With last week's VECD licensing change, is Windows 7 now the cheapest client?

The VECD licensing changes Microsoft recently announced made me wonder: is a Windows-based client with SA cheaper than a non-Windows non-SA client in a VDI scenario?

The VECD licensing changes Microsoft recently announced made me wonder: is a Windows-based client with SA cheaper than a non-Windows non-SA client in a VDI scenario? (Since VECD is mandatory, the math becomes interesting.) This is something I've discussed  before, but these fresh license changes have an interesting consequence: if you need a VDI solution with an optimal desktop experience, a Windows 7 PC is now easily the cheapest solution.

VECD licensing changes

In case you missed it, Microsoft radically changed their VECD licensing scheme last week. First, when a client device (PC) has SA on the desktop (~$50 per year), the VECD license is now included at no extra charge. Second, the VECD license for non-SA client devices has been renamed to VDA, and has a 10% lower annual list price ($100 per year).

Luckily--and this was a real show stopper before--Microsoft now allows users to work from devices other than their primary client device (like a home PC or kiosk) without a need to purchase additional VECD/VDA licenses. Although this is a very welcome change in VDI licensing, it's not important to our discussion today.

Time for some math

Let’s calculate a VDI scenario with the following assumptions:

Assumption #1. There's a need to have full PCoIP, HDX, or RemoteFX capabilities. For instance, this is driven by multimedia, Flash, or VoIP requirements. Ultimately the VDI solution must give users a mature and future proof-desktop experience.

Assumption #2. The VDI solution (including clients) is built to last five years.

To get the most out of HDX you need to run real Windows (not CE) on the client. This may be Windows Embedded or native Windows 7. To fully support VMware View PCoIP, you need either a Windows client or a native PCoIP device.

So how much would this cost for the device? After a quick glance around the Internet I found these cheapest clients which can fully support PCoIP, HDX, and RemoteFX:





List Price

VECD license

HP t5740

WES 2009


3 yrs limited

$ 429


Wyse P20



3 yrs limited

$ 499


Dell Optiplex 160

Win 7 Pro


3 yrs NBD

$ 488


Let’s do some calculations:

HP t5740 plus 5 years VDA license: $429 + (5 * $100) = $925

Wyse P20 plus 5 years VDA license: $499 + (5 *$100) = $999

Dell Optiplex 160 plus 5 years SA license: 488 + (5 * $50) = $749

You could argue the license costs of the management platform for Windows 7 are missing. However, the Microsoft Core CAL (which is typical for most organizations since it's cheaper than separate Windows Server and Exchange CALs) also comes with a MS System Center Configuration Manager license which you can use for the management of a Windows 7 client.

Thinking VDI? Use a Windows 7 PC!

Here's the deal: no matter what VDI platform, the Windows 7 Professional PC option with SA is the cheapest solution when you have full rich functionality requirements (which is not a bad idea if you want a future proof desktop solution). Until there's a ultra-cheap (probably Linux-based) thin client solution out there that can 100% support PCoIP, HDX, or RemoteFX, Windows seems like a cost effective solution for client devices in a VDI world. The weird thing is it's likely that super cheap RemoteFX Linux / WinCE clients will emerge pretty soon, but then you're stuck to VDA.

It makes you think, doesn’t it? Seems like Microsoft wants you to stick to using Windows as a client OS. (Or to at least consider it...) 

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You already hinted at it in your article, but the "cost of a PC" is not only limited to the hardware & license expense that you are taking into account.

In all three situations, you need some method of managing the virtual windows 7 desktop, varying on the chosen broker/golden image method. We'll leave that out of the equation for a moment.

The benefit of a thin client over the fat client SHOULD BE that they are easier to manage and have a longer/more durable lifetime - otherwise there is no point in going thin client.  These management costs for a desktop PC/thin client have been well studied by companies like IDC and Gartner and they indicate that management costs make up 66% to 75% of a total cost of a PC in a three-year lifespan.

Regardless of what the exact numbers are, it seems to me that a discussion about a good VDI platform should not be about the investment in licenses and hardware, but rather about the ease of management of the endpoints that are still "out there". This is not included in your article at all, so I wonder what your thoughts are about that?

Nevertheless, goal achieved: you did make me think about it :).


Interesting numbers and will probably make people think.

However, with regards to management costs for a Win7 PC vs a thin client.  I'm not sure they would be such a big deal, if you do it correctly.  I'm talking about locking down the Win7 PC. Not allowing users to do anything except connect to a virtual desktop. You essentially need to turn the Win7 PC into a thin client, which can be done.  

As for thin client not requiring management... they do. Most have their own management tools to keep them current.  

One final note... What would your numbers look like if you were doing Win XP for your PC (reuse old hardware) instead of Win 7?


