On yesterday's podcast Gabe, Jack, and I were joined by Dan Brinkmann and Jarian Gibson. We spent most of the show talking about Citrix licensing, though at one point the conversation veered towards hosted desktops. We were talking about bits that vendors can host themselves when Dan asked the question, "If Microsoft hosted Windows VDI desktops from Azure, do you think they would have to respect their own EULA?"
What a question!
As you're probably aware by now, Microsoft has several asinine licensing policies around Windows desktop licensing that specifically apply to service providers who want to provide DaaS "Windows desktops in the cloud."
First, there's no Service Provider Licensing Agreement (SPLA) for Windows desktops. This means that if a company wants to offer Windows in the cloud, VDI, or DaaS of any kind, the customer they're providing the service to must have their own Windows desktop licenses. And unfortunately the customer has to buy those licenses, they can't even rent them from Microsoft. So if a small customer wants to try Windows in the cloud from a third-party provider, they must buy a multi-year Software Assurance subscription that costs hundreds of dollars. And what happens if they buy that and then decide that hosted VDI is not for them? Too bad! That money they wasted to buy the Windows license is gone forever.
Second, service providers are not allowed to use shared hardware to host different customers. So they literally have to build out separate servers for each customer, thereby ensuring that they can't make hosted VDI economical for small companies.
Third, Microsoft still assigns the rights to access VDI desktops to specific client devices, not users. So customers who want to use VDI have to license all the devices they want to use, rather than just saying, "We have ten users so give me ten licenses."
(For more details on these three restrictions, check out my article from earlier this year discussing this in detail. I was so pissed that I actually resigned from the Microsoft MVP program because of it.)
Our fantasy DaaS licensing model
It's too bad that what follows is a fantasy: I wish that service providers could resell Microsoft Windows desktop licenses in an SPLA way on a per-user, per-month basis. The cost would be something like $5 per month for the license, and the service provider would pay Microsoft each month for the actual licenses used.
The service provider would be able to configure the hardware and software however they wanted. Virtual machines, blades, shared storage—none of it would matter. All Microsoft would care about is that they were getting paid for the number of users each month.
The customer would be able to use as many different client devices as they wanted. It wouldn't matter if they were Windows, Mac, tablets, or thin clients. Each time they setup a new user, they'd pay the additional monthly fee to the DaaS vendor—maybe somewhere in the $30-$40 per user per month range.
Sounds pretty great, right? So why does that have to be a fantasy? How f'ed up is our world right now that this is the crap we deal with?
If you were Microsoft and you wanted to enter the DaaS Windows desktop in the cloud space, would you deal with all those headaches? Or would you just do what works?