What Licenses are Needed for Server 2019 VDI Hosting Windows 10 VMs?

PJV 6 Reputation points

We have a customer who wants to switch from session-based RDS running on a Server 2019 VM to a VDI deployment (Windows Server 2019 Remote Desktop Virtualization Host role), where users would connect to "personal" Windows 10 VMs. We'd remove the session-based implementation and replace with VDI.

Users are all off-site, using their own personal devices (not company owned). There are no thin clients. Users will continue to connect to their existing FortiNet VPN and from there, RDP to their own Windows 10 VM hosted on the server.

Customer already has necessary Server 2019 User and RDS CALs from prior session-based implementation.

We've referenced the April 2020 licensing brief "Licensing Windows desktop operating system for use with virtual machines." On Page 7, our intended scenario is the first one listed. From that, I am assuming that since we cannot ascertain whether a remote user's personal device (the device they connect from) has Software Assurance, and is unlikely to have a VDA subscription, the users will need either an E3 or VDA subscription, but not both.

Some licensing vendors have suggested that both VDA and E3 subscriptions are necessary ...but, the Microsoft brief seems to indicate it's either/or and not both. So, we are unsure what's proper.

Are any licenses required for the Windows 10 VMs themselves (the OS)?

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  1. Jenny Yan-MSFT 9,316 Reputation points

    As for CAL used in VDI, you could check below FAQ to understand better.

    Licensing the Windows Desktop for VDI Environments

    Besides, quoted explanation from Dashrender "To use VDI (Virtual Desktop Interface) you need and OS license (either a workstation license with Software Assurance or VDA or Intune [combined with a desktop OS license]) and a connection method license, such as RDS or VMWare View or XenDesktop." in a similar discussion.
    Please note: Information posted in the given link is hosted by a third party. Microsoft does not guarantee the accuracy and effectiveness of information.

    Last but not least, you could reach VLSC support for a call and consult the questions of CAL.
    VLSC contact:

    Hope this helps and please help to accept as Answer if the response is useful.


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  2. PJV 6 Reputation points

    The problem with referencing a Microsoft document from 2012 is that it makes no mention of InTune or Microsoft E3 subscriptions. So, that document sheds no light on my questions or options, since those offerings either weren't around or in very early adoption stages when that document was written. I know of no user, personally, that has ever purchased or even been offered SA when buying a personal computer for home use ...so, SA is also worthless to my implementation, where none of the remote users will be using company-owned or distributed devices to connect to the hosted VMs.

    Thus, I will ask again:

    Does a Microsoft E3 license subscription assigned to users, giving them Windows 10 Enterprise license activation rights, include the necessary licensing for the VM OS to activate properly without having to purchase a separate Windows 10 Pro license?

    Does the same E3 license cover the user for accessing the Win10 VM hosted on a Windows 2019 server without having to add a VDA subscription? If not, what is the applicable product code for the VDA license? We're seeing multiple flavors of VDA including some that reference E3, which seems redundant, if we already assign an E3 license to the user.

    Is a Win 10 Enterprise license required for the VMs?

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  3. Jenny Yan-MSFT 9,316 Reputation points


    Do not use Retail, OEM or the Windows 10 Pro Volume License Upgrade to license the access of a Windows 10 VM or instance (i.e. VDI). The OEM/Retail/Volume License Upgrades do not permit remote use rights from a shared device (AKA server). Remember, only the single primary user of a Windows licensed device may remotely access said device.

    Do license your users or their primary work device for the Windows 10 Enterprise E3/E5 OR Windows Virtual Desktop Access (VDA). License virtualization use rights either per-device or per-user license to allow remote access of a Windows 10 in a VM remotely from a server.

    Quoted from blog of Chris, in which discussed the changes of licensing model for windows 10 VDI.
    Please note: Information posted in the given link is hosted by a third party. Microsoft does not guarantee the accuracy and effectiveness of information.

    Hope this helps and please help to accept as Answer if the response is useful.


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  4. PJV 6 Reputation points

    Thanks. That is more helpful.

    Based on the post referenced, Chris writes:

    The Windows 10 Cloud Agreement per-user virtualization licensing options are:

    1. Windows 10 Enterprise E3 or E5 - with VDI rights; OR
    2. Microsoft 365 Enterprise E3 or E5 per user; OR
    3. Windows VDA E3 per user

    To cover all possible BYOD scenarios with one license subscription, it seems like option 3 is correct. But, I don't understand why that subscription is not offered through the customer's Office 365 portal, when the first two options are.

    Would this license equate with option 3?

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  5. Deron Braun 81 Reputation points

    In order to license for a VDI environment where the users will be using their personal systems you will need to license using Virtual Desktop Access E3 Per User licenses. These are available through either Cloud Service Provider (CSP) or Microsoft Products and Services Agreement (MPSA). CSP offers the ability to pay a month at a time. MPSA is purchased annually or every three years. You do not need multiple SKUs to accomplish this. However, you may want to consider using Microsoft Intune to be able to manage the virtual desktops. Intune will allow you to guarantee that the systems your users are using are properly patched and protected as well as it includes Endpoint Configuration Manager Client Management Licenses (Previously SCCM). This allows for image creation and updates.


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