Microsoft Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) Licensing

During this year’s Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans, Microsoft announced 2 new VDI licensing models. Although this is pretty big news if you’re in that space, VDI isn’t really a technology of the masses so this news hasn’t been hugely reported-but hopefully I can change that just a little bit 🙂

There are two new licences available:

Microsoft Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Standard Suite

Microsoft Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Premium Suite

Microsoft’s aim is for these to

“make it simple for customers to purchase the comprehensive Microsoft VDI technologies while providing excellent value compared with competing VDI offerings.”

What do they include?

Both version contain the essential products for setting up, configuring and managing an efficient and effective VDI environment:

  • Hyper-V Server
  • System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM)
  • System Center Configuration  Manager (SCCM)
  • System Center Operations Manager (SCOM)
  • Remote Desktop Services (RDS) CAL (formerly Terminal Service CAL)
  • Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) <– Further clarification shows that MDOP is an optional extra.

The Premium version will also include:

  • Additional use rights for RDS
  • App-V for RDS


“enable mixed environments with not only VM-based remote desktops, but also session-based desktops and applications.”

The RDS CALs in the Standard bundle can only be used for VDI and not regular Terminal Server instances or “session based desktops” as they’re known now.

Once you have one of these bundles, the only other thing  you need to correctly licence VDI is Virtual/Vista Enterprise Centralised Desktop (VECD)-for more info on that see my other post here.

How is it licensed?

The licensing could have become quite complicated as the components can be licensed in various ways but, quite possibly in reaction to general feedback on licensing, have made this nice and simple:

“As with VECD, the number of VDI Suite licenses equals the total number of client devices that accesses the VDI environment.”

Also, as it’s a subscription you’ll always be up to date with new releases.

What does it cost?

The licences are set to be made available in Q4 2009 so from October onwards. The only pricing I’ve seen is in dollars (and not a definite final figure) but that is $21 per year per device for Standard and $53 for premium…that is some awesome pricing! Even if the usual “swap the $ for a £” happens, that’s still much cheaper than licensing them separately and it seems much cheaper than competitors (i.e. VMWare).


This is a great move on Microsoft’s part and will really help drive VDI adoption-particularly in the mid-market sector as it’s not only more cost effective but much easier to manage than buying the components separately.

The Technet blog article can be found here and thanks to Brian Madden too.

Microsoft System Center Essentials

Microsoft System Center Essentials (SCE) 2007 SP1 is a management product suite designed for the medium sized business.

System Center Essentials 2007 provides a unified management solution that enables IT professionals in midsize organizations to proactively manage their IT environment with increased efficiency.

  • Unified Experience
    Essentials 2007 provides a unified solution to help optimize the experience of performing a broad set of tasks across your entire IT environment. You also get a single console from which you can view and manage your servers, clients, hardware, software, and IT services.

  • Proactive Management
    Essentials 2007 accelerates troubleshooting and problem resolution. It’s a self-managing solution that notifies you as soon as a problem occurs, then helps you proactively diagnose and fix it, accelerating problem resolution. Essentials 2007 also automates system updates and data collection for your IT environment, so it’s more secure and up-to-date.

  • Increased Efficiency
    Essentials 2007 simplifies complex management tasks like packaging and deploying software, adding Web site monitoring, and creating and configuring group policy. Essentials 2007 wizards also help you quickly and easily configure security settings, deploy updates, and discover assets.

System Center Essential 2007 is limited to managing 30 servers and 500 clients, these can be physical and/or virtual. Microsoft also say that while there are no actual limitations on how many SNMP capable network devices you can manage, performance paramaters may limit you to approx. 75 devices.

To manage additional devices you can purchase further Management Licence (ML) packs (up to the 30 servers/500 clients limit) but “all purchases of additional ML license packs must be made through the same channel on which the Essentials Server was purchased; additional ML License Packs purchased through Volume License will not work on Retail and OEM Essentials Server installations”.

If you grow beyond the limit of 30 servers and 500 clients, you can migrate to the full versions of System Center Operations Manager and System Center Config Manager. More info can be found here.

Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 Released

Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 has been Released To Manufacturing (RTM’d)!

An evaluation version can be downloaded here.

Zane Adam, Senior Director of Virtualizatio Strategy over at MS Redmond said:

“They are seeing the many cost reduction and management simplification benefits of Hyper-V and the SCVMM 2008 integration with the rest of System Center.   Now that RTM is official, I fully expect the rate of Hyper-V deployments to further accelerate.  Through the SCVMM 2008 console, administrators can see the entirety of their data center infrastructure – physical or virtual. SCVMM 2008 facilitates key functions like P2V (physical to virtual) migration, Intelligent Placement (selecting the best virtual host for a VM), and managing Hyper-V host clusters, to name just a few.  SCVMM 2008 works closely with its siblings – particularly SC Ops Mgr – in identifying consolidation candidates and in Performance and Resource Optimization (PRO), a new feature in which SCVMM 2008 can alert and recommend solutions to administrators about failing virtual machines or hardware.  As I mentioned above, this comprehensive view extends throughout the data center as SCVMM 2008 is capable of seeing and managing VMware ESX infrastructure through Virtual Center.”

The full transcript is here.

This is really great. SCVMM is always an integral part of conversation I have with customers artound Hyper-V and once the new version is available (1st of November 2008) I agree that many projects will start moving and being implemented.

