The #FixVDA movement is awesome! Here's why it won't work. :(

Just last week, Falko Grøfe 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.

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!

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I feel like Don Quixote, but screw it, if you agree MS VDI licensing is broken... Retweet #FixVDA !!!

No hope it will change, but at least MS will notice more people care than a few bloggers...


Microsoft is already in the know that the RDSH movement is hurting VDA revenue. Microsoft is going to increase RDS cal pricing by 20% and Windows Server DataCenter edition by 28% starting in November. It is already a done deal. There goes your lower cost options.

The only way to #FIxVDA is to have another OS to connect to.  Microsoft knows they have the market and can charge what they want, because no other option is going to work.  It's always on some form of Microsoft.  Developers and admins don't have a choice, but, at some point, does app development on IOS and Android happen instead of on Windows?  Why wouldn't it?  If I were developing a business app today, would I really put it on Windows?  I would probably do none of the above and put it on the web making the OS completely irrelevant.  Competition is the only way Microsoft changes their licensing.  

Why does it make sense for Microsoft to put Billions into a privatized Dell?  Because it ensures that Dell will be keeping Microsoft OSs in the market place.  Microsoft is going to have to pay off hardware vendors and VDI brokers (VMware and Citrix).  They are going to have to charge you for paying these vendors off.  Henceforth, you have VDA, and price increased for RDS.


This is all about $ that Microsoft wants to keep/not loose, not about people who want to save money. The Microsoft view is, VDI=SA sale at Enterprise, which is growing anyway and the rest of the world, has RDS, which is good enough for SME and a large opportunity for Azure in the future. They need to think harder.

Microsoft dropped OEM Surface prices to help offset the decline in the PC market. Nobody really knows the impact since they don’t break those numbers out, but we all know the PC market is on the decline and they are failing in their attempts to plug the holes in the sinking ship.

Gabe says Microsoft just doesn’t care. But it just seems stupid not to protect their dominance in the enterprise. Microsoft today wins hands down in the enterprise, but nothing is certain and I am sure they want to protect their turf for as long as possible.  This whole mind set of screw the enterprise in the hope that our consumer device strategy takes off is just crazy. If it works, enterprise will use it too!

VDI for Microsoft could be nothing more than just another way to extend the Windows franchise for years to come for use cases that PCs are just the wrong choice for. They need to understand that a server OS is not the VDI that people want.  VDI will not harm RDS cals, which is a different set of use cases for most people.  Seriously… fixing this problem for Windows 8 could create a compelling use case to upgrade for many, which should make Microsoft happy, even though I’d want it for Windows 7 also.

RDS as Jeron’s highlights in his post, RDS is about $300 over a few years, vs. $475 for a single user server RDS license. I think Microsoft could charge a desktopOS license for a slight premium above that for VDI. Perhaps $525, and then offer it cheaper as part of SA, which Microsoft really cares about along with MDOP and CDL add-ons, which more and more enterprises have anyway. I think there are dollars here for Microsoft to capture from people who are just not going to buy SA or are looking to more away from Windows. Where that break-even point is, surely can’t be rocket science for Microsoft to figure out.  I bet this would be complimentary to RDS with limited overlap and an overall bigger pie for them to eat.

Even if Microsoft thinks this part of the market is mostly served with shared RDS architecture. What they fail to understand is that if they added more value to manage VDI in SA, more people will buy it. To get there they need to seed more demand.

I also think Microsoft care a lot about Hyper-V in the datacenter, and they know that VDI is a good workload to pull that along, They could create a license bundled with Hyper-V to help unseat more VMware in the datacenter with a VDI workload to push their Server agenda and create more opportunities to do more with Azure in the future.

I also think the VDI industry needs to keep doing things to make VDI cheaper, so the price pressure continues grows on physical PCs.  

I think there is a lot of money for Microsoft to make. It’s an opportunity rather than a threat. Surely they want Enterprises to continue to use Windows. So, why not enable more people to do more with it beyond just RDS?


Once Ballmer has stopped crying and moved on. I'd love for people to ask him about this.

In fact #FixVDA fans should ask the VDA questions at every Microsoft event. The more this question get's asked to Microsoft in public the better!