Microsoft makes new push for virtual desktops

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Microsoft makes new push for virtual desktops

Microsoft has had a change of heart over virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), and is making an aggressive push into the market with new promotions and Windows licensing changes designed to cut costs for organisations considering a move to virtual desktops.

From today, Microsoft and its virtualisation partner Citrix are offering a VDI Kick Start promotion said to deliver a 50 percent saving on implementing VDI using technology from the two companies, plus a trade-in scheme designed to let VMware View customers switch at no additional cost.

Licensing changes coming into effect from July also mean that Software Assurance customers will no longer have to buy a separate licence to access Windows clients via VDI, and will explicitly allow "roaming rights" access from secondary devices such as home PCs outside the corporate network.

"Customers said VDI licences are confusing, so we've simplified these for Software Assurance customers," said Gavriella Schuster, senior director of Microsoft's Windows Product Marketing group.

She added that giving customers the right to choose VDI centralisation at the same cost as standard desktop deployment gives them the flexibility to transition between the two as required.

Previously, Microsoft had a somewhat lukewarm attitude to VDI, with the firm's UK virtualisation head Neil Sanderson telling as recently as February that "VDI is not the answer to reducing the cost of operating the desktop".

The VDI Kick Start promotion will allow organisations to trade in up to 500 unused VMware View licences in order to switch to Microsoft VDI Standard Suite or Citrix XenDesktop VDI Edition.

Eligible customers will only pay US$28 ($30 ) per device for up to 250 devices under this scheme, according to Microsoft, giving them the opportunity to launch a VDI implementation for only US$7,000 ($7,609 ).

Microsoft also announced new features to support VDI that will come in a future Windows Server 2008 R2 service pack 1; Dynamic Memory and RemoteFX.

Dynamic Memory allows the memory allocation of a virtual machine to be resized on demand to maximise server hardware use, according to Microsoft.

RemoteFX, meanwhile, is intended to revamp Microsoft's RDP protocol to support demanding graphics including the Windows Aero desktop environment, full-motion video, Silverlight animations, and 3D applications over a remote connection.

This will "light up Windows 7 in VDI environments," according to Microsoft, and deliver a step change in the user's graphics experience.

However, Microsoft said there is as yet no specific delivery date for Windows Server 2008 R2 service pack 1.

For its part, Citrix announced its intention to expand its own HDX multimedia acceleration technology to further enhance the capabilities of RemoteFX.

In related news, Microsoft said that its Windows XP Mode for Windows 7 Professional no longer requires hardware with virtualisation acceleration features. This should enable a wider range of users to run problem XP applications inside a virtual machine.

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