Windows 8 VDA Licensing For VDI

I won’t be answering any questions on this post.  If you have any questions then ask your reseller, LAR, or distributor (if you are a reseller) – that’s what you pay them for.  The other important note that this post is correct (or as correct as I can verify) based on how things are at this time (written on 14/Nov/2012).
Microsoft has made some great improvements with licensing.  Windows Server licensing is simple, and virtualisation has been simplified no end – those of you who disagree with the latter really need to stop overthinking things because it is simple.  Windows 8 started out great too; a nice small set of SKUs.  But then they started figuring out licensing for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and Windows To Go … and this stuff is a mess.  Start reading and you’ll soon see why I’m redirecting everyone to bring their their unique scenarios and questions to their reseller/LAR/distributor.  I just don’t have the time.
One thing that didn’t change was the need for VDA (Virtual Desktop Access) in some form.  You cannot just buy a copy of Windows XP/Vista/7/8, install it in a VM, and let people have at it.  You need to license your VDI client devices with VDA (in some form), and that’s what has changed.
There are a number of scenarios, depending on the client device:
Windows PCs
There are two ways to license this:
  1. You attach Software Assurance (SA) to company PCs using Windows 8 Pro. This gives you Windows 8 Enterprise and the many benefits of Software Assurance.  This includes VDA.
  2. You do not attach SA to your PCs.  This might be because you don’t want to buy SA, or because the client PCs are the users’ home PCs.  In this case, you have to buy VDA for each VDI client device.
Company Owned Windows RT Tablets As Companion Devices
This is where:
  • The user uses a PC with SA as their primary device AND
  • The company supplies the user with a Windows RT device as their companion device that will be used as a VDI client.
There is a new SA benefit called Windows RT Companion VDA Rights.  With this right, the VDA granted to the primary PC that has SA is also extended to the Windows RT device.
Let me be very clear on this:
  • The VDA right does not extend to BYOD or employee-owned Windows RT devices.  It only extends to company owned Windows RT devices.
  • The VDA right does not extend to any other kind of company owned tablet, including iPad, Android, or Windows 8 (home or Pro).
Yes, I know; your company is more likely to purchase Windows 8 Pro tablets, which do not get this right, and BYOD is a hot topic, and employee owned devices (even Windows RT) also do not get this right.
Employee Owned Devices Outside The Company Firewall
This is where an employee will access the VDI VMs from personally owned devices outside of the company firewall, i.e. from the Internet, and not from inside the office.  There are two options:
  1. If you have SA for the user’s primary device (company owned PC + Windows 8 Pro), then you get a right called Roaming Use Rights at no extra cost.  To quote Microsoft: “Roaming Use Rights allow the primary user any licensed device to access a virtual instance of Windows running in the datacenter (VDI) or Windows To Go from non-corporate devices such as personally-owned or hotel business center PCs while away from the office”
  2. Without SA on a primary device, then you have no choice but to buy VDA for the employee owned devices.
Employee Owned Devices Inside The Company Firewall (BYOD To Work)
This is when an employee brings their own device to work (inside the company firewall) to access VDI.  Once again, there are two options:
  1. If you have purchased your licensing through Select, Enterprise Agreement, Enrollment For Education Solutions, or School Enrollment AND you have purchased SA for the user’s primary device (company owned PC + Windows 8 Pro), then you can purchase a Windows Companion Subscription License (CSL).  This entitles the user to bring up to 4 of their devices to work, and use them as VDI clients.  Note that an SA customer doesn’t need CSL if the devices are being used only from outside of work (the company firewall).
  2. Sorry: if you are licensed via OEM, Open, OV, or OVS, then it appears that you must not want to do BYOD.  You’ll have no choice but to buy VDA for each employee owned device being brought to work for use as a VDI client.
Everything Else
Off the top of my head, this appears to be company owned devices such as Windows 8 Pro tablets, company owned iPads or Android, company owned phones, etc, and company owned Windows RT devices where the primary device doesn’t have SA.  In this case, you need to buy VDA for each client device.
I know; it’s a mess.  What if BYOD devices are allowed in the office but must be outside the firewall?  I don’t know that one yet.  Why are company owned Windows 8 Pro tablets lesser citizens than Windows RT?  I’m guessing that MSFT must think that a Windows 8 Pro tablet would only ever be a primary device, and that’s a big generalised assumption.  You can find the information here.
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