Unfortunately, many businesses are looking primarily at the capital costs associated with Virtual Desktops when deciding ROI.  For some companies, reducing head count is not an option and improving speed to delivery is intangible.  It is much easier (though short sited) to look at hardware and licensing costs to determine if virtual desktops will cost more or less than a traditional model.

 The change to VECD licensing means that these businesses are much closer to providing virtual desktops as an option.  If all my users already own a VECD license, then it is simply a matter of licensing the broker.  As we head towards the world of Type 1 hypervisors and offline virtual desktops, I see this licensing change having a positive impact on the saleability of virtual desktops.


To ease management of the Dell FX160 running full Windows 7 you could use Desktop OS Streaming (Citrix Provisioning Server) to provide and manage the endpoint OS.

Since the devices have SA, you are allowed to stream its base OS and then access the 'real' desktop as a virtual machine remotely. This allows the device to be diskless, and to have a single OS image servicing all of your 'thin' clients. Management is eased because they are stateless, and updates can be done to the single OS image on the provisioning server and all clients are updated.


I still have a cheaper solution.

let the company install the vdi solution and give every employee 210$ budget to buy his own sunray.

Then there is no SA and no VDA necessary.

bring your own pc is the cheapest solution as there are no license costs involved.


How can I take you seriously when you are missing so many key ROI points. I can give you one point that makes your article a joke and shows your capability as an engineer or the ability to make major decisions for a company… Where is your power consumption analysis over those 3 years?

When we are talking about a real deployment of 500 PC or greater that is a huge chunk of capital that changes the entire game. Not including all of the other savings for TCO.


@Controvirtual: if the sun thinkclient is connecting to a virtual windows desktop: you need VDA.

@Rome72: the windows 7 option uses the same hardware as the other thinclient (it's intel Atom platform)


Jeroen, you are correct. But you also give the idea that you did not read the VDA license agreement.

If the thinclient  is not belonging to the compnay there is no license necessary because the company can not be responsible for knowing what every device should be.

And as such i'm correct. Long story but just read the agreement very carefully and then recreate the document again.



We have run the model you offer in a POC on site.

These were are metered power usage rates:

Optiplex 160 with 80 GB SATA no wireless

avg: 27.2 W without metered monitor.

(This is a bit less with SSD drive.)

Wyse P20

8.1 W without metered monitor

(11.2 when calculated with Datacenter hardware consumption of VDI solution inculding HVAC) This was devided by our consolidation ratio)

PS. this POC is still running and we are utilizing several vendors.

I'am not trying to bash you in any way but I think there needs to be more effort made before post like this are allowed. But than again this is the Internet.

Note: A lot of groups are thinking about using the the optiplex with a thin terminal solution to get the advantage of VECD being inculded in SA.. Your option is vary much valid as compines fight the came of operating cost against capital cost.


How about the best of both worlds?

Buy a thin client, and a Windows 7 OS with SA for it. If you really wanted to RUN that OS on the client you could always use OS Streaming.

I really with MS would call this out explicitly as an option.

Rich Brumpton



Let me get this straight...

Because the company doesn't 'OWN' the sunrays, they aren't repsposible and therefore don't have to license Windows for them when employess bring them onto the company network and connect them to the backend Windows infrastructure that was setup?

Good luck with that...

Go ahead and do that and then invite the BSA in and see if they agree, I think you will find a whopping fine coming your way.



I don't get your bashing of Joeron's post - little too excessive.

I fully understand the point he was making.

Using a Dell thin client that can be purchased with a full OEM Windows 7 license and combined with SA in the first 90 days, does allow it to save significant money on VDA licenses. It is still a low power device as you've shown. Although 27W is higher than the 11W from a 'traditional' thin client, I doubt the 15W will add up to more than $50/year.

Plus it's the hard drive that makes the big difference, so if you do what I suggested in my earlier post, you can remove the hard drive, and stream the OS, now you can save that 15W.

Don't nitpick on minor details and say his whole idea was wrong, I knew the point he was making and so did everyone else. I like his idea, it just might be a viable option with some tweaks.

Do I get to discredit your post due to bad grammar and typos? 'But then again, It is the Internet"


I forgot!!!

Removal of the HD is only a savings of 3.5W as that is the max draw of the unit as configured in the 160



I have to agree with shawneve's post. And please correct me if I am wrong. For VECD roaming to be free “Outside the company” you need to have a valid VECD or windows 7 with SA license on the user’s primary workstation / device inside the company.

If the user has no primary workstation in the company the connection of that user via VDI session must be licensed by VECD.

Note: any device plugged into the network that is not owned by the company must be properly licensed for its intended use. A client or contractor could purchase the license but it is the residents company’s responsibility to provide proof of that license at the time of audit.