspectives published over the last several days.

New Microsoft VDI Licensing

Most importantly, Microsoft declared a new licensing policy where Windows desktops will no longer need a separate license to be accessed via VDI by companies with Software Assurance. Although I could not specifically find it stated anywhere I looked, I assume this means whether accessed on any Microsoft VDI solution, VMware View, Citrix XenDesktop, or any other vendor’s VDI product. Here’s some additional information on the new licensing as intrepreted by others:

Desktop Virtualization: Microsoft, VMware in Cost Smackdown

“One key part of the sweeping announcements, covered in an hour-long Webcast, is a simpler and cheaper model for licensing Windows in a virtual desktop environment. Specifically, on July 1, Software Assurance customers will no longer have to buy a separate license to access Windows via a VDI.

Moreover, for customers that use devices that don’t qualify for Software Assurance, such as thin clients and PCs used by contractors, there will be a new license called Windows VDA (virtual desktop access) available for $100 per device per year. This license will allow users to still have access to their complete virtual desktop outside the corporate network on devices such a personal laptops and airport kiosks.”

Maybe Microsoft is finally starting to abandon the concept of anchoring a Windows license to hardware and hopefully beginning to consider introducing virtualization editions of their operating systems? We are definitely not there yet, but at least it’s movement in the right direction.

Microsoft and Citrix VDI Promotions

Along with the new VDI licensing Microsoft and Citrix has also introduced some competitive promotions not only stimulate VDI migration but hopefully capture back some market share in the process. A new web site,, details these new offers.

First is the VDI Kick Start

”Get started with VDI for only $7K1

Interested in VDI? Kick start your VDI implementation today and save 50% on Microsoft VDI Standard Suite and Citrix XenDesktop VDI Edition. With the VDI Kick Start promotion, eligible customers only pay $28 per device2 for up to 250 devices, giving them the opportunity to launch a VDI implementation for only $7K1. The offer includes Microsoft VDI Standard Suite subscription and Citrix XenDesktop VDI Edition annual licenses”.

Second is Rescue for VMware VDI

“Get the best virtual desktop solution — for FREE3!

Struggling with VMware VDI? Replace your VMware View licenses today with the best virtual desktop solution from Microsoft and Citrix VDI — for free3. Through the Rescue for VMware VDI promotion, eligible customers can trade-in their VMware View licenses with same number of Microsoft VDI Standard Suite subscription and Citrix XenDesktop VDI Edition annual licenses, up to a maximum of 500, at no cost3”.

Go to the site to see the details of the footnotes in the quotes above. Both promotions are good until December 31, 2010.

Microsoft MSD VP Brad Anderson blogged about the promotions on the Windows Team Blog. Anderson’s post likens the “Rescue from VMware VDI” program to recent US Government attempts to stimulate the auto industry.

“One piece of news that I’m most excited about that helps with this is the “Rescue for VMware VDI” promotion we’re offering with Citrix. Think of it as a Cash for Clunkers trade-in of VMware View licenses to Microsoft VDI Standard Suite and Citrix XenDesktop VDI Edition licenses at no additional cost.”

What Makes Up the MS & Citrix VDI Solution?

So what exactly is the Citrix and Microsoft VDI solution? A picture is always a faster way to visualize all the components, and I took the following one from the Citrix and Microsoft Brochure:image

To complete the picture is The Microsoft Windows Enterprise: Virtual Desktop Infrastructure web page which contains a lot of MS VDI solution information, but is also the source of the following breakdown of MS VDI Standard and Premium Suite components:

The Microsoft VDI Standard Suite will include licenses to the following technologies:

  1. Hypervisor platform (Hyper-V Server 2008 R2)
  2. An integrated management suite for VDI (System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2, System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2, and System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R2)
  3. Microsoft Application Virtualization through the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP)
  4. Connection Brokering capability through Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services.

