Software licensing always seems to be one step behind the technology. In the past, I’ve heard Microsoft comment that to virtualise one of their desktop operating systems (e.g using VMware Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) was in breach of the associated licensing agreements – then they introduced a number of licensing changes – including the Vista Enterprise Centralised Desktop (VECD) – to provide a way forward (at least for those customers with an Enterprise Agreement). Similarly I’ve heard Microsoft employees state that using Thinstall (now owned by VMware and rebranded as ThinApp) to run multiple copies of Internet Explorer is in breach of the EULA (the cynic in me says that I’m sure they would have fewer concerns if the technology involved was App-V). A few years back, even offline virtual machine images needed to be licensed – then Microsoft updated their Windows Server licensing to include virtualisation rights but it was never so clear-cut for applications with complex rules around the reassignment of licenses (e.g. in a disaster recovery failover scenario). Yesterday, Microsoft made another step to bring licencing in line with customer requirements when they waived the previous 90-day reassignment rule for a number of server applications, allowing customers to reassign licenses from one server to another within a server farm as frequently as required (it’s difficult to run a dynamic data centre if the licenses are not portable!).
It’s important to note that Microsoft’s licensing policies are totally agnostic of the virtualisation product in use – but support is an entirely different matter.
Microsoft also updated their support policy for Microsoft software running on a non-Microsoft virtualisation platform (see Microsoft knowledge base article 897615) with an increased number of Microsoft applications supported on Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V, Microsoft Hyper-V Server (not yet a released product) or any third-party validated virtualisation platform – based on the Windows Server Virtualization Validation Programme (SVVP). Other vendors taking part in the SVVP include Cisco, Citrix, Novell, Sun Microsystems and Virtual Iron… but there’s a rather large virtualisation vendor who seems to be missing from the party…
[Update: VMware joined the party… they were just a little late]