Microsoft Volume Licensing Mail Bag: Three Questions on Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) Licensing

A Microsoft Volume Licensing Expert Answers your Burning Questions on Using Microsoft Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) Licenses.

Thanks to a large response we received to the VDI licensing mail bag, Louise Ulrick, a UK-based licensing consultant and trainer, is following up on that post with a focus on VDA licensing—another useful way Microsoft customers can license virtual desktop scenarios. Louise’s experience spans three decades; she began running licensing training courses all the way back in 1995.  Today, Louise continues to love licensing and works all over the world on behalf of Microsoft.

Microsoft VDA licensing can extend the value of a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure by giving additional flexibility for users in terms of where they work and what device they choose to use to access their corporate desktops.  Businesses that want, for example, to provide corporate desktops to contractors, or those who are exploring bring-your-own-device (BYOD) scenarios can really benefit from choosing this licensing option.

Q: We want to sign an Enterprise Agreement (EA) with the Professional Desktop – so Windows, Office and the Core Client Access License (CAL) Suite – and we know that we’ll also need Remote Desktop Services (RDS) CALs, as we want to deploy virtual desktops in a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure within our offices.  If we look across our “PC” estate we have 150 desktop PCs, 600 laptops and a variety of 227 thin clients. We’re unsure of what to purchase for the thin clients, as we know that they wouldn’t be eligible for Windows licenses, yet we need to deliver Windows to those devices.

Louise: You’re quite right – a Windows license purchased through Volume Licensing is an upgrade license and there’s a need for a qualifying operating system to be installed on a device before you can buy a Windows upgrade license for that device.  As you mention, the thin clients won’t have this but they DO count as Qualified Devices in the EA, and they’ll need to be covered with a Windows license of some sort to allow a virtual desktop to be delivered to them.  The Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) subscription license is the answer!  These licenses can be assigned to any type of device and allow you to deliver Windows running in a VDI infrastructure.  They’re also suitable for purchasing through your EA because they count towards the enterprise commitment for Windows and you’ll simply need to make sure that your “PC” estate is completely covered with either the Windows Upgrade licenses or these VDA licenses.

Q: We have an existing Enterprise Agreement, through which we’ve licensed all corporate-owned devices with Windows, Office, the Enterprise CAL Suite, and RDS CALs, and we’ve been successfully deploying virtual desktops through a Microsoft Virtual Desktop Infrastructure.  However, our business situation has now changed in that we will be using a significant number of contractors who will be bringing their own devices into our offices and we’ll need to deliver virtual desktops to these machines too.  How do we license these contractor machines?

Louise: This is another situation where VDA subscription licenses are a great solution. If the contractors are bringing their machines into your offices and they’re accessing a virtual desktop then they do need to be counted as a Qualified Device within the EA.  As such, they’ll need to be covered with the Enterprise Platform as your other Qualified Devices are.  But again, the Windows component can be covered with a VDA license and, if needed, the licenses can be reassigned to a different device every 90 days if your contractors change.

Q: We have been running a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure for several years.  To license this, we took out an Enterprise Agreement with the Professional Desktop with User CALs for both the Core CAL Suite and RDS CALs that we purchased.  Our users have been accessing their virtual desktops at home through the Roaming Use Rights that we’re entitled to as an SA benefit.  However, we now want to implement a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy whereby users can bring in personally-owned devices to the office and access their corporate virtual desktops from those devices.  How should we license this scenario?

Louise: For the past few years, the recommended way to license this scenario would have been to purchase a VDA license for each personally-owned device that a user wanted to bring to the office to access a virtual desktop.  Actually, this is still an option, but with the launch of Windows 8 a new license was introduced specifically for this scenario - the Windows Companion Subscription License (CSL).  This license is purchased for the existing Qualified Devices in your organization – so those already licensed with Windows and SA – and gives additional rights to the primary user of the licensed device.  These additional rights allow that user to bring up to 4 different personally-owned devices into the office and to use any of those devices to access his corporate desktop.  There are some great benefits to this new license – you can see it’s flexible and easy to manage,
and because it’s actually cheaper than a single VDA license, it’s a cost-effective option too. 

Now, be aware that the CSL covers the Windows part of the desktop licensing requirements but you still need to make sure that the personal devices are covered with the relevant CALs and an Office license.  You did mention that you’ve elected to cover your users with User CALs - this was a great decision as it means that there are no additional requirements for the personally-owned devices from a CAL perspective as you launch this new initiative. As far as the Office licenses are concerned, it might be worth considering Office 365 User Subscription Licenses (USLs) for your users since a single Office 365 USL would cover them for their existing corporate-owned device AND the 4 personally-owned devices that they may choose to bring to the office, rather than having to buy individual Office licenses for each device.

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Have a follow-up question on VDA licensing? Write us a note in the comments below or visit the Microsoft virtualization licensing page. Need additional assistance? Visit the Contact Us page for additional support or check out the TechNet Forums for more insight.

Feedback welcome: This is our fourth edition of the “mailbag” feature and we would love your input. Do you have suggestions to make this more useful for you? Perhaps you have a question you would like to see in a future mailbag? Feel free to provide them in the comments section.

