Selling Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 to SMB customers

Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 is more than just an option for academic settings and there are a few ways, such as selling software licenses, that VARs can offer the product to SMB customers.

Although Microsoft mainly markets Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 to schools and other customers in the world of academia, the product also presents opportunities for VARs to profit from sales to small and medium-sized business (SMB) customers outside of the classroom.

MultiPoint Server is essentially a low-end virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) server. It is a specialized Windows 2008 R2 server that hosts a number of desktops. Microsoft promotes MultiPoint Server as a low-cost alternative to setting up individual PCs in a classroom environment.

Using MultiPoint Server 2011 outside of the classroom
Microsoft’s MultiPoint Server demonstration video is a bit misleading because it makes it seem as though its only use is in classroom environments. Solution providers may infer from the video that the number of workstations is directly proportional to the number of keyboards, mice, and monitors that can be plugged directly into the server.

Beyond special academic licenses, however, Microsoft also offers commercial licenses. In the commercial world, cash-strapped startups and SMBs could find the server effective as a replacement for aging hardware. MultiPoint Server is also useful for setting up lab environments or customer service kiosks.

MultiPoint Server’s VDI capabilities
Plugging keyboards, mice and monitors directly into the MultiPoint Server is possible, but that usage limits the total number of workstations that can be created, and each workstation must be located close to the MultiPoint Server.

MultiPoint Server’s VDI capabilities are based on Remote Desktop Services, which makes it possible for customers to remotely connect to a MultiPoint Server from any PC or thin client device that supports the Remote Desktop Protocol. That’s a selling point for customers that may need to place additional workstations in various locations throughout the office.

MultiPoint Server 2011 comes in two flavors: Standard and Premium. The Standard edition supports up to 10 workstations and cannot be joined to a domain. The Premium edition supports up to 20 workstations and can be joined to a domain.

VAR customers that need to support more than 20 workstations need to know that MultiPoint Server is not an enterprise solution and was never designed to support hundreds of desktops. Even so, it is possible to overcome MultiPoint Server’s limitations by deploying multiple MultiPoint Servers. Users can manage all of the sessions across all of the MultiPoint servers through a common interface.

Other business opportunities
Given MultiPoint Server’s versatility, here are several ways it can add to a VAR’s bottom line:

  • Selling MultiPoint Server 2011 as an OEM package
    OEM packages typically include specialized hardware that allows multiple keyboards, mice and monitors to be plugged into the server.
  • Selling software licenses
    In addition to the MultiPoint Server 2011 license, customers must purchase a Client Access License (CAL) for every user or device that connects to the MultiPoint Server. Depending on how a business configures MultiPoint, a Windows Server 2008 CAL might also be required.
  • Selling specialized hardware for use on a MultiPoint Server

Some customers may want to use MultiPoint Server’s local connectivity option rather than PCs or thin clients to connect. But most off-the-shelf systems lack the necessary video hardware. VARs could compensate for this limitation by offering multi-head video adapters to clients, which allows the creation of more local workstations.

MultiPoint Server 2011 is not a viable solution for every environment but may be a good fit for SMBs with limited budgets. It’s important for VARs to keep their portfolios diverse with offerings for large and small customers alike, and MultiPoint Server 2011 helps service smaller-sized customers.

About the expert
Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a six-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional award for his work with Exchange Server, Windows Server, Internet Information Services, file systems and storage. Posey has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once responsible for the Department of Information Management at Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer, he has written for TechTarget, Microsoft, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit his website at www.brienposey.com.

This was first published in August 2011
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