New Microsoft virtualization license lets hosters deliver third-party software as a service

The rumors from earlier this spring turned out to be true: Microsoft is licensing its application virtualization technology to hosting providers, setting the stage for hosters to offer third-party software as a service.

The back story: Microsoft offers application-virtualization technology formerly known as SoftGrid and now called “App-V” as one of a number of elements of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) to its Software Assurance customers.

(App-V is based on technology Microsoft acquired when it bought Softricity in early 2006. It lets users run applications without actually installing them on a local machine. This allows companies who want to make available a single image of Office or even a custom line-of-business application to multiple users to push it out to them without having to touch each desktop.)

Microsoft announced on September 3 the release- to-manufacturing of the latest version of App-V (version 4.5). Users can’t get their hands on 4.5 yet, however; Microsoft is still a few weeks away from the rest of the MDOP suite going RTM and App-V is not available from Microsoft as a standalone product.

As of October 1, App-V will be available in another form: Indirectly via Microsoft hosting partners. Microsoft has added a new Service Providers License Agreement (SPLA) option, which enables hosters to deliver various third-party software as services, streamed over App-V.

Here are the details, from a new posting on the Official MDOP Blog:

“App-V 4.5 will also feature a new Service Providers License Agreement (SPLA), officially called Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.5 Hosting for Desktops, which will enable service providers to use App-V 4.5 to deliver third-party ISV developed applications to customers via the Software as a Service (SaaS) model. SaaS powered by App-V is a key enabler to closing the digital divide’ that exists between large enterprises with robust IT capabilities, and small businesses with limited resources. By outsourcing IT functions via service providers, small businesses are able to focus less on maintaining an IT infrastructure and more on growing their core businesses, which in turn allows them to compete more effectively in the marketplace.It’s an important opportunity for businesses to optimize their desktops, even if they lack the resources to build them out in-house.”

When word leaked earlier this year of Microsoft making App-V available in new ways, some speculated that Microsoft would use App-V to deliver Office as a streamed service. Actually, Software Assurance users already can stream Office with App-V.

Interestingly, Microsoft is not allowing hosters to stream any Microsoft software using App-V. So don’t expect hosters to be delivering “Office as a Service,” “Dynamics ERP as a Service,” etc. The new SPLA specifies only third-party software from companies other than Microsoft.

Microsoft may allow hosters to stream Microsoft software over App-V at some point, said Scott Woodgate, a director in the Windows Business Group. “It’s not off the table,” he said.

On September 3, Microsoft also announced some changes to the Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktop (VECD) license that will take effect as of January 1, 2009. Woodgate said Microsoft is “getting ahead of the curve” by extending the existing Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) license to cover three, so-far-fledgling, scenarios. As explained in the September 3 MDOP Blog posting, the three new arenas and pricing will be:
“Employee owned machines: Some companies are trialing permitting users to buy the PC of their choice with a company stipend. The changes enable early-adopter companies to let users purchase with the PC of their choice, but still perform business tasks in a secure, standard Windows Vista desktop image running in a virtual machine. IT departments can enable this scenario via VECD for $110 per PC/year.
“Contract Workers: Companies can use VECD to deploy a standard, sandboxed, Windows Vista virtual machine for use on contractor machines for $110 per PC/yr.
“Desktop-based employees who occasionally from home: VECD also enables desktop-based workers to take a local copy of their Windows Vista virtual machine to any VECD covered Windows machine at work or to take it home. VECD permits this scenario for $23 per PC /year.”

Anyone see any gotchas in any of these new virtual licensing scenarios that Microsoft unveiled today? Meanwhile, any Microsoft hosting partners out there interested in using App-V to stream third-party software?

See the original article from ZDNET at