NEW Easy ways to License Microsoft Windows and Office for VMware Horizon View Virtual desktops (VDI)

An extremely complicated concept to understand is Microsoft Licensing in general.  If you’re trying to properly license virtual desktops running Windows, your level of complication just multiplied.

Late 2014 also included MANY updates to the licensing options for VDI that I’ll discuss below.

Disclaimer:  I am not a Microsoft Licensing expert by any means.  I spent many many hours consulting hundreds of websites and several Microsoft Licensing experts at DevSoft Solutions and SoftwareONE.  My advice or interpretation of Microsoft’s Licensing Agreements is not guaranteed to be accurate in any way.  I suggest you always reach out to an expert and conduct regular Software Asset Management to ensure you are in compliance with agreements of the software that you are using.


Typical companies have volume licensing contracts with Microsoft dating back many years.  You bought it once, then you’re in the software assurance cycle for ever.  This generally applies to Microsoft Windows, Server, SQL, Sharepoint, Exchange, etc.  Many companies choose to not buy SA on Office, but simply repurchase every 5-6 years.  (Come on… you can’t tell me that every version of Office has significant feature changes…).

Volume Licensing (VL) programs are based on either a user or a device, depending on the software of course.  You’ve also probably heard of VDA licenses.  VDA means “virtual desktop access.”

Beginning on December 1, 2014, Microsoft started offering Software Assurance per user and VDA per user.  These options are basically awesome.  I’ll explain why below.


Scenario #1 — Accessing VDI VMs from “thick clients” (PCs or Laptops)

Let’s say you (or your users) access virtual desktops from [a single] Laptop or PC.  If your organization VL these thick devices with Windows (with SA) and Office, has Windows and Office installed on these thick devices, then you are able to access VMs with the same software installed (you must follow the Office/Windows version/edition rules).

Why?  VL Windows (with SA) and Office is licensed PER DEVICE and you are using a single Laptop or PC.    If a second user wanted to access the same VMs from their laptop or PC (a different device than person one), then that second person would need a VL of Windows (with SA) and Office on their device.  The key:  the device is licensed.

You can use KMS activation for these VMs if you meet the minimum thresholds.

Where you can easily go wrong:  Let’s say you use a PC at work to access a VM.  You then go home and use your personal PC to remote access your Horizon View environment.  You are NOT in the realms of the licensing agreement and are improperly using the Windows and Office installed on the VMs. 


Scenario #2 — Accessing VDI VMs from “zero clients” (PCs or Laptops) – one to one

Take scenario one and replace “a single PC or Laptop” with a zero client (no windows OS).  If you maintain this “one to one” relationship between a device and a VM, then you are able to license Windows (with SA) and Office in the same way using Volume Licensing.  You’re technically licensing one device (the zero client) and you have to assign each license to each device.  You’re creating a one to one relationship – one license to one device.  You can’t just float licenses.

Where you can easily go wrong:  You have 50 zero clients, 40 staff, and 40 VL licenses for Windows (with SA) and Office.  In this scenario, you cannot use 10 of your zero clients — ever. Period.  You’d need 10 more sets of VL Licenses.


Scenario #3 — Accessing VDI VMs from “zero clients” – floating users, many to many

Throw out everything you’re assuming and let’s start from scratch.  If you run a non-persistent, floating desktop environment, none of the above options make any sense for you.  I know this because they didn’t for me and my 375-agent call center (by the way, only 75 of my agents use Office).

The best way to do this is now possible:  375 licenses of VDA per-user.  75 licenses of Office365 Professional Plus.



Decisions, decisions

If you’re even more confused than when you started reading this post, then join the club.

Edwin over at has a great decision tree on his post from November 2014 called “Which License is the right option?”

I couldn’t have said this any better myself, so please check it out and decide what’s best for you and your organization.  Stay compliant, people!



Page 19 in particular –


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One Response to NEW Easy ways to License Microsoft Windows and Office for VMware Horizon View Virtual desktops (VDI)

  1. Jean-Charles DEMARQUE June 29, 2015 at 11:43 am #


    There is a another solution if you use VMware Horizon View with Windows 2012 R2 or Windows 2008 R2 machines as desktops :
    You can licence per physical CPUs Windows Server Datacenter licences, and voila!

    For example if you have two bi-cpu hosts, you buy 2 Windows Server Datacenter Edition (2 CPU licence) and you have all your “windows server Desktop” covered.

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