back to article Dealing with the virtual hype

There are few if any technologies that have garnered as much industry coverage as virtualisation has enjoyed over the last few years. Okay, maybe ‘Cloud Computing’ has too, but that’s more vendor talk than action right now. As far as real-world activity goes, virtualisation is a hotbed of activity and a magnet for vendors to …

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Pint

Needs being met?

[Insert a lot of pained, hysterical laughter here that drew odd locks and actually did result in an RL spit-take.]

Are you kidding me? Any remotely competent sysadmin can give you chapter and verse on what virtualisation is, where the traps and pitfalls are and even have absolutely linux-distro-esque nerdrage wars over where it's appropriate to implement or not.

Where it all falls down is software licensing. Even the software vendor’s don’t have a clue what their rules are. I’ve spent the past, oh, 8 months or so chasing Microsoft reps around going “what the hell kind of licensing do I need?!?”

It seems utterly impossible for an MS rep to wrap their mind around: take a bunch of Windows clients. (XP or 7, I really don’t care which,) shove them into VMs. Run 30-ish of them on the same piece of metal. Access them from a (non-windows) thin client at work. Someone might remote into their system from home. I might remote into it from my phone.

Now, the best bead on this I can get from MS is that

A) I am only allowed to remote into an MS Client OS from another MS Client OS.

B) I need to pay for an OS licence not only for the VM, but for every potential device that might ever RDP into it.

C) If I happen to have office installed in that VM, I need to pay for an office licence not only for the VM, but for every potential device that might ever RDP into it.

D) Apparently you can never have enough CALs for anything, ever.

For a single VM that contained Windows XP, Communicator 05 and Office 2003 which would be accessed (by the same single user) from (potentially) up to 5 computers Microsoft wanted something like $4400 in licensing. In oh so many mind-numbing ways this was a great big WTF.

The orders from on high were to buy a single OS licence for each VM, single Office licence for each VM, and a single Communicator licence. 1 CAL set per VM. Totalling somewhere south of $1000 a VM. The idea was that it was a reasonable approach to licensing and would likely be viewed as such both by MS and any judge, should it come to that. Microsoft got their pound of flesh for each deployed instance of every app...and that suing someone over this and bringing to light their ridiculously out-of-touch policies was simply not in MS’s best interests.

It highlights the biggest issue with virtualisation though. It’s not the technical aspects of it that are the PITA; it’s the software vendors with licensing that is stuck in a time-warp. There is absolutely no justifiable reason to licence software inside a virtualised container any differently than if it were running directly on metal.

Thanks to this fiasco, I now have an involuntary twitch any time someone mentioned the name "Microsoft." The hair pulling and inability to get straight answers even from Microsoft staff on these issues led their entire stack to be declared "legacy software." It is now supported and treated in the same manner as those few old DOS apps we have that we just can't get rid of.

Tragically, it would be impossible to fully replace Microsoft entirely. Still, where we can migrate off of MS...we are. We are working with out software vendors now to port as much as possible over to Linux, but we won't be able to port them all. (We are committed to several hundred thousand dollars and a few years worth of porting projects though.) I expect by the next refresh cycle we'll be running over 50% RHEL servers.

Our first CentOS desktops went into service last year.

If only MS were the only ones so backward! Sadly, they seem to be only the tip of the spear.

</seething rage, hopelessness, anger and despair>

Well, that’s my venting done. This is an issue that has really been driving me nuts for some time. Anonymous for obvious reasons, and the pint because I could now really use one.

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