Today Citrix released the Service Provider Automation Pack (See Jon Spallone’s details here) in conjunction with Microsoft. it includes a powershell script to automate the provisioning of desktops from Service Providers for the small to medium businesses. On the surface this looks like a great new concept, the ability to give end users in a small to medium workspace the option of purchasing desktops without needing to spend countless capital expenditures. However it appears this is rally the latest rendition of Terminal Services just done better.

This in itself is what makes the solution even more interesting. The Microsoft licensing model for virtual desktops has in the past revolved around the VDA license. The license was essentially a tax on users that wanted the Windows 7 experience without a physical desktop. A yearly cost that Microsoft added to the cost of VDI that can make the return on investment stretch into the 6 and 7 year timeframe. with the SPAP, you are using a version of Windows Server 2008 that is built to look like Win7. This would mean that a Service Provider can now use SPLA licensing and finally offer a desktop as a service with full compliance. The VDA license was never available as part of the SPLA. VMware offers View in a way that you could present desktops, and they offer vCloud Director to automate virtual machine management task, but they do not offer something to present anything other than a Windows 7 desktop in an automated method.

Releasing the SPAP with Citrix harkens back to the days of the release of Metaframe and the early relationship between Microsoft and Citrix. At the same time we get to see the argument between Citrix/Microsoft and VMware to continue to grow.