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Microsoft VDI Suites Licensing

I just read the announcement that Microsoft put out about their new licensing model for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI):


If you’ve ever had to figure out Microsoft licensing for any type of business use, you’ll know how complex (and frustrating) it can be.  There’s plenty of good reasons why it’s so complicated.  With the VDI scenario, it makes licensing even harder since you’re not just talking end devices anymore (e.g. your laptop), but you’re also dealing with many virtual components (e.g. virtual applications deployed on a virtual desktop, deployed on a virtual server, deployed on a thin-client).

So based on the new announcement, when it comes to doing an all Microsoft VDI solution, what licensing components do you need to keep in mind?

  1. Microsoft Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Standard Suite (VDIS) – This is the “Platform” license.  It covers all of the licenses you need to run a complete Microsoft solution for VDI.  It spans Virtual OS (Hyper-V), Management (System Center + MDOP), and Server CAL (Remote Desktop).  (Premium Suite includes additional rights for Session Based Remote Desktop….Formerly named Terminal Services)
  2. Microsoft Windows Virtual Enterprise Centralized Desktop (VECD) – This is actual client OS license.  It’s covered per device (e.g. the thin-client that you connect from) and allows you to run up to 4 OS instances from that device (which can be spread across any number of servers). Even if your NOT using Microsoft for your Hypervisor and/or management (e.g. you’re using VMware or Citrix), you MUST still purchase this license.

So what does this mean from a cost perspective?  Both of the licenses above are priced on a per device (e.g. thin-client or “Legacy” PC) on a per year basis.

  1. VDIS Standard: $21.00 (US) per year
  2. VECD for SA: $23.00 (US) per year – This is if your device is a Windows Client OS that ALREADY has Software Assurance on it.
  3. VECD: $110 per year. – This is for a traditional Thin-Client.

So why does Microsoft do a VECD license in the first place?  If you look at the license of the Windows Client OS (like I’m sure we all do), you’ll notice that the license is perpetual.  So where you install it, it must stay there.  Not only that, I need an OS license for each OS Instance I use.  With VECD, I don’t have that same headache.  The IT department can deploy any number of combinations of Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 for specific role, tasks, training, or whatever.  It doesn’t need to track the total number of virtual OS instances for licensing as the OS license is being tracked by the number of end devices using a given image.  Now this doesn’t mean that an IT department will deploy thousands of images (what a headache) as there are better ways to use “golden” images and to dynamically deploy new Virtual Machines to a “Pool” of available clients (Future Post!!).  But this does free up the IT department to provide OS Instances and Applications on demand for customers because VECD covers them to do so!  Again, this is something that is a MUST for ALL VDI DEPLOYMENTS no matter what vendor you use for Virtual Desktop.

I think the license change from Microsoft will make it MUCH easier for customers to budget for Virtual Desktop using the Microsoft platform.

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