VMware View and Microsoft OS licensing

This subject is very important for all View setups and designs, especially for the SMB. Which Microsoft OS packages are best for VMware View implementations?
The answer is, as always, it depends 🙂

First we have several ways of licensing desktops; OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), FPP (Full Packaged Product), Volume Licensing and SA (Software Assurance).

  • OEM: Pre-installed on hardware manufactured by authorized computer manufacturers. These licenses are non transferable and are not an option in VDI infrastructures.
  • FPP: Boxed software sold by resellers. Includes one license for retail machines. Not used with large-scale VDI deployments. Can be used as a single VM per server (not really an option), or buy a another FPP for each VM that will accessed on a device with a FPP (cheaper to get SA). Can not move VM’s between servers.
  • VL: Used by organization that need five or more licenses. Has the same limitations as FPP licenses. Can be used with VDA (Virtual Desktop Access) subscriptions.
  • SA: Upgrade from VL. Includes VDA rights.

Second we have the two licensing offerings that can be used in View environments.

  • Software Assurance Windows Virtual Desktop Access Use Right (SA).
    • Can not use this with Zero clients.
    • Only usable with licensed PCs.
    • Roaming rights – user can access their VM on corporate devices.


  • Windows Virtual Desktop Access subscription (VDA) using VL.
    • If using Zero Client you will need VDA.
    • Monthly fee – paid per year – contract for 3 years.
    • About 100$ p. year for each device
    • Access to Win 7, Vista and XP on View virtual machine
    • Single licence allows 4 concurrent access to 4 VM’s
    • Reassignment rights to another device after 90 days, or in case of a failure.
    • KMS or MAK activation.
    • Call support + other SA stuff (training and such)
    • Extended roaming rights – user can access their desktop on personal devices.
    • OS entitlement: Win 7 Enterprise, Win 7 Pro.
    • *Note; not available for Campuses or Schools.

So there you have two packages, but what about availability?

  • You can either buy VDA licences for their solution or upgrade their current licence agreement to include SA.
  • SA is available from any Microsoft representative.
  • VDA subscription is available as an additional product on most organizations agreements.

Examples of use:

Corporate use:

  • 100 Devices, but only 50 concurrent users = 100 VDA licences or part of SA
  • 50 thin clients, 50 devices= 50 VDA licences for thin clients (and 50 for the device if not under SA)
  • 100 Devices, accessing 150 VMs = Part of SA, or 100 VDA licensing.
  • So as you can see its, all about devices, and if you are using thin clients you need licences for each client.

Home use:

  • Occasional use: no additional licences if the user is the primary user of the device in work.
    • I’m not sure what occasional use is or what primary user means. But this is the one for employee owned tablets and PCs.
  • 100% home users: VDA licence for each device, even if its employee owned.

Contractor PC’s: VDA licence for each device within 6 months.

So there you have it:

  • Either you have SA or buy an additional VDA subscription for your organization agreements.
  • If you will be using Thin clients, you will need a VDA licence for each.
  • Licence amount depend on device count, and seemingly if the device has a “main” user.
  • Note: As Ian Forbes (thanks!) pointed out in the comments, is that you will need CALs (on the server side, AD etc)  for the VDI VMs just to connect to various Microsoft services. So make sure to include those licences as  well as a part of a design (if they aren’t a part of a higher level licencing, like SA or ELA agreements).

You can also read everything about Microsoft Desktop licensing here:

License Windows for Virtual Desktops

Microsoft: Licensing for Virtual environments


About larushjartar
VMware Specialist and IBM Technician.

13 Responses to VMware View and Microsoft OS licensing

  1. Pingback: VMware Horizon View 5.3 – Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter as a Desktop » Blog de Jorge de la Cruz

  2. forbsy says:

    Hi. I was told by Microsoft that VDI desktops also require Windows CALS (user or device) in addition to the VDA. Is this correct?

    • larushjartar says:

      Well yes, and no. If you are going for the Server 2008r2 version of a VDI desktop you will need to purchase some CALS. But if you are using Win7/Win8 you only need the VDA or and SA for each connected device. But you still need a VDA licence for other devices than PCs or Windows Tablets.
      See this excellent overview from MS: https://partner.microsoft.com/download/netherlands/40171205

      • forbsy says:

        Hi. Looks like this is one of the confusing aspects of Microsoft licensing :). It turns out that you do infact require a Windows CAL in addition to the VDA (or ELA +SA). According to the Microsoft verbage, A Client Access License legally permits client computers to connect to Microsoft server software. So, a VDI desktop joined to the domain needs a Windows Server CAL because the desktop is interacting with a Windows Server resource.
        The 2008r2 version of VDI is to get around the VDA issue. If you run a server as a desktop, you only have to purchase RDS CALS (in addition to Windows Server CALS).

