Posted by: tonywilburn | March 24, 2010

The shot heard ’round the world

So last week Bridget over at Tech Target sent an email asking for my opinion for this article she was writing about the Microsoft VDI announcement.  I gave it a moment’s thought and sent her back this comment which she used in the article:

I never imagined that two little sentences would be posted and quoted and re-quoted as much this one remark has been over the past few days.  So let me delve into this a little more and explain why I said what I did.  Before I got into virtualization, I was a Novell Engineer.  I was so well versed in Novell products that for awhile, I was a Novell Field Engineer, or in Novell’s terms a Designated Support Engineer.  Novell, in many people’s opinions,  had a superior product, yet NetWare and more importantly Novell Directory Services (NDS) has been crushed by Microsoft and Active Directory.  Some people would argue that Lotus Notes and GroupWise at one time were better products than Exchange, yet Exchange now owns the corporate email market.  Most of us old-timers will expound to great lengths about how great Word Perfect was, and now Word Perfect wouldn’t even be able to get on Celebrity Apprentice.  Then, of course, there was Netscape.  You remember Netscape, the ultimate in browser experience, don’t you?  How did Microsoft overpower all of these arguably superior products?  Through integration.  Active Directory was bundled with Windows Server, just as Internet Explorer was bundled with every Windows version since Windows 95.  Now Microsoft’s latest target is VMware.  How have they attacked VMware, why integration, of course.  Hyper-V integrated with Windows 2008 and 2008 R2 to be exact. For more years than I can remember, Microsoft has owned the desktop space.  Even before there was a Windows product, most applications ran on MS-Dos.  Now, they see VMware as attacking that domination with View.  Why Microsoft sees this as such a challenge is beyond me.  VMware hasn’t designed their own desktop OS, they’ve only virtualized Microsoft’s.  In doing so, they have enabled Microsoft to charge for two licenses instead of one.  More on that later.  Now to the announcement, among other things Microsoft has teamed with Citrix for not only the new RDP protocol called RemoteFx, but also a “trade-in” program which lets customers trade in their VMware View software licenses for the same number (up to 500) of Microsoft VDI Standard Suite subscription and Citrix XenDesktop VDI Edition annual licenses, free of charge.  Granted Microsoft and Citrix have worked together for years, as Citrix was almost a requirement to use Microsoft Terminal Services.  But in none of the cases that I sited above did Microsoft need to partner with another company in order to oust it’s competition.  It’s like when the schoolyard bully finally meets his match and comes back with a friend to try again.  That only makes the bully look weaker and his intended victim even stronger.  There.  I said it again.

Microsoft’s VDI license announcement:

I’ve been trying to decide if I should say what I really feel about this part of the announcement or just shake my head and walk away.  Seems I’m not the walk away type.  I feel this much hyped announcement was very, very weak.  First, we all know that Microsoft practically gives away the OEM copy of Windows XP/Vista/Windows 7, so that it will be pre-installed on your PC and you won’t want to go through the hassle of changing it to anything else.  Yet, if you buy this same software from the store, Microsoft charges over $200.  Windows 7 Professional is $261.76 today on Amazon.  This drives up the cost of any VDI solution, be it VMware View or XenDesktop, making ROI more difficult than it should be.  On top of that Microsoft charges a fee to attach to that desktop from another desktop or thin terminal.  And if that other desktop or thin terminal is running a flavor of Windows, guess what, you are charged for that too.  Now Microsoft has made licensing “easier”.  If you are a large enough customer that you have an SA agreement, you are allowed to connect to that Virtual Desktop from any secondary, non-corporate network devices, such as home PCs and kiosks.   If you do not have an SA, you will need to purchase a VDA license.  Starting July 1st, 2010, customers that intend to use devices that do not qualify for Windows Client SA (such as thin clients or third party contractor PCs), will require a license called Windows Virtual Desktop Access that can be purchased for $100 a year.  The previous VECD license was $110 a year, giving you a savings of $10 for the new licensing.  Also, a little talked about penalty is the license can only be associated with an end point every 90 days.  So, if you have a consultant using his own desktop for one month, that license is unusable for 60 days.  Why is this?  I paid for a license, yet I can’t use it how and when I want?  I’m sure this makes sense to someone out there, but to me, it sounds like I am leasing a car and I can drive that car as much as I want until my wife drives it, then I can’t drive it for 90 days, even if she just drove it to the grocery store and back one afternoon.  This just doesn’t make sense to me.