Editor’s Note: Remember, always check with your account representative or partner on any terms, restrictions or other unique cases that may apply within VDA licensing or any other aspects of Microsoft licensing. The answers and examples provided above make assumptions that may not apply to your unique situation and are primarily designed to serve as a guide.

Comments (21)

  1. KensterVibe says:

    Louise & Microsoft — some questions/suggestions that the VARs/LARs/Customers/VDI Industry is asking:

    1.  The CSL (Companion Subscription License) has been discussed in general as a great way to cover BYOD scenarios and to help bridge the licensing gap of SA/VDA licensing for those who wanted to bring personal devices to work to access VDI or in cases where a company issued iPads (non x86 devices) to employees.

    But what's left out in a lot of the discussion is that CSL is not offered in Open/Open Value licensing?!?!  Why did Microsoft do this?  Organizations of all sizes from small to large are implementing BYOD or issuing companion tablets such as iPads and so why can't an SMB company ripe for VDI attain CSL licensing?  

    It doesn't make sense why this is only offered in larger agreement types especially since a lot of VDI projects are starting out only for a portion of an organization and so is on a smaller scale rather than company-wide.  

    2.   What are some ways Microsoft can help make transitioning between SA and VDA easier?  If I have 150 devices in an Open or Open Value agreement covered with SA for VDI access but wish to carve out some usage of Thin/Zero Clients as time moves on — I would be out of compliance by using the Thin/Zero Clients because they can't be covered with SA but with VDA licenses.  But I have seen many customers wanting to make this transition fluidly but the licensing isn't anything but fluid to make that transition.  

    What can you do to help make this easier when the real-world usage of Client Virtualization is evolving faster than your licensing models?

  2. KensterVibe says:

    3.   Why can't Microsoft create a more expensive VDA license version to license a Windows Client VM rather than per device?  You would get more money out of me from a single VDA subscription over 3 years than you would if I bought 3 machines with Windows OEM licenses.  This would also help to alleviate the question of what device are you using and where are you using it?  It doesn't matter because you are licensing the Windows Client VM and it would alleviate a lot of licensing headaches and aggravation.  

    Otherwise you can also offer it as a PER NAMED USER licensing model.  Your biggest VDI partner, Citrix already offers PER USER Licensing for their XenDesktop VDI solutions.  VMware offers it too for their new Horizon Suite licensing model.  

    Create a PER NAMED USER VDA licensing model and you will have the industry cheering and avoiding this complication not seen before as to having SA for Windows devices and VDA for Thin/Zero clients and becomes a draconian pain in the rear-end as organizations will need to fluidly make these device shifts as they see fit.  

    I don't see how Microsoft would lose out on licensing as this is a higher-priced subscription option than SA renewals and it would make VDI adoption 1-step easier and MS would capture more licensing revenue because of the higher-priced subscription model even thought it would be Per User rather than Per Device.


    These are the more delicate topics I'd like to hear some thoughts on and questions/suggestions to pass on to the upper echelon of the MS Licensing decision makers.  

  3. Anonymous says:

    I have a customer in need to renew its current OV Companywide.
    In the current contract they have standardized all 110 qualified users with
    • Windows Enterprise 8.1
    • Office Pro Plus
    • Enterprise CAL
    So they did apply the Platform Discount.
    In the last weeks they have changed most of their PCs to thin clients (100).
    Then now they should buy VDA licenses for those 100 thin clients and just 10 “WinEnt for SA” for the remaining PCs.
    • Is it correct that they will lose the Platform Discount?
    o If so, do you confirm they keep on applying to a OV Companywide agreement?
    Which of the two cases below apply?
    Case 1.
    110 SA Renewals for both Office Pro Plus and Enterprise CALs (Enterprise Products, not Platform)
    100 VDA subscriptions (Additional Product)
    10 SA Renewal for Windows Enterprise for SA (Additional Product)

    Case 2.
    110 SA Renewals for both Office Pro Plus and Enterprise CALs (Platform Products)
    10 SA Renewal for Windows Enterprise for SA (Platform Product)
    100 VDA subscriptions (Additional Product)

  4. UnicornTuesday says:

    In the example above, where there is an EA with the Professional Desktop (Windows, Office, and the Core CAL), since the thin clients do count as a “qualified device”, would the thin clients be licensed with the Professional Desktop license bundle + the VDA license or would the VDA license replace the Windows license in the bundle?

  5. Christian says:

    Would be great if Microsoft finally would answer the questions of the users KensterVibe and UnicornTuesday.

    I am interested in the answer on the second point of KensterVibe as more and more customers are asking for this transition form Fat-Clients to Zero-Clients.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Hungry for more information from Microsoft on Software Assurance , licensing for virtual environments , Software Asset Management , or Volume Licensing updates? We’ve rounded up 2013’s five most viewed Microsoft Volume Licensing blog posts

  7. p207 says:

    It is great that this blog encourages people to wrote comments, but actually the hardly reply to them.. I would be grateful to hear an answer to UnicornTuesday’s question

  8. Mark says:

    Microsoft’s license models are starting to become the demise of the company. The cost and complexity of MS licensing is starting to out weigh the risk posed by open source operating systems.

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