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Microsoft Dodges VDI Licensing Conversation, Releases Azure RemoteApp

Last week at TechEd 2014, Microsoft released Azure RemoteApp. While speculation was floating for months whether Microsoft would venture into the desktop as a service space with what was internally known as "Project Mohoro," instead Microsoft dodged that bullet and released what is essentially a SaaSified version of its Remote Desktop Session Host platform.

Microsoft's infatuation with its client-OS licensing and its refusal to relax its service providers license agreement to allow deployment of Windows client OS as a service (a.k.a. DaaS) and to simplify enterprise VDI deployments is a truly a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

I can understand that Microsoft wants to capitalize on Windows client OS licensing, as that is a strategic product for them. What I don't understand is why it needs to be so complicated and how they can justify hanging on to this policy when the CEO clearly set the ship's course to "Cloud First, Mobile First." Seriously, Microsoft, it's time to rethink VDI licensing.

Coincidentally (or not), the Microsoft announcement on Azure Remote App comes merely a week after Citrix announced its Workspace Services, which is Citrix essentially SaaSifying XenApp and XenDesktop and thus repeating the synergies that existed in the 1990s between MetaFrame/Presentation Server/XenApp and Terminal Server/Terminal Services/RDSH. These two companies seem to be auto-magically attached especially around these two products in all their transmutations.

The Azure RemoteApp cloud service will allow customers to deploy preconfigured and provisioned Microsoft applications or customer-provided applications. RemoteApp's advantage is that it removes the complexity of deploying infrastructure and maintaining that infrastructure.

Let me be clear: By infrastructure I am talking about deploying the virtual or physical machines, installing and configuring an operating system and then maintaining and patching that operating system and all its dependencies. In addition, scaling this infrastructure up and down as the load increases or decreases has traditionally also been on the IT professional. RemoteApp simplifies all of this by abstracting the platform-related tasks and offloading them to Microsoft, and this includes automatically scaling the environment. By doing this, Microsoft allows the IT professional to focus on what matters most, which are the applications that directly impact and affect the business. IT professionals can very easily upload images that contain all the necessary applications onto Azure RemoteApp. From there and on, it is a true cloud service offering. I must admit that I find this to be really cool.

Now let me give you another tidbit to think about: Since Citrix Workspace Services s also built on Microsoft Azure Infrastructure as a Service, would it be inconceivable for one to think that there will be a sort of connector that would allow Azure RemoteApp to be delivered into CWS? We can accomplish this today with Microsoft App-V configuration within XenApp and XenDesktop, so why not extend this to the cloud?

All in all, Azure RemoteApp will definitely hit home with many enterprises and many IT professionals as we journey into the cloud era. As more enterprise applications and platforms either migrate to the cloud or are integrated into a cloud strategy, it will only be a matter of time before Microsoft relaxes its grip on licensing for VDI. What Microsoft is doing with licensing no longer resembles the times we are in -- that model belongs to an era that is long gone.

Posted by Elias Khnaser on 05/19/2014 at 1:07 PM


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