Just last week, Falko Gräfe and Jeroen van de Kamp released a white paper that clearly shows purchasing VDA for your VDI environment—which you need to do in order to deploy Windows 7 or 8—is significantly more expensive than deploying a single-user Windows Server 2012 VM to each of your users. (To be clear, I don't mean RDSH—I mean "each of your users gets their very own instance of Windows Server 2012.") It's a shocking, almost unthinkable revelation, but the numbers don't lie.
We've complained about VDI licensing many times in the past. In fact, it's one of our favorite (read: most aggravating) soap boxes. Brian actually quit the Microsoft MVP program over it! Adding fuel to the flames is that no matter how expensive VDI is to deploy due to Microsoft licensing in enterprises, it's even more expensive for desktop hosting facilities for which no service provider license exists. DaaS providers are forced to adopt a "bring your own license" philosophy in addition to keeping each customer's hardware separate from each other (despite the fact that this can be done logically, Microsoft enforces the license based on physical devices). Interestingly enough, these DaaS providers have been preaching the dedicated instances of Windows Server workaround for many years since they have no such restrictions associated with their Windows Server SPLA licenses.
Around the time of VMworld last month, Gartner's Gunnar Berger started blogging and tweeting about the #FixVDA movement, designed to call attention to the various injustices of Microsoft VDA. Until now, the complaints about licensing have come from many directions, usually in the form of ranting blog posts or podcasts. #FixVDA intends to focus those efforts into one specific movement that Microsoft can't ignore.
I love the idea of #FixVDA, and I'm 100% behind it. In fact, I think we should tweet it out as much as possible. (Wouldn't it be awesome if we could get it trending?). There's just one problem with it, though. Based on Microsoft's track record of not giving a damn, it's not going to work. Here's why:
Microsoft only wants to seem to care
We were introduced to the complexities of VDI licensing with Vista and the VECD license. VECD was, much like Vista, a train wreck, especially when you consider that the previous licensing for VDI was nonexistent. Prior to VECD, if you owned Windows for your users, you could use it for VDI. But that all changed with the introduction of VECD. We (the community) complained, and Microsoft re-worked it into VDA, which was supposed to be simpler to understand. Mind you, Windows 7 had already been out and revved by then, so it wasn't an immediate response. Is VDA better than VECD? Probably. Is it good? Not for IT departments. But hey, Microsoft changed VECD, right?
Microsoft thinks there's nothing in it for them
It's understandable to think that Microsoft is of the mindset that making sweeping changes to VDA would cut back revenue for a business unit that is said to be on its way out. Many people believe Windows will eventually become middleware, or "the thing you use to get access to your legacy applications until you can find a better way," and if that proves to be true, it could be that Microsoft is trying too hard to hold on to that revenue.
I highly doubt that's the case, though. Microsoft tends to turn a blind eye to customers well past the point that they should consider making changes, as they have with Windows 8. I'm of the opinion that they just don't care and think this is the proper way to do things. The only thing that will change their mind is if they begin to lose VDA (or Windows desktop) revenue, which is what the #FixVDA movement hopes to call attention to. By deploying RDSH instances to individual users, companies can avoid paying high licensing costs, prompting Microsoft to address the issue.
Of course this could backfire, and Microsoft could raise the price of RDSH to be closer to that of VDA. I can't imagine the backlash that would create, so the odds of it happening are low. Ultimately, though, raising the price of RDSH is the only change Microsoft can make that doesn't lose money in this situation, so I wouldn't rule it out.
The physical desktop is still king?
All the complexity around licensing indicates that even though there have been many improvements in RDVH (Microsoft's word for VDI), companies are still inclined to stick with business as usual. Maybe Microsoft sees that and wants to encourage it to protect themselves or partners? How else can you explain the rationale behind making people pay for VDA licenses for each non-Windows device or buy VDA and the CSL for personal devices?
Microsoft doesn't like service providers (until they want to become one)
While SPLA isn't the same problem as VDA, the solution the DaaS providers are using addresses the same. Service providers can't deploy VDI using Windows desktop OSes as cheaply as they can deploy server OSes. This has prompted the DaaS providers to lean on RDSH instances as a workaround. That begs the question: If Microsoft ever decided they wanted to roll out their own DaaS solution (which they could easily do on Azure), would they have adhere to their own EULA that calls for individual hardware for each customer?
The US Department of Justice would surely be upset with that, but what's to stop Microsoft from releasing a new version of Windows that only they are allowed to use for DaaS solutions?
In short, there are many paths for Microsoft to take, though it's pretty unlikely they'll take the easy one (lowering the price of VDA). What they really need is to restructure it altogether, or to make it part of the overall RDS license. But doing so would surely cost them revenue. #FixVDA is a noble mission with goals to help companies all over the world that are dealing with the same complex, expensive issues, but Microsoft seems to be missing the point. VDA doesn't need to just be changed to something more complex in this era of multiple devices and mobile computing. Rather, it needs to be replaced.
I love #FixVDA, and I'll continue to fully support the movement. But while I'm hopeful I won't be holding my breath. The best we can do is call attention to the cause. Let's tweet the hell out of #FixVDA and see what we can do to make some noise! If you're a supporter, post a comment here, but don't forget twitter!