Licensing Focus – Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

Organisations are increasingly looking at centralising the Desktop. This guide looks at the way Desktop Virtualization can be approached in an organisation to keep the licensing in check for Windows.

Please note there are other articles on this blog on VDI (please see reference links at the bottom of this post

User State Virtualization

User state virtualization increases business flexibility by having a user’s personal profile and data available dynamically on any PC. In terms of data security this is an essential part of an IT managers toolkit  to reduce the impact of failure and PC theft by backing up personal profiles and information to the datacentre

Technologies are available straight out of the box with Win7 to support user state Virtualization:

  • Roaming User Profiles – Allow access to the user profile and application data from any PC.
  • Folder Redirection
  • Offline folders – Client technologies that change the target location of the folder(s) that can be found in the user profile.

App Virtualization

IT departments will need to reduce application management costs and improve application deployment speed. Secondly, end users want to have their business critical apps available on any authorised PC. To achieve this, Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V) decouples applications from the OS and helps to eliminate app-to-app incompatibility, because applications are no longer installed on the local client device. IT departments can also benefit from streaming Apps by speeding up deployments rather than local Installs.

Remote App programs enable software to be accessed remotely through Remote Desktop Services (RDS) and appear as if running on the end user’s local PC. These are hosted apps, and can be accessed through a web browser.

OS Virtualization

OS virtualization separates the operating system workloads from the underlying hardware. OS virtualization can be divided into two broad categories:

Client Hosted Desktop Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) allows virtual windows desktops on the physical device to support legacy apps that run only on Windows XP

Server Hosted Desktop
•Microsoft Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) technology enables users to access their personal Windows desktops
that are hosted on the organisation servers. VDI is another deployment model for Windows desktops, and is a popular and emergent technology that is suitable and cost-effective for corporations with specific use scenarios, such as organizations that would like to give remote users access to their corporate desktops without investing in expensive laptops can leverage VDI technology.

•Microsoft Windows Server® Remote Desktop Services is a server-based computing architecture that runs user
applications on a single Windows Server OS and supports multiple sessions on one server, enabling each user to
remotely access a full desktop or single application from the user’s local device via a remote protocol such as Microsoft
Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP).


Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

“Anywhere access from connected devices: Personalized desktops, applications and data follow the user across any connected device”

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is an alternative to the traditional desktop deployment model for Windows desktops. Each user can get access to a personal desktop in the datacentre from any connected device. The access device could include a normal desktop environment with Windows or a Thin Client (TC).

OS Streaming

Centralized copies of an operating system can be streamed to devices for local execution.


Virtual Desktop Licensing

The licensing on this area can be complex, and has come into criticism. I’m not focusing on what is ‘should be’, but on providing a snapshot of the product licensing model for Windows. As always, please reference the latest source documentation like the Product Use Rights and Product List and your relevant Volume Agreement procurement contracts for your organisation, licensing rules and procurement models will change over time.


Roaming Use Rights

Applications and OS Licensing: Remote Access and Roaming Use
  • Microsoft has allocated Roaming Use Rights from 3rd party Devices on the basis of active Software Assurance with Desktop Apps like Office, Project and Visio.
  • Microsoft states that this right is extended for only work-related purposes and not to be used for personal use.
  • The Roaming Use Rights section of the Product Use Rights are only applicable to access to the HVD and Terminal Server off-premise.
  • When the primary user is on your or your affiliates premises, Roaming Use Rights are not applicable.
  • The Roaming Use Right does not apply to running the software in a physical OSE on the 3rd party device.
Examples for iPad
  • The iPad is the users Primary Device — This would only apply in specific user scenarios. However,  this would need a license for Office Professional Plus assigned to the iPad as the end-point device.
  • The iPad is a Secondary end-point device — The iPad is owned by the User and he or she is the Primary User of the Primary PC with a license for Office with Active SA. Then they can access Office on their iPad.
    This would require a Remote Desktop Services CAL and Windows Server CAL.
  • The iPad is a Secondary end-point device — The iPad is owned by the User and he or she is the Primary User of the Primary PC with a license for Office only. Your organization will need to procure Software Assurance for Office. This might need re-purchasing the License with Software Assurance If the Office license was procured > 90 days ago. This would require a Remote Desktop Services CAL and Windows Server CAL.
  • If the iPad is owned by the organization then it will need a Office license assigned.

Included below for reference, are the relevant sections of the PUR (2011):

When the primary user is on your or your affiliates’ premises, Roaming Use Rights are not applicable

[Product Use Rights, March 2011, Page 116 of 125]

· Except as provided below, the single primary user of the licensed device may:

o remotely access the software running on your servers (e.g., in your datacenter) from a qualifying third party device1, and

o run the software in a virtual OSE on a qualifying third party device1 .

1A “qualifying third party device” is a device that is not controlled, directly or indirectly, by you or your affiliates (e.g., a third party’s public kiosk).

When the primary user is on your or your affiliates’ premises, Roaming Use Rights are not applicable.

· You may not run the software in the physical OSE on the qualifying third party device under the Roaming Use Rights.

[Product Use Rights, March 2011, Page 122 of 125]

Applications and OS Licensing: Remote Access and Roaming Use






Past Articles:



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14 thoughts on “Licensing Focus – Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

  1. Pingback: Microsoft VDI – Resources - 4sysops

  2. Pingback: The roundup: here’s what you may have missed « Microsoft License Review

  3. Besides the fact that I need VDA license if i’m accessing the VM through a Thin Client. What license do I need for my actual VM. Since Virtual Destkop Access sound if it is only the right to access a VM not the actual license which I install on my VM. So do be more blunt; Where do I get my product key to enter in my VM. And be correctly licensed.

    Hope you can help thanks.

    • Hi Luc

      Sounds like you’re accessing Windows in a VM from a Thin Client. Yep, so VDA Subscription and this includes Windows 7.
      This will have a slightly higher price that the VL upgrade to account for the OEM base.

      Doesn’t help with the terminology.

      Windows 7 w. Active Software Assurance includes the VDA (Virtual Desktop Access) right as part of having Software Assurance attached to the Windows Upgrade VL.

      • Hi Mac,

        Sorry if I’m repeating, but if I buy a VDA license for a thin client, I get the windows 7 license (for the VM) also?

        To be specific: for a new VDI enviorment with 100 thin clients and 100 windows 7 VM’s (we have no licensing right now).
        I only need 100 VDA
        or 100 VDA and 100 windows 7 pro ?

      • Hi Yanir

        You would only need the Windows VDA Subscription. It provides the right to use Windows in the datacenter.
        The Windows 7 Pro is ‘Upgrade and Software Assurance’ and cannot be used as your Thin Client would not have a base OEM license for the Windows OS.

        The approach would be 100 x Windows VDA Subscription which would includes windows 7 + the Virtual Desktop Access right.

        Hope this clarifies.

  4. Hi again,
    Is there a microsoft source that can validate it? or somewhere it’s written specificaly?

    I’m sorry, it’s just that Microsoft licensing people in Israel give me other answers, and I believe they are wrong and you’re right…

    Can you point in the right direction?

    • I will have a look, but the answer is in the price. If the VDA Subscription exlcuded Windows It wouldn’t add up (although I am working off UK Price List)

  5. Hi,

    Where can I find the prices for the different versions of VDI Suite, please? Because I have to virtualize 300 classic desktops. So, I need a VDI Suite and 300 VDA, right?

    Thanks for help, it’s really important.

    • Hi Mehdi

      Microsoft work on a indirect model, so I would recommend getting in touch with your Microsoft Reseller / Large Account Reseller. They will be able to provide local pricing. I work of UK Price List and our prices are determined on the Volume License Agreement you procure on.

      If 300 represents the total qualified desktop count for your estate, you can look at at Enterprise Agreement / Enterprise Agreement Subscription. Otherwise, there are other VL programmes that your Enterprise Software Advisor (Reseller) can advise on. Only Large Account Resellers can transact Enterprise Agreements.

      Acquisition on a Subscription model can be more cost effective than Perpetual model – depending on your organisations preference.

      You will need, for Thick Clients – Windows 7 professional with Software Assurance. This provides access to Windows in a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure/ Virtual Desktop Access right.

      This is an Upgrade & Software Assurance. The reason for the ‘Upgrade’ is that Microsoft expects there to be a pre-existing OEM license for Windows on the box (OEM COA Sticker)

      This should be cheaper than VDA Subscription (This is needed for Thin Clients) The VDA Subscription is a ‘full’ license as it accounts for their not being an OEM base license for Windows. So will be slightly more expensive.

      Additionaly, you have VDI Suite – which is a package coming in two flavours. For VDI access – Standard Suite will suffice. I cannot c omment on pricing in a different region and it will depend what VL programme your procure under.

      I recommend touching base with a reseller in first instance.

  6. Hi Tony,
    Just wanted to clarify something and if possible if you can direct me where I can find it in writing………
    If a company wants to allow 3rd party contractors to access the company’s VDI environments, it is clear that VDA licences are requireed. The questions is ….who is responsible to buy/provide the VDA licences. Or does it not matter?
    The text above (under Contractor owned Pcs) just says that VDA licences will be required.

    From my understanding of licensing it is the company itself and not the 3rd Party contractors that should provide licences to be compliant. But hoping you can provide some guidance to this.


  7. HI Mac,

    This is really nice write up and thank you for sharing.
    I have small clarification on this.
    For example, an organization using VDI with VMware view 4.6 and accessing with 100 thin clients.
    They are using windows 7 and office 2010 standard
    How many windows 7 and office 2010 license they need to buy? And also how many VDA subscriptions?
    What is the licensing method for windows 7 and office 2010 in this environment?


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