Microsoft to cut VDA license by 50% ? – UPDATED

While Citrix is playing in both server and desktop virtualization market with XenServer, XenDesktop and now with XenClient, it’s not a secret that the company’s primary focus is desktop virtualization. Citrix’s huge effort in competing with VMware on that front, helped its business partner Microsoft to gain some time and prepare a more VDI-friendly hypervisor.

Specifically, Microsoft had the time to develop two key technologies for VDI: the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) enhancement called RemoteFX (a technology inherited with the acquisition of Calista Technologies in January 2008) and the memory management capability called Dynamic Memory, which is already being promoted as a key enabler for virtual desktop infrastructures.
Microsoft has its own VDI solution, part of the Remote Desktop Services (RDS), but the ultimate goal to maintain control on the physical hardware gives priority to the development of Windows and Hyper-V. Improving Hyper-V for VDI reduces the chances that customers select an alternative back-end hypervisor, ceding control to competitors.

Now that Microsoft has more pieces at the right place, it is also expected to ease its position about licensing and actually start facilitating the VDI adoption.
The company first extended Dynamic Memory to both Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 Standard and Web editions, and now it may be preparing a major price reduction for its Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) license.

The VDA license has been introduced in March, as a replacement of the Virtual Enterprise Centralized Desktop (VECD), originally launched in April 2007.

VDA can be adopted by all customers that don’t want to buy the Volume License upgrade called Windows Client Software Assurance (SA).
It includes a range of benefits:

  • Install Windows 7/Windows Vista/Windows XP virtual machines on any combination of hardware and storage
  • Unlimited movement between servers and storage
  • Access corporate desktop images from non-corporate owned Windows-based PCs
  • The primary user of a Windows VDA device has extended roaming rights, which means that he/she can access their VDI desktop from any device outside of the corporate environment, such as a home PC or an internet kiosk
  • Includes Software Assurance (SA) benefits such as 24×7 call support, training vouchers, access to Enterprise versions ofWindows, etc.
  • Eligibility for other Software Assurance products, such as MDOP and Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs
  • Single Windows VDA license allows concurrent access for up to 4 VMs
  • Reassignment rights to another device after 90 days, or in the case of end-point failure
  • Dynamic desktop licensing enabled through KMS/MAK activation
  • Unlimited backups of both running and stored VMs

The VDA currently costs $100 / device / year and it’s not available for customers that have purchased a Campus and School Volume License, but a reliable source informed that Microsoft is about to cut the VDA price, possibly down to $50 / device / year.

If confirmed, this may significantly reduce the cost of entry for companies interested in large-scale VDI environments and accelerate adoption.

Such change would have a less relevant impact on the diffusion of Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) cloud computing offerings, unless Microsoft decides to also release a Service Provider License Agreement (SPLA) for virtual desktop licensing.
Without this further step, while the VDA cost goes down, the end-user is still unable to pay the guest operating system license of his virtual desktop following a pay-per-use model.
Once activated, in fact, the VDA license cannot be terminated early, as it would make sense in any on-demand offering. Plus, the VDA license can be reassigned on another device only after 90 days of the last assignment.

Update: Microsoft just reached out to clarify that this price reduction is not going to happen. The confirmation directly comes from company executives and has been communicated by Microsoft PR department.