Microsoft Windows 8 VDI licensing adds BYOD licensing complexity, cost

Microsoft’s VDI licensing option in Windows 8 requires customers pay fees to allow user devices such as iPads to access Windows-based corporate virtual desktops.

Microsoft has finally updated its licensing policy for VDI and the BYOD era, but the changes aren’t quite what customers had hoped for.  

Microsoft altered its Software Assurance (SA) licensing on April 18 to account for the rise of  bring-your-own-device (BYOD) in the workplace, the company said on its blog.

Soon, companies will have to purchase a license for each user device that access virtual corporate desktops in the office.

This move indicates higher licensing costs for businesses, experts say, though Microsoft has not yet specified how much.

“It will certainly not be a trivial amount of money,” said Mike Laverick, a virtualisation expert. “[Microsoft] wants to profit from the desire of the Facebook and Gen-Y employees who want to bring their iPads into work."

Microsoft VDI licensing changes add complexity
One change in SA’s licensing option is the introduction of Companion Device License (CDL). 

“This optional add-on provides users rights to access a corporate desktop either through Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) or Windows To Go on up to four personally owned devices,” the blog read.

Under the new licensing, companies will have to buy CDL on top of SA for employees using non-Windows mobile devices such as Apple iPads and Google’s Android devices to access VDI-based virtual desktops.

The licensing changes go into effect when Windows 8 is made generally available later this year.

The new licensing hasn’t simplified anything for customers. Microsoft has created a “layer upon layer of crazy add on hacks” to its SA licensing option, when it could have switched over to per user instead of per device, wrote desktop virtualisation expert Brian Madden on his blog.

Other experts agree that the changes add Windows licensing complexities.

“The licensing is very confusing,” said Federica Troni, principal analyst at Gartner, Inc. “For instance, it applies only to those businesses that already have SA licenses. What about other companies?”

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IT pros must make sure they look into all the details of each licensing term before they purchase, she added.

For instance, CDL rights apply to only those user devices that are used in the office to access VDI apps. For the remote use of devices to access corporate apps, there’s the existing Extended Roaming Rights (ERR) in SA.

IT must track which users are using their personal devices when at work and buy a CDL add-on for those devices, according to Madden.  

“Since it's hard to track who uses which devices where, companies will want to cover themselves so they'll just buy the CDL add-on for everyone,” Madden wrote. “So congratulations Microsoft, you injected a stealth price increase to SA.”

Experts see the development as Microsoft’s strategy to promote the use of Windows based devices at workplaces instead of other devices -- iPads and  Android-based devices, mostly which are more popular among users.

Under the changes, employees using Windows devices automatically receive the right to access their virtual desktop apps at no extra cost.

“Until now, IT underestimated licensing issues and costs while devising BYOD strategies,” Troni said. “…And Microsoft has surprised them, forcing them to consider licensing costs while planning BYOD.”

Microsoft declined a request for comment.

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