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Windows Vista license change tackles virtualization

Thin client, not so fat wallet

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Microsoft has updated Windows Vista licensing for centralized and thin-client computing, as virtualization offers users a chance to cut their software and hardware costs.

Customers using Windows Vista Enterprise Edition, and paying through Microsoft’s Software Assurance (SA) maintenance program, now have two new license options.

The subscription-based Windows Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktop (VECD) license lets users run Windows in virtual machines on a central server, while a second license lets users run Windows Vista on diskless PCs with storage managed centrally and the client using shared images of the operating system.

Both licenses promote a server-based, thin-client computing architecture and come with the looming prospect of lowered Windows Vista license revenue thanks to a growing array of competing thin-client, virtualized offerings.

VMware’s Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) has been built by the virtualization specialist so users can host individual desktops inside a server-based virtual machine on ESX Server. VMware's VDI pin-up is UK financial services giant Prudential.

Last April, meanwhile, VMware joined with IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems and others – including long-time thin-client advocate and Microsoft partner Citrix Systems – in announcing the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) Alliance. The goal is to create pre-integrated desktop virtualized products.

Smaller providers, like nComputing are also getting in on the act. NComputing allows multiple users to access the same client by tapping the PC’s unused resources. NComputing boasts it can get up to 30 end users on a single machine, saving on hardware costs and multiple Windows Client Access Licenses (CALs).

Microsoft has its own history in thin-client architectures, offering Terminal Services latterly in Windows Server 2003 - expected in the forthcoming Longhorn server. However, even this is proving insufficient in stopping the move to server virtualization from the likes of VMware. As such, Microsoft claims VECD is cheaper to run than Terminal Services because it uses less server hardware.

The changes to SA are the latest from Microsoft designed to increase its appeal, and follow denials by Microsoft last August it would offer users special incentives to drive Windows Vista uptake following years of delays.®

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