Watch a silverlight demo and see the features yourself.

I saw this via Clive Watson’s blog.

What will SCVMM 2008 do over SCVMM 2008?

Virtual Machine Manager can manage multiple VMWare ESX VirtualCenter licences from one place, something that even VMWare can’t do !VMWare are working on it but it will be just a web console and not as fully featured as Microsoft’s VMM.

Performance and Resource Optimization (PRO) is another key feature that puts VMM over ESX. Matt McSpirit explains it well:

“Take an example of a virtualised Exchange Server.  If a service crashes inside that VM, and that service is an Exchange related service, and that service crash results in a CPU spike.  The VM is still running, but now, it’s consuming more resource, so DRS chooses to move it.  It does the same on it’s new host, so DRS moves it again.  SC Operations Manager would identify the crash as being an Exchange issue, and fix the crash, rather than move the VM, even if that VM is running on a VMware infrastructure”

Microsoft System Center Ops Manager 2007-Gartner Report

Microsoft System Center Ops Manager 2007 is the subject of a Garnter report which can be found here.

It contains some good bits and some bad bits, but over all SCOM 2007 gets a good review, particularly for Windows environments. Gartner point out that it’s heterogeneous capabilities aren’t yet as strong as it’s competitiors which is true, but we’re not far from a new version!

On the subject of Microsoft System Center Ops Manager 2009. the Gartner reports includes information that Microsoft have partnered with EMC which will enable the new version “to have the potential to significantly increase its network management capabilities, including EMC’s network topology discovery and health monitoring capabilities.”

Gartner sign off with “in Microsoft Windows-centric environments, its presence will continue to grow, resulting in an overall gain in ECA market share” which is certainly promising. I’d be interested to see a similar report once SCOM 2009 is out in the wild..

Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM)

Microsfot Data Protection Manager delivers continuous data protection for Microsoft Applications & File servers. It was specifically built to protect and recover SQL Server, Microsoft Exchange Server, SharePoint Portal Server, Microsoft Virtual Server, as well as Windows file services through a disk to disk to tape backup strategy. An example of a typical setup can be seen below:

The Continuous Data Protection means that changes are backed up almost as they happen, giving you near up to the minute protection in the event of a disaster. It also means that when you restore the data, you’ve lost only 15 minutes worth of emails, transactions etc..not a whole day as with traditional tape backups.

Disk Based Backups also allow you to restore data in a few minutes, rather than hours with tape. Another benefit is that users can restore their own files (if allowed) without hassling IT 🙂

That being said, I’d still backup up to tape as well, giving you the added security of off site backups if you needed them.

You can see the Top 10 Benefits of DPM 2007 here.

Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007

Configuration Manager:

This is the replacement for SMS 2003 and is used to comprehensively assess, deploy, and update your servers, clients, and devices, across physical and virtual machines as well as mobile devices. Config. Manager provides Asset Intelligence giving organizations continuous visibility of their hardware/software assets, where they are and who’s using them.

It can show how many copies of a particular program have been deployed, which machines they’re on and which people actually use the software. This information can then be used at renewal time to help decide how many copies are needed for the next year etc.

Software Update Management is often the main reason that people look at System Center Config Manager. Keeping all the various bits of software in an Enterprise fully up to date with patches is very important and also very difficult! Using SCCM you can deploy patches & updates for Microsoft products, 3rd party applications, custom LOB (Line of Business) applications, hardware drivers and more to servers, desktops, laptops and mobile devices.

The new feature of Desired Configuration Management enables organization to increase desktop stability and security by assessing the compliance of computers with regards to things such as “whether the correct Microsoft Windows operating system versions are installed and configured appropriately, all required applications are installed and configured correctly, optional applications are configured appropriately, and whether prohibited applications are installed.”

Using SCCM for Software Package Deployment can make things a lot easier! This simplifies the task of distributing software packages to physical and virtual machines (servers, desktops, laptops and mobile devices). You can centrally define how and when these packages will run on client machines, installing the software with no user intervention.

Next Steps:

Now you’re got an idea of what it can do, I’m sure you can’t wait to get it set up in your Test & Development system so:

Online Virtual Labs

Download Trial Software

Pricing & Licensing:

There is a single licence for System Center Config Manager Server, Management Licence (ML) for Servers (Std and Enterprise) and a Management Licence for Clients.

An Enterprise Server ML is required for full application and server desired configuration management, including the proactive management of systems for configuration settings that follow an industry-leading framework for managing information in changing regulatory and business environments, while a Standard Server ML is limited to operating system and basic workload desired configuration management.

Microsoft System Center Family

What is Microsoft System Center? What does it do? How much does System Center cost?

These, and more, are questions I get at work on a regular basis both from customers and our internal sales guys so I’m going to try and clear it up a little here if I can..

The System Center family helps you to manage physical and virtual environments across data centers, desktops and devices and includes:

Configuration Manager (SCCM)

Operations Manager (SCOM)

Data Protection Manager (DPM)

Virtual Machine Manager (VMM)

System Center Essentials (SCE)

I was going to put together one post for the whole family, but it was turning into a huge, unwieldy beast so I’ve broken it down into separate posts for each family member, links are above..(not all the posts are available yet but please bear with me!)

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