So, I have wrangled and researched this issue to death to try to come up with some way that I, as a managed services provider, can host shared Windows desktops on shared infrastructure using XenDesktop and still be compliant with our SPLA and SPUR. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that it can’t be done presently in the way that XenDesktop works. The more I thought about the technical complications and ramifications of this, the more I became angry and befuddled about why Microsoft’s licensing for VDI is so restrictive, particularly when one considers all the missed revenue opportunities for both Microsoft and it’s partner community, including the hosting community that MS spends a lot of time and resources supporting. My company, as an aspiring cloud provider, and me, as an aspiring cloud architect, am seeking to provide Windows desktop OS’s as a service to multiple tenants (my customers) taking advantage of my shared virtualized infrastructure. To do so under SPLA, the following two tenets MUST apply or I am in violation of the SPLA and SPUR:
- End customers must individually purchase licenses and give them to the “Cloud Provider” (in this case, us) for hosting virtual desktops. This assumes that the customer has a volume licensing agreement with Microsoft under which the aforementioned licenses are procured.
- Those licenses can only be used to connect to hardware that is dedicated to that tenant and not shared.
Microsoft claims that yes, in fact you can host “desktops” using RDS from a Windows Server 2008R2 OS. Okay, well, for anyone that has regulatory requirements to adhere to, that’s just not an option as that option is not possible in a multi-tenant shared architecture. We’ve run into that same issue with Citrix published desktops and security or regulatory requirements before. So again, I’m relegated to putting each customer on their own hardware or virtual server instance in order to facilitate that solution. Depending on your cost model, that may or may not be profitable as a hosting offering, and has its technical limitations depending on the desktop use case. Basically, I lose all of the efficiency, scalability, and investment that I have put into building Provisioning Services, XenDesktop, and to some extent XenApp, in this scenario. The same would seemingly be true if I had built everything on Hyper-V? Shame on you, MS.
Back to the business case – let’s examine the revenue streams from hosting architecture. If I follow the RDS desktop scenario, MS will get paid on the server license that I buy as well as the SPLA revenue from the client license. If I were able to host desktops with a Windows 7 OS, it would seem to follow that Microsoft would stand to get twice the current revenue from the additional desktop OS if I were allowed to serve up to them under SPLA.
The Microsoft Partner Community, particularly each and every organization that attends things like the Hosting Summit, etc. are all potential revenue generators for Microsoft if they are allowed to be successful and innovative in offering and delivering the technologies that currently exist and that there is a huge (and growing) market for, instead of being choked out by the non-permissive and provider-prejudiced stance of the SPLA. I fail to see how Microsoft can ignore the market so overtly for this long. We’re all losing out on this the longer this goes on. It also seems to be a slap in the face to their strategic partner, Citrix, without whom Microsoft wouldn’t even have a go-to-market option for REAL, ENTERPRISE level virtual desktops. I see an opportunity for Citrix to make available a non-Windows guest into which I can stream all of my apps using Receiver and XenApp. It would seem that I would be out of the woods from SPLA then and could give my customers what they want.
At this point, my organization’s product management team has officially given me the stand-down order on my hosted VDI development project as we simply cannot come up with a cost model that supports it. While we are investigating innovative and interesting options like Kaviza, it’s not on our short-term radar yet. In the meantime, I have to tell my current and prospective hosting customers “NO”. What I can’t figure out is why that is not as unacceptable a response to Microsoft as it is to the rest of us in the hosting community.