Microsoft offers new Vista enterprise licenses

They're geared toward users with large data centers

Microsoft Corp. is offering two new licensing options for Windows Vista enterprise customers that want to take advantage of emerging scenarios for large data centers.

The first gives enterprise users the ability to run the Windows Vista Enterprise client on a diskless computer, said Scott Woodgate, director of the Microsoft Windows product group. The second option, called the Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktop, lets users for the first time run a client version of Windows on servers in a data center so the operating system can run locally via virtual machines.

A diskless PC has no hard drive. Instead, the hard drive is stored on the network, and an image of the operating system is streamed from there into the memory and CPU of the computer, Woodgate said.

Companies interested in protecting sensitive data, such as financial services companies and government customers, have expressed interest in running Vista on diskless PCs. However, it is an emerging setup for data centers and so for now will only affect a small number of customers, he said. "The target audience is for early adopters," Woodgate said.

To run Windows Vista Enterprise on diskless PCs, customers must use third-party diskless boot software from companies such as Citrix Systems Inc. and other Microsoft partners. Woodgate said that this software enables the PC to find a copy of Windows on the network and to stream that software back onto the local machine.

Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktop allows customers to take Windows Vista Enterprise client software and install it on a virtual machine on a server so it can be accessed from a thin or rich client. This licensing scenario is also the first time customers will be able to run Windows client software on servers, he said.

The centralized desktop provides a cost-effective option for companies such as brokerage firms, where trading brokers view several computer monitors at once that are all attached to one PC. This way, a business can run one copy of Windows Vista Enterprise on a server and access the operating system in multiple virtual machines, according to Woodgate.

The diskless PC option is available today at no extra charge for customers that already have licensed Windows Vista Enterprise, said Mike Burk, a Microsoft Windows product manager.

The Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktop license will be available to customers that have Microsoft's Software Assurance subscription service for an additional fee beginning in July. Microsoft is not disclosing how much more customers will pay for the license because fees for Software Assurance vary per customer, Burk said.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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