      • larushjartar says:

        Good point.
        But wouldn’t you also be able to say that CAL be a part of the core infrastructure rather than the VDI solution itself?
        You have multiple Win7 machines, lets say 10. You buy the licences as a part of a Volume license, and 10 VDA licences as well.
        You will always need a AD, so a same amount of CALs are purchased for that part.
        But it’s really about where the cost of the CALs land. Are they are a direct part of a VDI implementation or just a normal “desktop” implemention as you would need them for physical Win7 as well.

  3. forbsy says:

    I’m designing a VDI solution for a company that doesn’t have any Microsoft ELA. We figured out that they’ll require VDA because they are using zero clients as end-points. So, the VDA entitles them to run a Windows OS as a virtual desktop. At this point they are still missing Windows CALS for those desktops, as they are to be joined to AD and also consume other server based resources. So, in their case we need to also grab the CALs. The key is to make sure that you are covered for Windows CALs – in addition to VDA’s

    • larushjartar says:

      That’s a good point. Thanks for the comment!
      I added a summary of your comments in the post.

    • Kenny Chan says:

      Yes that is true – you do need the Server CALs as well. Quite often in the VDI licensing discussion this isn’t always mentioned because it’s almost assumed that you’re using a Windows Server back-end infrastructure and therefore will need Server CALs for just about anything. You need a Server CAL just to access AD/Domain Services.

      Moreover, most organizations are already covered with Server CALs (Per Device or Per User) anyways. If you already have Per User Server CALs and now you’re giving that user a Thin Client with VDA – then of course you don’t need to buy a Server Device CAL.

      Other cases where new Server CALs might be needed if you already have them is if in a new VDI solution, you also plan to introduce newer Server OS versions. Say you’ve been on a Win Server 2003 R2 environment and thus have 2003 Server CALs but want to start using newer Win Server versions as part of your new VDI project — then of course, this will require new Server version CALs.

      • forbsy says:

        Hi Kenny. Good points, but it’s the Windows Desktop CALs (not Server CALs) that are required if the OS is a desktop OS – which for VDI it most likely is.

    • Kenny Chan says:

      Hi forbsy,

      No, Windows Desktop CALs are not needed and there are no such CALs these days. Long ago prior to the VDI world and VDA licensing, they have existed for remote access to Blade PCs in the datacenter on a 1:1 basis.

      You also mentioned joining to AD and consuming server-based resources and so I assumed you were referring to Windows Server CALs. Which actually is correct.

      With VDA rights and using Windows 7/8 as your virtual desktops hosted in your VDI farm — there is no need to additionally add Windows Desktop CALs, which really doesn’t exist anyways.

      • forbsy says:

        Ahhh, my mistake. I think when you referred to them as Windows Server CALs, it threw me off. I know them as simply Windows CALs…since as you mention there is no longer Windows Desktop CALs any longer.

      • Kenny Chan says:

        There are 2 major components to licensing VDI: 1) SA/VDA rights to cover the Windows virtual desktop OS licensing ….and….2) Licensing for the back-end VDI solution (Microsoft RDS VDI which requires RDS CALs or Citrix XenDesktop or VMware Horizon View)

        Any other licensing needed such a Win Server CALs, Exchange CALs, SharePoint CALs are not unique to VDI and are common for any Windows-Server based infrastructures.

        I’ve been involved in a lot of the VDI licensing conversations including sitting thru a live webinar with the Microsoft RDS Product Manager and have gone thru many other conversations with Microsoft about it too as I worked in the Microsoft practice for a company that was a major MS LAR.

  4. forbsy says:

    Thanks Kenny. I’ve also been involved in many VDI projects over the last couple years and understand the Microsoft licesning. Agreed it can be tricky. The only thing I forgot about was the Windows CALs, but that’s not unique to VDI. The VDA, ELA/SA stuff as it relates to VDI I get. Thanks for the feedback. Much appreciated.

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