Microsoft Untangles Windows MultiPoint Server Licensing

Microsoft recently detailed the licensing scheme for Windows MultiPoint Server, the company's shared resource computing solution for labs, educational institutions and small businesses.

Windows MultiPoint Server, which Microsoft released to its original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in February, uses a single server to connect with dumb terminals (or "stations") consisting of a screen, keyboard and mouse. It is designed to reduce the software, equipment and maintenance costs for organizations that might otherwise deploy PCs on a per-user basis. The product competes with Linux-based offerings from Userful and NComputing.

According to this Microsoft blog, Windows MultiPoint Server's licensing model is similar to that of Microsoft Remote Desktop Services. The server requires a Windows MultiPoint Server license, while each station requires both a Windows Server 2008 R2 Client Access License (CAL) and a Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 CAL.

Volume Licensing or OEMs
Microsoft offers the product to academic institutions via volume licensing. Alternatively, the hardware, software and licensing can be purchased from Microsoft's OEM partners. At press time, Microsoft listed four OEMs offering Windows MultiPoint Server: Atrust and HP are OEMs that serve worldwide markets, while Howard Technology Solutions and Seneca Data serve U.S. markets.

Microsoft volume licensing customers that already have Windows Server 2008 R2 CALs in place can purchase "standalone" Windows Server MultiPoint 2011 CALs to avoid paying twice for the Windows Server 2008 R2 CALs. Otherwise, Microsoft offers a "combo" CAL that includes a Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 CAL and a Windows Server 2008 R2 CAL.

At its top-tier price line, HP offers its HP Compaq MultiSeat ms6000 Desktop as the server hardware to run Windows MultiPoint Server 2010 software. That server solution is priced at $989. HP pairs that server with its MultiSeat t100 Thin Clients priced at $99. Both come with "COA," which is HP's lingo for the client and server licensing needed to run Windows MultiPoint Server. Such a setup running six stations would appear to cost about $1,583 without tax, with all of the licensing included.

Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 licensing is offered as two products: Standard and Premium. The Standard offering supports up to 10 stations and can be obtained through OEMs and Open Commercial volume licensing. The Premium offering supports up to 20 stations and can be obtained through OEMs, academic OEMs, Open Commercial volume licensing and Academic volume licensing.

The Standard product does not support domain joins, but the Premium offering does. Still, the idea that small businesses could use Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 is promoted by Microsoft, including Microsoft SBS Program Manager Sean Daniel here and here.

Based on Microsoft's parts list for Open volume licensing, as described in Microsoft's blog, the Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 license has an estimated retail price of $801. The combo CAL has an estimated retail price of $136, while the standalone CAL is estimated to cost $108. If an organization is able to use existing equipment, the licensing costs for Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 and six combo CALs would total $1,617 without discounts. That figure seems to be about the same as buying all new equipment from an OEM, which would include the licensing.

The number of stations that can be connected depends on the hardware. Forrester Research performed cost-analysis modeling of Windows MultiPoint Server using six stations per server. Forrester's 31-page study, "The Total Economic Impact of Microsoft Windows MultiPoint Server 2011" (PDF), was published in April and sponsored by Microsoft. It found an overall cost savings with Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 of 66 percent compared with supplying PCs to users on a one-to-one basis.

Students at educational institutions that use Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 reported that stations connected to the product were just as fast as regular PCs, according to Forrester's study. Forrester chose the Premium product for the financial modeling results published in its study. The total costs in the first year for the software licensing, host PC and station hardware was $9,664, according to the study (page 14), which is quite a bit more than the cost estimated above for HP's MultiSeat solutions.

Apps Cost Extra
Microsoft cautions in its FAQ (Word doc, partner sign-up required) for partners that organizations running Windows MultiPoint Server need to check application compatibility, pointing to this page for a list of apps that have been checked. However, applications capable of running Remote Desktop Services likely will run on Windows MultiPoint Server 2011, according to Microsoft.

"Because WMS 2011 is based on Remote Desktop Services, many of the applications that work with RD Session Host (formerly Terminal Services) can also work with WMS 2011," the FAQ states.

If applications such as Microsoft Office are run on Windows MultiPoint Server 2011, then there will be additional licensing costs to consider. A footnote in a Microsoft partner sales discussion document (PDF, partner sign-up required) clarifies that "Microsoft Office 2010, or other Microsoft desktop applications installed on the WMS host computer, require a license for the host and for every station connected to the host."

Acknowledgment: Microsoft's licensing generally requires expert advice to ferret out the details. Consult your sales specialist. This story lacks direct Microsoft input, but some pointers came via an e-mail exchange with Rob Horwitz, a licensing expert at the Directions on Microsoft independent consultancy. Directions on Microsoft provides expert advice to the public about general Microsoft licensing issues, with its next Boot Camp on licensing scheduled for June 29-30 in Seattle.