Will Microsoft's new Windows VDA license put a drag on virtualization deployments?

As of July 1, Microsoft is adding a new license to its line-up known as Windows Virtual Desktop Access (VDA). Will it end up making virtualization cost-prohibitive for some customers?
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

In March, Microsoft made a slew of virtualization announcements. Many of us company watchers focused primarily on a much-needed change Microsoft made to its XP Mode technology, removing the chip-level virtualization requirement.

Another of those mid-March virtualization announcements is about to get a lot more scrutiny, however. As of July 1, Microsoft is adding a new license to its line-up known as Windows Virtual Desktop Access (VDA). Windows VDA is for devices/machines where users want to access a virtual copy of Windows, but which don't qualify for coverage under the Windows Client Software Assurance agreement. That includes things like thin clients, third-party contractor PCs, non-Windows-based PCs and smartphones, among other platforms.

More particulars are available on Microsoft's Web site. Among them are the cost of the new license:

"Microsoft designed Windows VDA to enable organizations to license virtual copies of Windows client operating systems in virtual environments. Windows VDA is a device-based subscription license and will be available at $100/device/year. It will allow organizations to create multiple desktops dynamically, enable user access to multiple virtual machines (VMs) simultaneously, and move desktop VMs across multiple platforms, especially in load-balancing and disaster recovery situations."

Windows VDA is going to become mandatory for those devices specified above -- regardless of the underlying infrastructure provider, according to the company.

Microsoft is touting the new Windows VDA SKU as "simplif(ying) the purchase process for customers that want to add value to their Enterprise Agreement." Burton Group analyst Simon Branfitt found a lot to like about the new VDA license claiming Microsoft finally was getting "desktop virtualization right."

But one Microsoft customer who requested anonymity said he feared the Windows VDA SKU is going to be cost-prohibitive.

Microsoft's existing Virtual Enterprise Centralized Desktop (VECD) license "was so virtualization-hostile that it made VDI (virtualized desktop infrastructure) a bit of a pipe dream," said the customer. The new Windows VDA "looks like a pretty marginal step on the road to redemption, and not nearly compelling enough to justify a VDI deployment."

"Since one of the main goals of any VDI rollout is reduction in soft costs, I fail to see how requiring a full Windows client (that must be patched, locked down and otherwise managed) helps achieve that goal," he continued. "Over three years the cost for Windows Client SA is roughly $100 + $40 + $40 + $40 = $220.  Over five years it's $300. VDA price is $300 for 3 years, $500 for five.  I don't see why Microsoft can't just allow us to purchase a copy of Windows with SA and apply that license to a thin client."

I've asked Microsoft officials for further explanation but have yet to hear back. I'll update this post with more if/when I do. In the interim, any other customers stressing over the new Windows VDA license?

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