By now you've all read about the changes Microsoft made to virtual desktops licensing last week, including:
- If you have Software Assurance (SA), there's no more "virtualization tax." (In other words, you don't have to pay an additional fee to access virtual Windows desktops.) Another way of saying this is that with SA, VECD is now free.
- For client devices not covered by SA (thin clients, PCs running Linux, Macs, etc.), the annual fee for connecting to Windows virtual desktop environments is now $100 instead of $110. Also the name of this was changed from "VECD" to "VDA." (Virtual Desktop Access)
- The new VDA license allows the user to access his or her virtual desktop from different client devices (although the license is tied to the primary device and not the user).
Simon Bramfitt has a good and complete analysis of what the deal is and isn't (and he points out some of the weird things in it still), so there's no point in me rehashing everything here. What is worth discussing here is the timing and the intent behind the licensing changes.
Microsoft themselves said they're making these changes based on customer feedback—a statement which is laughable considering that everyone hated VECD since they first announced it almost three years ago. If they really made changes based on customer feedback then we'd (1) seen this change in 2007 and (2) finally have per-user licensing instead of per-device licensing. (Chris Wolf has some great thoughts about that.)
Why did Microsoft finally come around?
I'm not sure what this says about me, but when I hear that Microsoft makes changes that everyone likes, I'm immediately suspicious. (Queue Admiral Akbar) What's their ulterior motive? BrianMadden.com user Icelus commented:
I am willing to bet that MS used VECD to keep VDI adoption at a low pace until they and their partners were more ready to take on their competitors with their hypervisor offerings. It would have been a nightmare for MS and their partners if VDI was all run on ESX/vSphere.
That sentiment is the perfect blend of crazy conspiracy theory and technical insight (the BrianMadden.com cocktail of choice), so naturally I want to believe it.
But think about it? Why else would Microsoft announcing that they were "fixing" VDI licensing, effectively blessing the use case, on the same day they announced RemoteFX and Hyper-V dynamic memory, on the same day Citrix announced major improvements to XenDesktop, and on the same day that both companies announced heavily discounted VDI bundles and free competitive trade-ins?