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The Truth About Vista Virtualization Licensing

Quoting InfoWorld's Virtualization Report

Microsoft has recently made a number of waves within the virtualization community. Many of us were overjoyed when Microsoft decided to offer Virtual PC and Virtual Server as free products. And with each new announcement, it seemed as though Microsoft was finally fully embracing the virtualization concept.

Microsoft made a key licensing change in favor of virtualization when it announced the licensing terms of their top-tier datacenter edition of Windows. The licensing opened up what Microsoft calls "unlimited virtualization rights", which means a customer can now run an unlimited number of virtualized instances of Windows Server on processors licensed with Windows Server 2003 R2 Datacenter Edition without having to purchase additional licenses. Its use rights allow the choice of running Windows Server 2003 R2 (or a previous version) Standard Edition, Enterprise Edition, and Datacenter Edition as the host operating system and in the virtual instances.

According to Microsoft, the unlimited virtualization rights significantly simplify the licensing of Windows Server for large-scale virtualization, and make it more affordable to consolidate on the Windows Server Platform.

Unfortunately, the same may not be said for Microsoft Vista. It seems as though Microsoft may be tightening the licensing terms for Vista when it comes to virtualization.

Once Microsoft published the Vista EULA online, speculation began running wild across the Internet. People who earned their law degrees from watching The People's Court immediately began dissecting the EULA to try and determine its true meaning. I myself have learned a lot from watching Judge Judy, but I must admit, I too was confused as to the correct interpretation. The confusion stemmed into multiple conversations as to what the meaning of the EULA truly meant.

Evidently, there are going to be two different EULAs available for the different versions of Microsoft Vista.

MICROSOFT WINDOWS VISTA HOME BASIC AND HOME PREMIUM
USE WITH VIRTUALIZATION TECHNOLOGIES
You may not use the software installed on the licensed device within a virtual (or otherwise emulated) hardware system.



 

MICROSOFT WINDOWS VISTA ULTIMATE
USE WITH VIRTUALIZATION TECHNOLOGIES
You may use the software installed on the licensed device within a virtual (or otherwise emulated) hardware system on the licensed device. If you do so, you may not play or access content or use applications protected by any Microsoft digital, information or enterprise rights management technology or other Microsoft rights management services or use BitLocker. We advise against playing or accessing content or using applications protected by other digital, information or enterprise rights management technology or other rights management services or using full volume disk drive encryption.

This begs the question, does the EULA mean I cannot run Vista Home in a virtual machine? Or does it simply mean I cannot reuse the license from the host OS on a guest OS running inside of a virtual machine?

It seems as though the former is correct. According to a Microsoft spokesperson, "For production machines and everyday usage, virtualization is a fairly new technology, and one which we think is not mature enough for broad consumer adoption. Today, customers using this technology are primarily business customers addressing application compatibility needs or technology enthusiasts. For everyday usage, Windows Vista Home and Home Premium cannot be installed in any virtual machine technology, but Business and Ultimate versions can. Each virtual installation of Windows requires a new license just as it did for Windows XP."

Microsoft believes that enthusiasts, businesses and enterprises with IT staff better understand the challenges and risks associated with virtualization, and so they are making virtualization an option for the versions that match those audiences. To that end, the spokesperson continued, "The primary client virtualization scenario with Windows Vista is application compatibility in the enterprise. With Windows Vista Enterprise edition customers receive the ability to install 4 copies of the operating system in virtual machines for a single user on a single device, making Windows Vista Enterprise ideally suited for virtualization scenarios."

So what happens to those enterprises who want to use virtualization to help out with Development and QA/Testing? When creating a development or testing matrix to validate your software in the hands of the consumer, product testing will have to take place against all versions of Vista, not just Enterprise versions. The Microsoft spokesperson seemed to agree by saying, "Virtualization has been used heavily by developers, and through MSDN licensing any version of Windows Vista - including Home and Home Premium can be installed in virtual machines for development and test purposes as many times as required."

It sounds like good news for some, and not so good news for others. So while business users may not be affected that much, it seems like the home enthusiast may suffer the most from this new virtualization licensing agreement.

Read or comment on the original, here.

Published Thursday, October 19, 2006 7:04 AM by David Marshall
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