VDI, Windows and what will Microsoft do?

VDI, for those of you who don't know, is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. Generally speaking, VDI is the technology where you set up multiple virtual PCs on a host computer. What you end up with is a server running VMWare, Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix Xen, or some other hypervisor with a number of PC images running on top of the hypervisor. Each image is then controlled by a client device, be it a thin client, re-purposed PC running special software, or some other equipment. Contrast this with Terminal Services (now called Remote Desktop Services) which is where a server multitasks and allows multiple users to share the same server simultaneously.

VDI hosts multiple instances (Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Linux, Windows 98) running at the same time whereas RDS allows Windows Server 2008R2 to be run by 20-30 or more users at the same time.

Now that we have all of that established, there are a bunch of cool technologies out, or coming out that support VDI in a variety of ways. Today I saw a demonstration of Zenith Infotech's new SmartStyle product. Very nice and, I believe, well designed. There is also Kaviza, Stratus, NComputing and many others. They all provide (in varying degrees) the total infrastructure, grid, fabric and management features to allow virtual PCs to operate.

What is missing? Windows is what is missing. Like buying a bunch of parts and assembling your own PC, a virtual PC isn't going to do you any good without an operating system. Of course, you could install some form of Linux, like Ubuntu which is free, but realistically, Windows is what most business users need. (Don't even think about putting Mac software on one.)

How do you purchase Microsoft Windows to install on a VPC? I don't want to bore you with the few acceptable ways, but suffice it to say that the Regent of Redmond doesn't seem to really embrace VDI at this point. They recently came out with a VDA product (described here) that costs $100/VPC/year. Really? Who wants to put $500 toward Windows over a 5 year period?

When you buy a new PC you get OEM software. This software is licensed for new equipment only and the license expires when the computer is retired. The license for Windows 7 Professional costs around $130 (and I am sure, significantly less for the likes of Dell, HP and other large OEMs.)

What would be wrong with licensing a version of Windows (say, Windows 7 Professional) for an organization to be used virtually and it would be a perpetual license until the O/S is retired? Or you could purchase Software Assurance with the license to keep it up to date if you are so inclined. Let's get real.

Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer gave the cloud a huge bear hug in his opening remarks at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) 2010 on Monday. If Microsoft is going to embrace the cloud, then let users put their software into the cloud without getting soaked.

Until MS comes up with practical and realistic VDI licensing for their desktop operating systems (one of their three cash cows along with Office and Server O/S), the small print will read *not serious about the cloud.

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