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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Sigh ... even more confusing.  Their previous version of this same document, published in March, 2011 is identified as version 3.1:

This "new" version is v3.0?


And this document is still wrong, although I wish it were right, like the roaming right.

It's kind of too bad that the people at Microsoft who write these documents don't actually read other Microsoft documents, like the FPP EULA, which won't work for even the limited VDI scenarios described here, and Microsoft Product Use Rights, which actually don't allow all of the roaming scenarios described here.

I wouldn't describe this as a very useful document at all. In fact, if you acted on the advice here, you run a significant risk of being tagged for non-compliance by someone at Microsoft who actually does read the Microsoft rules (assuming there is such a person).


I am very sorry but this document has to be one of the biggest pieces of turd ever written. Add to that it "explains" what has no explanation that is the completely dumb, retarded licensing that VDA really is. It should be renamed Very Dumb Attempt. Plus a document without real world scenarios? That alone makes the document double retarded.

My apologies for the rant. I will definitely nominate this to the Darwin Awards for IT of 2012.



Would it be appropriate to refer you back to my exhaustive analysis of Desktop Virtualization Licensing?




This whole story is ridiculous!

The only explantion from my point of view:

Microsoft is not willing to give away market shares, because they are planning their own DaaS offering.




What's perplexing is the section on 1-1. It should just read as reasons the client team is arguing that RDS is crap. For Microsoft to make statements like the below just shows how disjointed they are internally. Seriously read the below and make up your own mind. This is effectively saying the RDS team is full of S..T It's also misleading. The trouble is Microsoft is fighting to maintain an old device based business model. Those days are numbered and they are fighting to keep it around longer to feed the cash cow. Arrogant SOBs that are our of touch with the industry. Which leads me to WTF do we care, move off MS faster and build new app types. The faster than happens the better. Lock-in always leads to this. That's my plan moving forward, less MS and embrace the future faster.

Running a Windows Server® OS within a VM in a VDI scenario does not require Windows VDA, but there are many reasons why you should use a Windows client OS as your VDI desktop:

• The user experience with a server OS as the desktop is different from using a Windows client OS

• Many applications for end users were written for a client OS and not a server OS. Each of your applications would need to be retested to ensure compatibility with a server OS. Additionally, most vendors do not offer support for client applications running on servers.

• Clients and servers are on different patch cycles, adding to management complexity.

• Most of the VDI ecosystem will support the Windows client in the datacenter, not server operating systems.


The real change or update to that FAQ document is with the VDI Suites as also referenced in the April PUR.  MIcrosoft has removed the VDI Standard and Premium Suites and have now gone with a single, stripped down VDI Suite.

The new VDI Suite basically provides VMM rights for your VDI solution as well as RDS but restricted RDS rights...."does not include RDS use rights for session desktop or session application scenarios."

I don't understand why they offered the VDI Suite with this RDS restriction?  The common practice in either a Microsoft or Citrix VDI solution is to centrally host your apps on RDS/Xenapp and publish application sessions to your virtual desktops.  Or if you wanted to - a user on an iPad may choose to go directly to their RDS/Xenapp hosted virtual apps rather than a virtual desktop.  

But the VDI Suite doesn't offer that flexibility---and so that doesn't make sense as well as the part about partnering with Citrix and so forth.  I'd stick to the full RDS CALs to get the real flexibility needed rather than the Restricted RDS CAL offered in the new VDI Suite.  



So just to add to what Danny mentioned in the first post --- yes there were prior versions of this VDI/VDA FAQ document with the most previous version dated in March 2011.  

Everything with that doc and this newly released version looks just about the same as far as the VDA licensing piece but as I mentioned before, they changed the info about the VDI Suites in this updated April 2012 FAQ which also corresponds to the recent change reflected in the  April Product Use Rights document ---- VDI Standard & Premium Suites eliminated and going with just a single VDI Suite (with changes too with what's contained in the Suite).

I'm really confused by their strategy with the new VDI Suite?  There is a disconnect between the licensing team and what's going on in the VDI world.  The Microsoft RDS solution can provide flexible options in providing a Virtual Desktop or a RemoteApp....or your Virtual Desktops can include RemoteApps as well.  This is a common and even recommended practice.

The same goes for the Citrix solution in terms of Xendesktop/Xenapp.

So the previous FAQ in the VDI Suite section was fine to talk about the great partnership with Citrix and their Xendesktop VDI solution and Microsoft's VDI PREMIUM SUITE was a decent fit because it offered that full RDS CAL capabilities.  The Microsoft VDI Product Managers also made past presentations around this as well.  

So I'm quite confused now as to why they would offer only a VDI Suite now with these RDS Restrictions?  It makes this new VDI Suite practically useless in many or most cases of RDS or Citrix implementations when you want to include or integrate an Application Session solution as well.  

I'm perplexed with that VDI Suite restricted strategy rendering it practically useless in most cases.      


Do we have a definition for "within the corporate domain"?  Does that mean connected to the corporate LAN, or does it mean operating as a member of the domain?  I'm thinking that Microsoft's meaning is the latter.  I wouldn't personally define my corporate LAN to be my corporate domain.