April 2, 2007 6:00 AM PDT

Microsoft licenses Vista for 'diskless' PCs

Related Stories

Microsoft backtracks on Vista transfer limits

November 2, 2006

Microsoft limits Vista transfers

October 16, 2006
Microsoft is loosening the reins on Vista licensing in an effort to let businesses try out some new computing possibilities, including "diskless" PCs.

For the most part, the Windows licensing terms have assumed that the whole PC is going to be in one place; however, increasingly, that's not necessarily the case.

Virtualization technology means that one physical computer can act as many separate computers, while higher-speed networks mean that different parts of a computer can actually be housed in various locales. For example, it is now possible to have a diskless PC, in which the main hard drive of the computer is actually stored in a data center, while all the other parts--processor, graphics chip and memory--remain at a worker's desk.

But until Sunday, there was no proper way to license Windows for such a computer. Under new licensing terms for Windows Vista Enterprise, businesses will be able to use the corporate edition of the operating system to handle this as well as other niche cases in which a PC's storage, computational power or both are handled somewhere other than the desktop.

"We're responding to enable a set of early adopters in finance and governments, in particular, to take advantage of architectures that centralize Windows," said Scott Woodgate, director of Windows Business Group. "They either centralize the storage of Windows, the execution of Windows, or both, in the data center."

In addition to the diskless PC, the other arrangement Microsoft is giving the nod to is one in which a desktop PC or thin client is running multiple virtual machines that are running on a server. The Vista Enterprise license already provides a license for additional Windows virtual machines, but only those running on a desktop PC, not for ones taking place on a server. The new approach, called Vista Enterprise Centralized Desktop, requires an additional annual fee.

Although Microsoft is making such set-ups legally permissible, it doubts diskless PCs will become an overnight trend. There are many negatives, most importantly the need for a constant and uninterrupted high-speed network connection. If the network goes down, the whole PC becomes unusable. Also, while Microsoft is making diskless PCs commercially possible, enterprises will still needed additional third-party software to actually make such systems boot up.

Because of the technical limitations and the massive IT resources needed to manage such an operation, Microsoft expects only a small number of institutions to try out such a set-up, most likely top-secret government agencies where security concerns trump the inconveniences.

"If you are in a department that is a three-letter department you may want to keep that hard drive away," Woodgate said, likely making reference to places like the CIA or FBI. "It's relatively a niche."

Even in those cases, Microsoft says it will take time to get the systems up and running. "It will be interesting to see, 18 to 24 months after those early adopters have taken the systems into production, how successful they are," Woodgate said.

See more CNET content tagged:
data center, virtual machine, Microsoft Windows Vista, desktop computer, Microsoft Corp.

5 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
This Technology Is "Not" Anything New!
"it is now possible to have a diskless PC, in which the main hard drive of the computer is actually stored in a data center, while all the other parts--processor, graphics chip and memory--remain at a worker's desk..." This appears to be the re-introduction of "WorkSpace On Demand" OS/2 Technologies (WSOD) that were first introduced by IBM some years ago.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.sundialsystems.com/articles/workspaceondemand.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.sundialsystems.com/articles/workspaceondemand.html</a>

"What WSOD Is
WSOD is an add-on to Warp Server that allows clients to boot off of the server. It also allows those clients to be centrally managed. You can easily restrict (or focus) the facilities and applications that are available to the user of a WSOD client. It's easiest to think of the WSOD client as YAFOO (Yet Another Flavor of OS/2).

What WSOD Is Not
WSOD is not the next version of OS/2. The server-side of WSOD provides additional utilities on top of Warp Server to make setting up workstation images easier. The workstation side of WSOD is based on Warp 4, but the additions are only to facilitate some of the WSOD features and are of little use to anybody outside of a WSOD environment.

WSOD is not software to make your computer into a NC or Network Computer. WSOD does not require a hard drive in the PC and, therefore, a WSOD workstation is frequently referred to as a thin client. But a NC and Network Computer mean very specific things - most of which a WSOD workstation does not include.

What WSOD Can Do for You
While WSOD is aimed at IBM's Global 2000, there are real applications for home and small business users. Perhaps you've finally convinced your spouse to use the computer and the Internet. What if the computer booted up to Netscape, and that's it. No longer would you have to explain that to load Netscape, first click on the dialer, then press the dial button, then open the Netscape folder, then double click on Netscape...

In business, a local financial consultant is giving serious consideration to WSOD. He currently uses OS/2 and NetWare. In his office they run different tax programs for each year. OS/2 does the best job of running some of those old DOS programs. The planners and assistants only use a spreadsheet, word processor, and their planning/tax programs. So the constrained interface of WSOD is a perfect fit."

Come on now REDMOND, OS/2 is not dead, it lives on!

TO BOLDLY GO!
Posted by Commander_Spock (3123 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Get a clue...
If you actually READ this article, you'll see that it's discussing a licensing issue with Windows Vista, NOT a technology issue.
Posted by Get_Bent (534 comments )
Link Flag
Boot from network
Boot from network is an option already available on PCs manufactured in the past three years. This month, the popular, free, Ubuntu Linux is to release version 7, providing boot-from-server "out of the box". Of course, there will be no "seat" (unit) limits nor fees to pay. Install Vista Enterprise or Ubuntu Linux on a server. On desktops, enter Setup and set Boot priority to Network. As users power up their desktops, these will get their OS from the local server. These will also have the option to run programmes from teh server and to store files there.
Posted by Ngallendou (27 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Other posters missed the point
The point of the story was that MS didn't consider that as a viable model for the current versions of Windows until recently.

Diskless computing where the system boots over the network was done back with Datapoint mini-computers which predated the PC, it was also done with Novell Netware to boot MS-DOS and even the early versions of Windows on machines without disks. Diskless workstations have a long history even within the MS world.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.