This article explains why this is a hard problem

Introduction

The NeCTAR world does a good job of supporting Linux based virtuals, but Windows on a NeCTAR virtual is problematic.  The only information I could find on the NeCTAR site is this thread about "Windows Images" on the NeCTAR support forum.

The ideal way ...

Ideally, there would be a bunch of standard Windows images that people could just use.  Ideally, the MS license server would be preconfigured (or whatever) and the virtual would appear in the UQ domain.  Qualified people should then just be able to run up copies of the images from the NeCTAR dashboard.

Problems

Unfortunately, making that all happen is not easy.

Licensing

The primary problem is in determining whether running Windows on virtuals in the various NeCTAR Nodes is permissible.  This cannot be answered at the NeCTAR level, because the relevant licensing agreement (CAUDIT) is between Microsoft and the respective universities, and that the terms of the agreement relate to equipment owned by each university and members (e.g. staff and students) of that university.

The official position of QCIF is that use of Windows on QCIF-managed NeCTAR infrastriucture is not permitted.

  • QCIF do not believe that the UQ CAUDIT agreement permits running of Windows on any QRIScloud compute nodes. The CAUDIT license states that the licences are "upgrade" licenses only; i.e. the hardware must have originally been purchased with an OEM Windows license. The QRIScloud hardware was purchased without Windows, and hence the CAUDIT agreement doesn't apply to them.
  • In addition, QCIF's research suggests that a regular OEM license + CAUDIT may not be sufficient, because it is not clear that this covers running instances of Windows on virtual machines.

For other nodes the licensing situation could be different. I suggest that you contact your local Node for details.

Technical

A virtual running Windows needs to be configured to talk to the appropriate institutional license server to make use of the CAUDIT-based licenses.  This could be done by configuring the relevant details into the Windows image. The technically difficult part would be implementing the proper access rules to enforce the licensing restrictions; i.e. the ones about use by non-member users.

There are apparently other technical issues as well: watch this presentation.

So can you do it ... anyway?

The situation is "fluid":

  • For QRIScloud, no you can't.  It is not permitted.
  • My understanding is that the Melbourne nodes offer Windows images via the NeCTAR dashboard, using a scheme that only makes the images visible to members of their institution.
  • Other nodes may support Windows-in-the-cloud in other ways for local users. I suggest you contact them and ask ... but be prepared for a negative answer.

Other possibilities

It is possible that you could "work around" the CAUDIT licensing uncertainty by purchasing a Windows license for "your" NeCTAR virtual directly from Microsoft.  However, I haven't looked into the details; e.g.

  • what Microsoft license would be applicable to this situation,
  • what restrictions the "standard" Microsoft licenses place on running on virtuals, and
  • whether such licenses would be "transferable" when you destroyed an "instance" and created a new one.

If you intend to take this approach, contact Microsoft local sales and discuss your needs.  If Microsoft are 100% OK with what you are proposing to do and a Microsoft official representative is prepared to say so in writing on Microsoft letterhead, then that should be sufficient to satisfy your Node provider as to the legality of the proposed usage.