In-Depth

Microsoft's Answers to Questions About VDI, Windows ThinPC and Licensing

Microsoft ran an online Q&A on Thursday, answering questions about virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), its new Windows Thin PC (WinTPC) technology based on Windows 7, plus general licensing questions associated with using its virtualization technologies.

What follows below is an edited transcript of listener questions, including Microsoft's answers, that were transmitted via a text messaging session during a Microsoft Webcast originally entitled as "2011 Microsoft Desktop Virtualization Customer Roundtable Event: How IT Leaders are Empowering People with Technology." The event took place as Microsoft announced the availability of its MDOP 2011 suite, which includes the new App-V 4.6 Service Pack 1 and MED-V 2.0 virtualization technologies. The text Q&A took place during Microsoft's Webcast event on March 10, 2011 at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time.

Microsoft may or may not have published its own transcript. The questions and answers were rearranged here according to topic.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Questions
Microsoft's licensing solution isn't really [permissive] for VDI solutions (PCoIP/CTX/RDP). How can this be handled in a cost effective way in the future? [Will it be] zero clients and only OS on a distant server?
Microsoft provides customers with a convenient and cost-effective way to license Windows for VDI. Customers using PCs with active Windows Client Software Assurance do not need any additional licensing to access VDI desktops. Customers using devices that do not qualify for Software Assurance (such as thin clients, zero clients, contractor PCs) can license their devices with Windows Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) to get access to their VDI desktop. Both SA and Windows VDA are device-based subscriptions, and allow customers to access up to four concurrent virtual desktops from the same device.

How can organizations assess if their hardware is up to the task for remote access VDI?
VDI is a difficult workload to plan for with a lot of elements. Customers should look at some of the reference architecture models that vendors such as HP, Cisco and Dell have produced. The most important area to solve first is storage IO, before memory coprocessor capacity. We also have a capacity planning guide here.

When will the localized content (multilanguage support) of MED-V 2.0 be available?
We expect that it will be available within 90 days.

When will Microsoft offer VDI as part of their Business Productivity Online Suite?
Currently, we do not have any plans to offer VDI as part of BPOS.

What model of thin client are you using for VDI?
VDI is a centralized desktop architecture that can allow any authorized device, whether it be a rich client, a traditional thin client or a so-called "zero client" to access a virtual desktop in the datacenter. The choice is with the customer as to what device type works best for their environment.

When [will] desktop and application virtualization will be accessible to private customers (not necessarily employees in IT organizations) directly as [a] service on the cloud?
You can deliver application and desktop sessions in the cloud today. This is available from two offerings: App-V from Hosters Service Provider Licensing (SPLA) and Remote Desktop Services (RDS) for SPLA.

I understand there is no TCO [total cost of ownership] savings in VDI. So, is RDS considered part of VDI? [I'm] looking for differences of App-V/MED-V to plain old TS/RDS? Also [please provide] more info on Win7 ThinPC (although I know it's not released yet).
VDI is one of two centralized desktop scenarios that Remote Desktop Services (RDS) enables, besides session virtualization (formerly known as TS [Terminal Services]); session virtualization and VDI provide similar business benefits and are part of Microsoft's set of desktop virtualization solutions just as App-V and MED-V. You can find more information about RDS, App-V and MED-V at http://www.microsoft.com/dv.

Windows ThinPC Questions
When can we expect a beta of Thin PC?
The beta for WinTPC will be available by the end of this month via http://connect.microsoft.com. We will provide additional information on the product here.

Will Win TPC be available via SPLA -- as in, can we finally rent hosted virtual desktops?
As of today, we do not have an SPLA [Services Provider Licensing Agreement] program for Windows Thin PC. However, hosters can provide virtual desktops through SPLA using Microsoft's Remote Desktop Services (RDS) SPLA.

Licensing and Other Questions
I'm looking for good info on differences between using dedicated HW [hardware] (like blades) for VDI opposed to RDS. [What are the] pros/cons for both? Also [can you provide] info on new Win7 Thin PC, its HW requirements, how to implement, etc. I know SA [Software Assurance] is required, but is there a trial version available to test performance?
I'll take the HW question -- blades vs. VDI. Giving a single blade to a user makes sense where you know the user requires all the power of the blade. VDI makes sense where you want to aggregate a number of users to maximize the cost of each blade. The business value of VDI and blade actually is about consumerization and…contract worker (business enablement) strategies but we don't see a TCO [total cost of ownership] value in doing either.

If I drop Windows client SA [Software Assurance] from my EA [Enterprise Agreement], do I have to buy VDA licenses for WinTPC devices or any Windows 7 device that accesses a VDI instance?
WinTPC and virtual desktop access rights are both a benefit of SA. So if you don't have SA on your devices, you would need to purchase Windows VDA to get access to WinTPC and VDI desktops.

[What are the] desktop and virtualization solution providers?
Please check out Microsoft's wide range of desktop virtualization solutions at http://www.microsoft.com/dv.

What makes you competitive with VMware's PCoIP? As far as security goes, how does Microsoft measure up to everyone else specifically?
Microsoft RemoteFX, which is part of the Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) in Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, enables a rich, full-fidelity user experience for VDI and session virtualization. You can find more information about RemoteFX at http://www.microsoft.com/remotefx.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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