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Until recently, Microsoft customers running Windows 10 on a virtual machine had only two choices: on-premise and Microsoft Azure. Now there is a third option: third-party hosts. The new option comes courtesy of Microsoft’s new Qualified Multitenant Hoster Program (QMTH Program), which extends Windows 10 virtualization rights to authorized third-party cloud hosts for the first time. Below we’ll review Microsoft’s recent announcement before detailing the range of benefits that the QMTH Program offers, including significant cost savings; far greater flexibility and choice; and even the added option to run additional Microsoft software, such as Office 365 ProPlus, on a VM in SCA mode. Finally, we’ll walk through the required steps to get started, including securing the right Windows 10 license and choosing a QMTH Partner that will meet the needs of your cloud strategy.

Microsoft’s announcement

At Microsoft Inspire 2017, the software leader announced the new QMTH Program, bringing greater choice and flexibility to their business customers. The QMTH program, which went into effect on September 6, is essentially an expansion of Microsoft’s well-established Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program. Microsoft is now certifying qualified third-party hosts with CSP status to offer virtual machine hosting of Windows 10 in a multitenant environment.

Benefits of the QMTH program

Windows 10 virtualization can increase security and productivity while expanding your infrastructure. Not only does running Windows 10 VMs give your business users the freedom to switch devices as necessary, but it can provide the additional separation layer required by some data sets and applications. And running Windows 10 in the cloud with the QMTH Program adds an additional list of benefits. Above all, the new program lets you leverage your qualifying Microsoft Windows 10 licensing investment with a far broader range of cloud-deployment options that now includes running your Windows 10 VM on the shared datacenter of an authorized QMTH Partner.

Understanding multitenancy

In order to understand the full benefits of the Qualified Multitenant Hoster Program, it’s important to first understand the concept of multitenancy. This software framework, which has enjoyed increasing popularity in recent years, allows multiple users, or user groups, to share a single software instance, often hosted in the cloud. Each user or user group is deemed a “tenant,” and the host allocates a specific share of the single software instance to each tenant accordingly. Note that although the various tenants under the multitenancy model share the same application and the same OS, they do not have access to other tenants’ data.

Cost savings

Taking full advantage of the multitenancy model often results in considerable cost savings by offering the same end-user experience found in a conventional, multi-instance model, but at a greatly reduced cost.

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Greater flexibility and choice

Microsoft designed the QMTH Program with a specific purpose in mind: offering their business customers a broader range of options for running Windows 10 virtual machines. Under the new program, business users can not only deploy their VMs on-premise or on Microsoft Azure, but on any authorized QMTH partner’s platform.

Running additional Microsoft software with SCA

Microsoft’s new QMTH program replaces the Shared Computer Activation (SCA) program and therefore allows customers to take advantage of additional benefits beyond Windows 10 virtualization. To provide some context, it’s important to note that Office 365 ProPlus has an SCA option that allows license holders to deploy their copy of ProPlus on a server for other users in their organization to access and use, generally remotely. In short, SCA provides a convenient means for multiple users to share the same software. Often with the help of Remote Desktop Services (RDS), many business users can make use of applications such as PowerPoint and Excel running on the same remote server with SCA. However, in order for the SCA option to work, users must each have a usage license assigned to them, and they must each have their own account. Finally, Office 365 ProPlus must be running in SCA mode.

QMTH, unlike SCA, involves a service provider licensing agreement (SPLA). Because of the SPLA, QMTH Partners can offer hosting for Office 365 ProPlus, Visio Pro for Office 365, and Project Online Professional. However, these applications will need to operate in SCA mode.

Getting started with the QMTH program

Versions qualifying for QMTH licensing

To get started with Windows 10 virtualization with an authorized third-party cloud hosting provider, you need to be a Microsoft customer with a Windows Per User license bought via Microsoft Volume Licensing. Furthermore, you need to have a license for a qualifying software edition within the Enterprise family. These include two widely used Windows 10 Enterprise editions: E3 per User with Software Assurance (users can purchase E3 both with or without virtualization use rights) and E5 per User with Software Assurance. Microsoft has updated E5 to automatically include virtualization use rights. However, it needs to run on a Windows 10 IoT Enterprise device or Windows Pro.

Microsoft has also added a new offering: Windows 10 E3 VDA, which gives non-Windows Pro users access to Windows VMs. As an additional benefit, if you are a current subscriber of Microsoft 365 Enterprise (formerly branded as Secure Productive Enterprise), or are purchasing a new subscription through a cloud service provider, the same virtualization rights come free. If you have a qualifying Windows 10 subscription granting virtualization rights through Microsoft Cloud Agreement, then you can launch your Windows VMs with a QMTH Partner as well.

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Choosing the right QMTH Partner

Once you have confirmed that you have the right Windows 10 license, or have made plans to purchase one, it’s time to reach out to a QMTH Partner. Although Microsoft requires that third-party hosts meet the program’s strict requirements before authorizing them to run Windows 10 VMs, not all partners will be equally well-qualified to implement your particular cloud strategy. First, look for a host with a team of Microsoft cloud experts that regularly help businesses envision and deploy successful Microsoft cloud strategies as part of their core offering. Next, ensure that the QMTH Partner has a longstanding track record, preferably spanning a decade or more. Finally, confirm that the QMTH Partner has a complete, gap-free suite of services, including 24/7 on-call expertise; a 100% uptime guarantee; and a robust set of end-to-end optimization and security solutions.

Making full use of the QMTH program

Windows 10 virtualization can increase security and productivity while expanding your infrastructure. If you want to run Windows 10 on virtual machines in the cloud, and you’d like to enjoy the benefits of working with a qualified third-party host, Microsoft has now made it both possible and affordable.

As outlined above, Microsoft recently announced the QMTH program, which offers their business customers a broader range of options for Windows 10 virtualization. Expanding upon their Cloud Solution Provider program, Microsoft is now certifying qualified third-party cloud hosts with CSP status to offer Windows 10 virtualization in a multitenant environment. The result is greater deployment flexibility and significant cost savings. QMTH Partners can also offer multitenant hosting for Office 365 ProPlus, Visio Pro for Office 365, and Project Online Professional operating in SCA mode.

To get started with Windows 10 virtualization with an authorized third-party cloud hosting provider, you’ll need to have one of the licenses listed above, such as Windows 10 Enterprise E3 or E5 with SA. Once you’ve confirmed that you have the right license, it’s time to reach out to an authorized QMTH Partner. To ensure that you find the best fit for your cloud strategy, look for a QMTH Partner with a longstanding, proven track record and a seasoned team of Microsoft cloud strategy experts.

To learn more about the QMTH program or to get started with your own Windows 10 VM in the cloud, contact us.

About Ed

Ed is an 20 year veteran of the hosting industry and was part of the team at Verio that helped drive the early adoption of the Internet as we know it today. At Applied Innovations, Ed consults with prospective clients and partners to help them identify the best path forward with their own digital transformation as they look to embrace and adopt the cloud. Ed combines his strong technical understanding of the Internet, Security and Cloud scale with his ability to communicate and simplify complex solutions into a strategic plan that makes sense for the customer and aligns with their business strategy

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