Editor's Note: Steve Covert (above) is speaking at IT Martini 22: Infrastructure We Trust, taking place on June 21st, 2012 at The Freedom Center in Cincinnati. 
Steve Covert: Tackling VDI & Licensing
By Terreece Clarke, May 17th, 2012

Most organizations think about licensing their VDI as an afterthought - a simple administrative task. For Steve Covert, manager of Vendor Services at Highlights for Children and speaker at IT Martini 22: Infrastructure We Trust, it is a passion.

“VDI is a virtual desktop running in a computer room on a server that can be accessed by end devices that have a connection to the virtual desktop,” Covert said. “VDI holds promise of a secure, managed device, that can be accessed by any type of device, at any time, from anywhere as long as there is a connection to the virtual desktop. It is being driven by the need to have secure data and centrally managed applications while supporting an increasingly mobile workforce on an increasing number of types of endpoints.”

Licensing is Just Like Taxes

Covert said one of the problems he commonly runs into is companies that have not licensed their VDI correctly. Some may not think it’s a big deal, but if an enterprise is exposed, they are subjected to fines and public embarrassment. Less scrupulous companies bank on the, "How are they going to find out?" theory, but Covert contends the majority of companies want to stay within compliance, but have no idea how and don’t understand the scope of the questions desktop virtualization presents.

Covert mused that enterprise licensing was much like tax code, "voluminous and ever changing." He advised companies to invest in a professional to help them navigate their options and responsibilities, just like an accounting pro helps with tax code, to reduce risk and save.

VDI is Trending

So what is happening in the industry? Quite a few things actually.

"Server virtualization is a slam dunk," he said. "It's a money saver and from a cost perspective is pretty predictable. Desktop virtualization is not as easy of a sale. Companies have to ask questions like, "Do I have the right to virtualize applications?" Companies want to go to VDI, but don't have groundwork set. How do you implement in a diverse desktop environment? Are you licensing every laptop, desktop... what about iPads and other tablets? You gotta have appropriate management tools in place and procedures and policies set."

Recently, changes in hardware and advances in the public/private cloud are driving the licensing decisions that make up for potential revenue loss.

“Microsoft is tieing virtualization in the private and public cloud to Software Assurance subscriptions as they are preparing to switch to more of an offensive approach with up and coming virtualization offerings,” Covert said. “Microsoft is reworking their licensing so that their on premise and cloud licensing complement each other (this is no small task).”

Some industry trends Covert is excited about are not necessarily related to virtual desktop infrastructure. He's been very interested in Microsoft SQL Server Licenses moving from processor based to core based. Processors are becoming more powerful, which means fewer are needed and that is impacting Microsoft's bottom line in licensing servers. Recently, Microsoft moved to licensing cores - something they had never done.

"Microsoft licensing or the licensing of any large software company is complex," Covert said. " very few understand licensing and even fewer understand desktop virtualization."

Background

When IT Martini talked to Covert he just returned from Vail where he is a ski instructor. He calls himself a jack of all trades, but his latest interest got him reading and studying licensing two hours a day everyday outside of his regular 9-5 job.

“I enjoy licensing because there is a need to be very detail oriented but also have the ability to look at the bigger picture when I am in negotiations or trying to help management in achieving strategic objectives.”

He contends licensing minutiae keeps him ahead of changes throughout the tech industry before many people realize what's happening.

"I understood there were people smarter that knew where the industry was going. I wanted to know and realized if you figure out where licensing is going you can figure out where the industry is going," Covert said.

Covert is planning to speak about the four different types of licensing related to VDI at IT Martini 22 - server, connection, individual desktop and software assurance - then look at solutions and practices that protect enterprises from inadvertently stealing software.

Any words of advice for organizations contemplating the adoption of VDI?

“If you are having trouble properly licensing and managing your physical PC environment, think twice before you tackle VDI. You need to walk before you run!”