How to license VDI in hosting environments (for Microsoft Office)?

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Implementing Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) process

Your company's technology stack will evolve as it grows with time. New business advancements necessarily require the use of new technologies, which quite often include new software. Installing software like virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is one thing, but trying to implement new software within your company is quite another challenge.

VDI  (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) is a technology that allows for the creation of a virtual environment on a remote server.  VDI divides servers into virtual desktops, which users can access remotely via their devices. These virtual desktops are hosted on Virtual Machines (VM), which are managed using management software.

We get asked a lot of VDI licensing questions for on-premise deployments or hosting from a third-party data centre. Today, we will review the different options and best practices for service providers. 

Types of VDI Deployment

There are two types of VDI environments, one that streams the applications only and the other streams the operating system and applications.

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After you've decided on the deployment, you'll need to decide on your approach.

The approach, in this case, refers to how slowly or quickly you will implement the VDI. Some organizations will begin by implementing VDI for a single project, observe how it works, make adjustments, and then move on to a second project using VDI.

Another option is to deploy by department, beginning with accounting and progressing to marketing. Alternatively, start with market research and then apply it to human resources. Whatever you decide, if you're concerned about disrupting project workflows, going department by department is usually a good approach

Best Practices for Service Providers when it comes to licensing applications such as Microsoft Office

IIf you want to stream just the applications, many service providers will license (through SPLA) Office (user), RDS (user), and Windows Server (core). In this example, Office is installed on a server. The top questions we receive from this example are:

  • Can my customer bring their own licenses?

Yes. But only if you have isolated hardware for that customer (single-tenant).

  • Can I use Office 365?

No. You cannot host Office 365 in shared environments. Again, you would have to isolate the hardware.   This is not recommended.

Types of Hosted Environment

The critical thing to remember is dedicated v. shared. For shared environments (multi-tenant), think of SPLA. For dedicated environments (single-tenant), think of SPLA or customer-owned volume licensing. Many service providers will confuse license mobility and believe if their customers have software assurance on Office, the requirement for dedicated environments is no longer relevant. Keep in mind; that Office is not license mobility eligible.

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What about streaming the entire desktop? Again, you cannot license Windows desktop and Office in a shared environment. The best practice is to license Windows Server + RDS to emulate a desktop through SPLA. If your customer wants a true VDI, here are your options.

  1. Install in Azure. In Azure, there are two components. The first is the actual products (M365 E3/E5/F3 Business Premium), Windows 10 E3/E5, or Windows 10 VDA E3/E5.   The second component is the Virtual Machine, Storage, and Networking. 
    The Azure virtual desktop infrastructure is a flexible cloud that securely and reliably delivers remote applications and virtual desktops.

  2. Install in a third-party data centre. This is going back to our dedicated scenario unless you are QMTH authorized. You are not authorized if you do not know what QMTH is, so don’t worry about it!

Backing up the environment on a regular basis is a critical practice in VDI. The entire setup, including the session host, images, user profiles, and FSLogix, must be backed up. The administrator should also backup domain controllers, server files, and other data from the systems that VDI sessions are accessing.

We also get asked about AWS and Google. These service providers are defined as Listed Providers. A Listed Provider is restricted to offering license mobility only applications when leveraging end-user licenses. Office and Windows Server are not mobility eligible.

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Thanks for reading,

SPLA Man 

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