Microsoft finally allows hosted desktops on multi-tenant hardware

Windows 10 enterprise licences to gain virtualization rights, plus roaming to personal devices

Microsoft's dispensed with a licensing oddity that saw it prohibit hosted virtual desktops running on multi-tenanted hardware.

Redmond's allowed virtual Windows desktops hosted in the cloud or by service providers for ages, but only if they run on dedicated hardware for each client. The effect of that policy has been service providers just not being able to offer desktop-as-a-service unless customers wanted enough seats to justify dedicated hardware, or oddities like Amazon Web Services' Workspaces desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) that ran a desktop UI on top of Windows Server.

Come September,those problems will go away, as that's when Microsoft will add Windows 10 virtualization use rights to its licences.

Windows 10 Enterprise E3 will sell with or without the rights, Windows 10 Enterprise E5 will include them, and “A new Windows 10 Enterprise E3 VDA offering will be created for customers that require access to Windows VMs on non-Windows Pro devices.” Microsoft 365 Enterprise customers who sign up with a cloud service provider will get Windows 10 virtualization use rights at no extra cost.

Detailed here [PDF] and blogged here, the new regime will allow Azure and third-party hosts to run hosted Windows VMs for those whose licences include virtualization use rights. There will also be “roaming rights” so that users licensed to use Windows on one device can also access the OS from a cloudy VM on another device. This idea's advanced as a way to let workers access Windows desktops from personal devices beyond the office.

Why the changes? Nic Fillingham, Microsoft's Windows for Small Business marketing manager, told The Register partners were asking for them. Microsoft also wants Windows to be offered however customers might conceivably consider consuming it.

The new licences will be available from September 6th, 2017, after which The Register's virtualization desk will wait with bated breath to see if the big DaaS players and modify their Windows-as-a-service offerings. ®

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