Software Licensing
January 3, 2011 12:59 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to start an internet cafe-type business and I'm having real trouble understanding how to properly license copies of Microsoft Office, as well as Adobe software (e.g. Photoshop). There's a further caveat, which is that customers will use thin clients to access virtualized PCs on a central server.

I realize the caveat sounds strange, but there are specific reasons why I want to do this, having to do with future expansion. Anyway, some specific problems I am trying to solve include:

- For Adobe software, I can't figure out whether they have any licensing options available that allow "rental rights", even for physical PCs that can be rented (much less virtual PCs).
- For Microsoft, I know they have a specific rental rights program, but it specifically disallows the installation of the software on virtualized PCs. Are there alternatives?

Any ideas? Are there "licensing experts" out there who know about this stuff, other than the licensing hotlines these companies run, which seem to be useless?

One thing that would be really helpful is if anyone knows how FedExOffice / Kinko's does their licensing, since this would at least give me some leads to look into.

Thanks very much! (Obviously you are not a / my lawyer, etc. etc - just trying to understand how this works, generally).
posted by thumpasor to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
if I was trying to do this, I'd probably just go and find a reseller/integrator who works in that space and ask them what licenses you need for your requirements - it's not like Office and Windows Terminal Services are unused in business environments, so presumably someone who sells that sort of setup would know how they need to license it. the Adobe stuff might be harder, since I doubt anyone runs bulk Photoshop instances over RDP (and that will almost certainly suck to use).
posted by russm at 2:04 AM on January 3, 2011

Talk to a reseller that deals with business clients (e.g. CDW) - most of them have a Microsoft specialist on hand to deal with licensing gotchas.
posted by benzenedream at 2:48 AM on January 3, 2011

IANAL, but I've tried to put myself in Microsoft's shoes, which is "as complicated as possible, as much money as possible" and figured out how they do licensing (remember, these are the guys who released six versions of Windows 7. Six).

Firstly, you've ignored the most important step - virtualisation licenses for Microsoft Windows itself. If you want to virtualise Windows, you'll need a license for Windows itself, and a Client Access License for each thin client you run. Here's my reference for Microsoft Windows Server 2008, but it's pretty incomprehensible.

After a lot of digging around, Microsoft are selling something called Microsoft Application Virtualisation (App-V) which does what you want, and is new in Microsoft Office 2010. Here's a technical reference reference, and here's a more friendly starting point. You've probably discovered that renting regular Microsoft products is impossible because a) that would be too logical and direct a solution for virtualisation, and b) Microsoft are trying to sell their own solution to the problem.

At this point in discovering the answer to your question I'm sorry to say I'm quickly losing the will to live, so I'm afraid I'm going to stop here. Ditto slimeline's suggestion to use open source software.
posted by asymptotic at 3:25 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know that it is not uncommon in both business and academic environments to run more expensive/specialized software over virtualization to cut down on the number of physical licenses. Specifically with regards to your question: "Photoshop via Citrix" seems to be a particularly popular flavor of this. So can this licensing arrangement be done? Positively. How is it done? Dunno.
posted by ChasFile at 4:18 AM on January 3, 2011

Unfortunately, software licensing is the biggest thing that is holding virtualisation back (yes, I'm looking at you Oracle). Like others have said, your best bet is probably talking to a reseller who will be more likely to actually want to help you so that they get and retain your business, as opposed to the vendors who will just try to gouge you for every cent they possibly can because they'll assume you won't go anywhere else.

(I'm not bitter ... really)
posted by Diag at 5:00 AM on January 3, 2011

Hi there,

I work at Citrix in the Desktop Delivery Division. I'm glad you're going to go with virtual desktops, but you should also be thinking about what kind of virtual desktop you're actually going to need to offer.

The reason I say this is because if you're interested primarily in productivity apps (i.e. Office) then you can get off much more cheaply by virtualizing a single Windows Server 2008 Desktop using RDP or XenApp and delivering it to multiple thin clients. The benefit of XenApp is that the licensing component is built into the product, but RDP is free with a Windows TS license. It's much cheaper because you only pay based on average concurrent connections to the apps rather than per device or per user and you don't need multiple Windows licenses.

If you're looking to do games or graphics apps like Photoshop, then everything changes. You'd want to look at either our XenDesktop or VMware's View. Microsoft is actually not that hard to deal with when it comes to virtual licensing, I think most of the people above were venting based on things they think they know. There are specific licenses for virtual instances of Windows. A decent site to read up on this is
posted by analogue at 6:21 AM on January 3, 2011 [6 favorites]

Here is Adobe's page on Volume Licencing, which include a phone number to call to talk to their licencing specialists. (1-800-443-8158)

+1 to everything Analogue said.
posted by cathoo at 7:08 AM on January 3, 2011

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