Windows 8 licensing: Your old license is obsolete, and so is your old BYOD policy

 In End-User Devices, Hardware, Software, Volume Licensing

With the debut of Windows 8, Microsoft is also unveiling a new licensing model that has significant impact on companies that are using desktop virtualization and, specifically, have BYOD policies. With this post, I’m going to explain what these changes are and then we’ll make some recommendations for how your BYOD policies needs to be updated to align with the new licensing. First, let’s look at the changes.

Traditionally, Windows desktop licensing has always been an OEM license that came with the option of upgrading and adding software assurance via volume licensing. That was meant to cover basically any device that was connecting to a virtualized desktop installed on a server. With Windows 8, Microsoft is making it very important that you are the primary user of the primary licensed device in your environment.

Now, you not only get the virtual desktop access rights that you’ve always gotten (four virtual machines per licensed device), but it also comes with Windows To Go rights — meaning you can sideload a full Windows 8 OS onto a thumb drive for remote usage. Take that, Linux fans!

Another big kicker that will drive your new BYOD policy is the physical location of your device — Are you inside the network, or outside the network? For instance, if you’re using your primary device outside the network, it’s covered under remote usage rights and you can connect. But if you’re inside the network, you’ll need an add-on to your software assurance called a companion subscription license, which allows four non-RT devices (Android, iOS, etc.) to connect to your virtualized desktop instance.

I’m sure most of you reading this understand the nuance between Windows RT and non-RT, but for those of you a little miffed at the lingo, I’ll briefly explain. Windows RT is a new version of the Windows operating system designed alongside Windows 8 to run on ARM-based devices (like Microsoft’s new Surface tablet). It has much in common with Windows 8, like the redesigned Modern UI style, but is unable to run legacy (Intel X86-based) Windows apps.

By now, I’m sure you’re impatiently yelling at your monitor, “Get to the point! Is my BYOD policy compliant or not!?” Well, you’re in luck. That’s what I do for a living. When counseling customers on their compliance, I ask them to do the following to gather information that will help me determine their status:

    • Review each piece of hardware in the environment and determine who owns it. Have proof of this.
    • Run checks against the Windows Server environment and the Remote Desktop Server environment.

This will give me a clear snapshot of all their named users and how those users are connecting devices to the virtualized desktop. Once I know what devices the customer has and whether they’re planning on having RT devices, I can determine whether or not they need additional licensing.

If additional licensing is required, it’s time to restructure the company’s BYOD policy and then obtain the right licensing for whatever that policy might be. Reevaluating a BYOD policy will take some work, and, almost always, a rewrite of the budget.

To start, I ask the following questions:

    • How do you apply your current licensing?
    • Are you going to keep devices in-house or are your employees only going to work outside the network devices?
    • Are you going to make a rule that’s going to prohibit personal devices? If not, are you going to be cognizant and start tracking what devices come in?

With the answers to the above questions, I can see what devices are coming in and out on a regular basis. To complete the picture, I recommend that employees self-report on their device usage. From there, I can work with the customer to build a new, strong BYOD policy that will stay complaint with Microsoft’s requirements. Well, until Windows 9 comes out, that is.

How about you? Have you had to make changes to your BYOD policy in order to comply with Microsoft’s licensing reconstruction? Tell us your story in a comment.

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Showing 4 comments
  • Wim de Vries
    Reply

    First, I appreciate your effort of explaining the MS license stuff, but your remark “Take that, Linux fans!” is a bit mis-placed.
    In terms of licensing from a customers point of view, the Win8 license is inferior.
    Linux customers are free to install and use it anywhere at all times. No licenses, no limitations. No reading articles about licenses.

  • Caitlin Edwards
    Reply

    Thanks for your comment. The Linux remark was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek comment that other operating systems(Android, RT, iOS) are getting more complicated but Linux still remains agnostic. Apologies for the confusion, as you know sarcasm does not translate well in written word!

  • Greg Bourgeois
    Reply

    What about Thin or Zero Clients like the Wyse Xenith? Will this still require a VDA license with the new Windows 8 Licensing?

  • Caitlin Edwards
    Reply

    Greg- Thin or Zero clients still require a VDA (virtual desktop access) subscription in order to legally connect to virtualized desktop OSEs on a server- no change with that! Feel free to contact me caitlin_edwards@shi.com for further conversation! Thanks for bringing up a good question, Greg. I might have to even make it the subject of my next post!

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