The Microsoft VDI Premium Suite includes all the features of the Microsoft VDI Standard Suite, and also includes:

  1. Complete Remote Desktop Services capability, including the option to deploy session based desktops in addition to VDI desktops.
  2. Microsoft Application Virtualization for Remote Desktop Services

Note that both the VDI Kickstart and the Rescue For VMware VDI offers are for the MS VDI Suite only.

Reactions and Perspective

Of course, after exciting news like this there are those that can look beyond the fanfare and raise some questions. Here’s several links worth following for a deeper analysis that helps provide a better understanding and point out the areas still needing improvement.

A User-centric Microsoft Licensing Model? Not Yet, but Getting Closer

“Looking past the good news that came out of yesterday’s announcement, considerable work remains. Microsoft has still not addressed the service provider market. Considerable clarity is still needed for licensing virtual desktops on shared infrastructure. For example, if a user needs a Windows desktop for a week, he essentially has to pay for 90 days worth of licensing. Why? Even with VDA, the service provider technically has to associate the VDA with the subscriber’s physical device and can’t transfer it for another 90 days. The result is that desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) is far more costly than it should be. This problem will grow once companies like HP, IBM, and Dell offer client hypervisors, and look to offer services where user desktop VMs are automatically replicated from their personal system to the cloud.”

The sleeping giant awakes — Microsoft gets desktop virtualization right

“Admittedly there are still a few kinks to iron out with the VDA licensing model. Most notably there is a problem with the way that Microsoft handles the difference between “corporate” and “non- corporate” devices. Microsoft defines a corporate device as one that was bought by the organization. Any non-SA eligible endpoint owned by the organization that needs to access a virtual desktop must have its own Windows VDA license. Which, kind of makes sense until you start to move away from desktop devices and down to smart phones; at which point it gets ugly fast. This isn’t anything to do with functionality; you can do a lot with the right smart phone today.   It’s more a matter of the intersection of policy and accounting.

Looked at from a personal perspective, my iPhone is MY iPhone (so it’s non-corporate), but my colleague’s Blackberry was bought by Gartner (that makes it corporate). They both do the same job more or less; I get better apps, he can type faster. But when we look at using them for remote access it gets very messy.     I will be able to take advantage of my laptop’s Windows SA license to access my virtual desktop from my non-corporate device, but my colleague can’t use ‘his’ Blackberry to access that same environment, without an additional VDA license. Of course we could avoid this by giving him $100 and telling him to go and buy his own phone but that’s not the point is it?   Still, with a couple of months to go before the July 1st launch it’s possible that we will see further changes to address this flaw.”

Closing Thoughts

Be sure to read all of the links in this post for more information, but these last few quotes pose some interesting ideas and viewpoints that stood out to me.

J.Tyler Rohrer, founder and COO of Liquidware Labs’ Stratusphere tool being used by many VMware Partners to assess VDI opportunities, blogs that 2010 is now officially the year of virtual desktops

Microsoft VDI Inertia

“As we all sit around this weekend and try to figure out “what does this mean for vendor XYZ” — relax a bit. What this means, in my opinion, is that every vendor needs to sharpen their pencils, products, and presentations because this now IS, the year of VDI.”

Quoting a quote seems like a violation of journalistic ethics, but, hey, I’m a blogger! Besides, this quote on the competition for VDI market share was too good not to mention again.
Microsoft, Citrix lure VMware customers with cutthroat promo

“One desktop virtualization integrator, Tony Wilburn at IT services company Betis Group, called the promotion a “desperate” attempt to generate buzz. He also said it has the added effect of elevating VMware.

“Has Microsoft ever before had to partner with another company in order to take on a rival?” Wilburn said. “When the No. 2 and No. 3 companies in the industry have to team up to take on the No. 1 player, doesn’t that make the one player look even stronger?””

It appears to me that Microsoft and Citrix aligned together for VDI have a fighting chance. I expect a lot of interest will be generated from the incentives of these joint promotions.

About the author

Rich Brambley

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