Microsoft cloud licensing changes coming October 2022


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Back in May 2022, Microsoft announced a range of upcoming changes to licensing in cloud environments and now, September 2022, we have more details.

Flexible Virtualization

This new benefit will allow customers with Software Assurance or subscription licenses to use their existing licenses to install and run on any (but not Listed Provider) infrastructure – whether it’s dedicated or shared.

Windows Server virtual cores

Customers will be able to license Windows Server by virtual core on 3rd party infrastructure. There will, of course (!), be a per VM minimum. The Microsoft announcements don’t mention Listed Providers for this element so it seems this new licensing option may be available with Amazon, Google, and AliBaba.

Desktop virtualization

Microsoft 365 E3/E5/F3 users without a primary device with a Qualifying Operating System (QoS) will be able to virtualize Windows 10/11 on 3rd-party infrastructure (but not Listed Providers) without needing the VDA add-on.

Cloud Solution Provider – Hoster

This new variant of the CSP program replaces the QMTH (Qualified Multi-Tenant Hosting) program. It will enable hosting partners to pre-build hosted desktop & server environments for customers and either provide the licenses or use customer provided licenses – giving greater flexibility for organizations. Customers will need to show proof-of-license for BYOL scenarios – verification of which I assume will be done by the partner. Initially it will only be available for Direct partners but Microsoft “look forward to expanding program eligibility over time“.

Microsoft state these will go live from October 1st so we should see them added to the Product Terms on that date too. I’ll of course be updating on that asap šŸ˜Š

Check out the Microsoft post here.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)


Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is a subject that is becoming more and more popular but it can be quite a tricky concept to newcomers, my aim here is to give some clarification and information onĀ the topic!

What is VDI?

VDI is the younger, not as cool cousin of server virtualization and the bigger, better brother of Terminal Services (TS)Ā šŸ™‚

Rather than running the desktop instancesĀ on local machines, they are held on servers in the datacenter and each user accesses them centrally. However, unlike Terminal Services “each user gets access to their personal desktop from any authorized device, thereby improving desktop flexibility”.

The VDI FAQ from Microsoft offers a good overview of VDI as a technology-download the PDF here.

What’s the point?

Storing desktop images on central servers can have many benefits:

Management: VDI gives you true central management of users desktops and true control over what is/isn’t installed on them and, as I’m sure you know, that can be a real issue in corporates today! You can manage a single instance of the OS no matter how many people are using it-vastly reducing management time & costs.

OS deployment: VDI can make the provisioning of new desktops much quicker than usual and can also enable organizations to test/adopt new Operating Systems in a much easier fashion.Ā One bigĀ scenario whereĀ I see this beingĀ particularly useful:

Ā Ā Ā Ā  Testing multiple Operating Systems: Say you have a number of users that are testing various different desktop OS’s such as XP, Red Hat Linux and Windows 7. Currently you would need to either:

  • provide the users with multiple machines, all separately configured and offering their own security concerns.

or

  • have users multi-booting their machines-again presenting it’s own set of problems around hardware with people needing more RAM etc

Alternatively you could have one image of each OS in the Datacenter and users can access them as needed-with much less hassle šŸ™‚

You can also keep a “library” of images for different situations that can be deployed at the drop of a hat!

Security: Again, the central management aspect comes in to play allowing you to block external devices and prevent copying of data from the image to a local device-a great way of preventing data leakage.

Downsides:

Despite all the benefits above there are, as with everything, downsides and negatives too.

  • VDI really isn’t suitable for media intensive tasks
  • Doesn’t suit mobile workingĀ as it requires a constant connection to the corporate network.
  • Negative feedback from users

The last point is perhaps the most important for companies to consider-all the streamlined management processes and more flexible admin environments don’t really count for anything if the workforce is unhappy. Certainly I would hate to work in a VDI infrastructure (or Terminal Service/Citrix) as I install and use a LOT of applications that wouldn’t be part of a corporate standard such as Office 2010, CCleaner,TweetDeck,Ā numerous Outlook addins, Groove, OneNote (and I don’tĀ know how many more!);Ā also IĀ often run things that require admin rights on theĀ  machine. In a VDI environment I would have to go through the hassle of getting these added to an image which would be just for me-so I might as well have a standard desktop. The alternative is that I couldn’t use the applications which would reduce my produtivity as well as my happiness as a worker-2 things that a company definitely doesnn’t want to be happening šŸ™‚

What VDI can do to some users!
What VDI can do to some users!

An actual comment from a user over at Tech Republic:

“the fact that I can take my work anywhere doesn’t matter to me if I can’t install what I need when I need it”

How is it licensed?

Microsoft’s VDI licensing structure is comprised of 2 parts:

  • Vista/Virtual Enterprise Centralised Desktop (VECD)
  • Microsoft VDI Suite Standard/Premium

VECD allows you to licence virtual copies of Microsoft’s desktop OS’s in a VDI environment and offers the following:

  • Ability to run a copy of Windows in a datacenter
  • Rights to move virtual machines between servers for increased reliability
  • Unlimited backup of virtual machines
  • Ability to access up to 4 running VM instances per device.
  • Rights to access corporate desktops from home for a user that has already been licensed at work
  • Availability of volume licensing keys, such as KMS (Key Management Service) / MAK (Multiple Activation Keys)
  • How is VECD licensed?

    VECD is a monthly subscriptionĀ per deviceĀ licence which comes in 2 flavours:

    • VECD (for users without SA)
    • VECD for SA (for users with SA)

    They offer the same functionality, it’s just the VECD for SA is available at a reduced cost as a thank you to current SA customers šŸ™‚ I’ve not got UK pricing to hand but the pricing on the MS website is:

  • VECD (for users without SA) = $110 per device per year
  • VECD for SA (for users with SA) = $23Ā per device perĀ year
  • VECD is required for any VDI solution that will be running Windows Operating Systems, regardless of the the BDI technology provider (VMWare, Citrix etc).

    Microsoft VDI Suite:

    ThisĀ isĀ a new addition to the world of licensing, having been announced at the WorldWide Partner Conference (WPC) last week. While MS have had the technologies to provide a cohesive, efficient and secure VDI environmentfor quite some time now,Ā it has been hard for customers to know what products they need and which things fit together. The VDI Suites are simply a collection of technologies at a reduced price, and they are:

  • Hyper-V Server
  • System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM)
  • System Center ConfigurationĀ  Manager (SCCM)
  • System Center Operations Manager (SCOM)
  • Remote Desktop Services (RDS) CAL (formerly Terminal Service CAL)
  • Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP)
  • For a fuller more in depth look at the VDI Suites, including expected pricing, please see my other blog post here.

    A 100 device company looking to implement VDI would need the following:

    100 x VECD @ $110/Ā£67 per device per year = Ā£6700

    100 x VDI Suite @ $21/Ā£13 per device per year = Ā£1300

    So Ā£8000* per year to run a Microsoft VDI infrastructure with what is fast becoming a truly top-notch hypervisor as well as leading class management software-sounds pretty good to me šŸ™‚

    *The Ā£ prices above were attained by putting the $ prices through www.xe.com , but the final pricing may well be different!

    I hope that has gone some way to informing newcomers as to what VDI is as a concept and also helping people who know the technology make sense of the licensing. As always, I’m happy for feedback & comments šŸ™‚

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