Another thing I find interesting is Microsoft and Citrix are pushing this “trade-up” plan.  Yet you “trade-up” from VMware View which is built on ESX Enterprise Plus and includes Thinapp to Microsoft VDI Standard Suite.  You’ll have to pay extra for:

  1. Complete Remote Desktop Services capability, including the option to deploy session based desktops in addition to VDI desktops.
  2. Microsoft Application Virtualization for Remote Desktop Services.

On the Citrix side, you are getting the VDI Edition.  There are two levesl above this, Enterprise and Platinum.  I’ll let you see the breakdown of these below.

So, I look at this as good news, bad news.  VMware “gets” desktop virtualization.  Way back in 2006 when I was doing my first VDI implementation, VMware understood what I was trying to do and worked with me on it.  Microsoft, at that time, did not understand  virtualizing a desktop on a hypervisor, at least the Microsoft employees that I tried to work with didn’t.  Citrix only wanted to talk about virtualizing the applications, which didn’t go far enough to suit my needs.  Now, finally, four years later, Citrix and Microsoft “get it”.  Now if they would only give the customer what they need for a price that makes sense, maybe we could have parity and a true competition that would drive innovation.  This was a step toward that, however a very small, almost grudging step.


  1. If VMware “Gets” it, then why did it take so long for PCoIP to become a reality? Why doesn’t PCoIP work well on a WAN? Why are their no provisioning mechanisms for ThinApp? Where is VMware session-based solution?

    • Does anything work well on the WAN? ICA? HDX? RDP? Why did it take Microsoft so long to upgrade RDP with the new RemoteFX? How will it work over the WAN? These are processes. You have to remember both ThinApp and PCoIP were purchased products and had to be integrated into View. ThinApp in View 4.5 is much better than in View 4. The point is VMware has been thinking about this, working on this, and listening to their customers for a lot longer than Microsoft and Citrix. Look at vSphere vs GSX or Windows Server 2008 vs NT. Those products have matured over time. We are still, relatively, in the infancy stage of desktop virtualization, but it is maturing, and I’m very interested to see what it will be like when it is all grown up.

  2. Excellent write-up. You have written down exactly what I’ve been feeling for over a year now. VMWare View makes a lot of sense for our organization, but the pricing just kills it dead. Frankly, no matter how I work the numbers, when I combine the View licensing costs, the back-end hardware costs, and the Windows licensing costs I can’t make it come out cheaper than buying regular desktops. We have an SA so at least now we could get away with buying really crappy PCs with OEM licenses instead of thin clients (sorry Wyse, I’d really love to), but the costs are still just too high.

    Microsoft still has a long ways to go on their VDI licensing, but frankly so does VMWare. View is too bloody expensive.

  3. Just a quick note on my comment policy. This is my website and I have no obligation to approve your comments. I will however approve any comments that have a point to make, whether you agree or disagree with me. All I ask is that you are civil and have the courtesy to sign your name. Why do I write this? Well, seems there is someone from EDS that doesn’t approve of my post. He calls me a Novell bigot and says that I hate MS because they ruined my career at Novell and then goes on to praise Citrix. First, getting laid off by Novell and becoming a VCP is the best thing that could have happened to me, so I harbor no ill feelings. Second, I harbor no ill against Citrix, I actually plan on getting my Citrix certs so I can become a virtualization specialist and not just a VMware specialist, so I harbor no ill will there either. So whoever this person at EDS is that refuses to leave a constructive post and is so shallow that he is reduced to name calling, either man up, sign in, and say something worthwhile or go away and quit wasting my time.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: