Microsoft releases new FAQ doc to clarify VDI, VDA, and RDS licensing

Yesterday Nathan Coutinho blogged that Microsoft has released a new FAQ document that spells out different virtual desktop and RDS licensing scenarios in very plain and simple language.

Yesterday Nathan Coutinho blogged that Microsoft has released a new FAQ document that spells out different virtual desktop and RDS licensing scenarios in very plain and simple language. (You might remember Nathan from one of his BriForum sessions about Microsoft licensing, or the time he joined us on Brian & Gabe LIVE to talk about licensing, or one of the many times we quoted him in our articles about licensing.)

The new Microsoft document (direct link to PDF) doesn't announce anything new or represent any changes in Microsoft's licensing policies—it just clarifies everything that exists today. But it's really good. (The document, not the policies.) Frankly if this document existed a few months ago it probably could have prevented us from writing four or five articles about different questions we had. (Though we'd like to think that maybe our articles questioning specific aspects of Microsoft licensing are what led them to create this document.)

Specific highlights include:

  • What limitations you'd have if you use a Windows retail license for VDI
  • What licenses you need if you want to use Windows Server for 1-to-1 VDI
  • The crazy Extended Roaming Rights that apply to personal devices outside of the corporate domain
  • Type 1 hypervisors with Windows clients
  • Citrix and Microsoft are clearly still in bed together, as there's a whole section of the FAQ talking about how Citrix enhances the core Microsoft products

It's a great (err.. "good") document, although there are still a few unresolved questions.

For example, Microsoft takes great pains to explain why using the real Windows client OS for VDI is better than one-to-one sessions on Windows Servers (which is something people do because Windows Server desktops can be provided with a simple RDS CAL which can be used from any device and is available via SPLA, while Windows client desktops via VDI require VDA and all the per-device BS). So Microsoft explains why the doing VDI with the client version of Windows is better, but they don't explain why, then, they make it so much more difficult and don't provide SPLA? It's like they're dangling a carrot in front of our faces, saying, "Oh.. look how much better the client OS is. But if you want to use it, it's a huge pain!"

There's also still some confusion around the Extended Roaming Rights "ERR," as Nathan pointed out on Brian & Gabe LIVE and Jack wrote about on ConsumerizeIT. From the new Microsoft FAQ document:

Can you explain the extended roaming rights in Windows VDA?
The primary user of a VDA licensed device at work can access their VDI desktop from any device that is not owned or affiliated with the user’s organization, without the need for an additional Windows VDA license. This enables VDI users to access their secure corporate desktops through an unmanaged device such as a home PC or an Internet kiosk, without the need for a laptop. However, if the user does not have a primary VDA device a work, and needs to access his VDI desktop from a non-corporate device such as a home PC, then that device would need to be covered with a separate Windows VDA license. Roaming rights are only applicable while roaming outside of the corporate domain, hence any device accessing a Windows virtual desktop within the corporate domain needs to be licensed with either Windows Client SA or Windows VDA.

So basically this is saying that as long as the user's primary device has VDA, he can use other devices to access his desktop outside of work (or "outside of the corporate domain," in their words). But look at that last sentence again: "Roaming rights are only applicable while roaming outside of the corporate domain, hence any device accessing a Windows virtual desktop within the corporate domain needs to be licensed with either Windows Client SA or Windows VDA." As Nathan previously pointed out, that means that you need VDA for each device the user uses to access his desktop from work. In other words, if a user brings an iPad, iPad, Android, etc. into the office and uses it to access their desktop, then that device needs to have SA or VDA?? How the F is the company supposed to track this? Also, what exactly is the "corporate domain?" (This has nothing to do with Windows domains.) Is that some legal way of saying "in the office?"

Bottom line: this is a great document, and you should read it. But Microsoft is still screwing the industry with their crazy Windows licensing policies.

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