How to license Microsoft Windows 7 for VMware View deployments

Licensing Windows 7 in a VMware View DeplomentI often get questions about Licensing Windows 7 in a VMware View deployment. I will try to elaborate what is needed in general and for specific scenarios. By understanding how they apply to common VMware View scenarios you can calculate and try to get the most out of existing and new licenses needed.

Every device you want to use to access the VMware View environment, with Windows 7 Desktops, needs to be licensed. It does not matter if it is a PC, a Thin or Zero client, an iPad or similar devices, every device accessing Windows 7 via VDI needs to be licensed.

You have two ways to license the environment, you can utilize the Software Assurance Windows Virtual Desktop Access Use Rights benefit at no additional cost; or you purchase Windows VDA subscription. Windows VDA is licensed per access device. There is currently no option to license Windows VDA per user.

VDA through SA or VDA subscription?

Certain devices, such as thin or zero clients, do not qualify for Software Assurance coverage for Windows. To license these devices for use with VDI you will need Windows VDA subscription. The rule of thumb is that if it isn’t a full blown Windows Desktop Operating System with Software Assurance (SA) you will need VDA subscription licenses to access the VMware View vDesktops.

Software Assurance

When you carry Software Assurance on Windows, you can use your licensed PCs to access your company’s virtual desktop environment at no additional licensing cost. The scenario that you have full blown PCs you are going to use to connect with the VMware View vDesktops is not very realistic, because you want to achieve cost reduction in desktop management when deploying VDI. That is why zero clients with a Terradici chip, like the Wyse P20, are very popular now-days.

Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) subscription

Certain devices, such as thin and zero clients, are not eligible for Software Assurance and therefore will not have Windows Virtual Desktop Access Rights. You can license such devices with a Windows VDA subscription license. This is a monthly fee per device, you will pay per year and have a contract for the next 3 years.

If you have devices which do you not have a full blown operating system with valid SA you will need a VDA subscription which is roughly $100,- per device per year. All devices not qualified under SA can be licensed with a VDA license. You will get software assurance benefits, roaming rights and can use third party devices for accessing the VMware View vDesktops with Windows 7 running.

Windows VDA delivers a number of benefits:

  • Access Windows 7, Windows Vista®, or Windows XP on VMware View virtual machines;
  • Unlimited movement between servers and storage;
  • Access corporate desktop images from non-corporate PCs;
  • The primary user of a Windows VDA device has extended roaming rights, so they can access their VMware View desktop while roaming outside of the corporate domain from any non-corporate device, such as a home PC or Internet kiosk;
  • Includes Software Assurance benefits, such as 24x7 call support, training vouchers, access to Enterprise versions of Windows, etc.
  • Single Windows VDA license allows concurrent access for up to four virtual machines;
  • Reassignment rights to another device after 90 days, or in the case of end-point failure;
  • Dynamic desktop licensing enabled through KMS/MAK activation;
  • Unlimited backups of both running and stored VMs;

Roaming Use Rights (RUR)

For accessing the VMware View vDesktops with Windows 7 you will need Roaming use rights. Because Software Assurance is included in the VDA license, roaming access to Windows virtual machines (VMs) from thin clients, third party, and non-Windows-based devices is allowed.

Since Windows VDA licenses include external roaming use rights for the primary users of company-licensed devices, no additional licenses are required for users to access VMware View vDesktops from their home (employee-owned) PCs.

90-day reassignment rights

Also with Windows 7 the 90-day reassignment rights are active, this means you have to assign the VDA license to a device. You have the right to reassign the license to another device after 90 days, or in case of endpoint failure you may reassign the license right away. This rule is important if you have different groups accessing the VMware View environment, see for examples the scenarios mentioned below.

Versions of Windows 7

Both Software Assurance (which includes virtual desktop access and roaming use rights) and Windows VDA (which enables virtual desktop access for non-Software Assurance and non-organization access devices) are available through all major Microsoft Volume Licensing programs including the Enterprise Agreement, Select Plus, and Open Value program.

You can use Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Enterprise for use in a VMware View deployment, because these are the two versions which can be covered under volume licensing.

If you have VDA subscription you are entitled to the Windows 7 Enterprise version as operating system in your VMware View deployment. Therefor most used Windows 7 deployments in VMware View are Windows 7 Enterprise.


With Volume Licensing for products such as Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, and Microsoft Office 2010, you must use a new type of product activation called Volume Activation (VA). To activate these operating systems with VA, you can use either a Multiple Activation Key (MAK) or Key Management Service (KMS), requiring a KMS key. When you buy a VDA subscription you will get one or multiple KMS keys for Windows 7 from Microsoft.


Scenario A) Thin Clients and sporadic home use

Your company has 500 Thin Clients for 800 users from whom 50 work regularly at home. The users access the VMware View environment with 380 concurrent usage.

What is needed?

  • You will need 500 VDA licenses because of the thin clients used to access the View environment. SA is included in the VDA subscription so the home workers do not need extra licensing and are covered on the Roaming Use Rights.


Scenario B) All external workers with a few office workers

Your company has a crew of 125 users who are mobile and sell products. These users will never be in the office and use all sort of devices to access the View infra. Further you have 25 office workers as support staff on Zero Clients accessing the View environment.

What is needed?

  • You will need 150 VDA subscription licenses.


Scenario C) Mixed hardware

Your company has 35 laptops with Windows 7 Enterprise with SA, 100 Thin Clients, 15 Zero Clients and 5 iPads which access 600 vDesktops on the View infra.

What is needed?

  • 35 laptops with SA are already covered with VDA so don’t need additional licenses;
  • 100 Thin Clients, 15 Zero Clients and 5 iPads need 120 VDA subscription licenses.


Scenario D) 100% Zero Clients

Your company has 1290 users which access the VMware View environment through 1100 Zero Clients and make up 960 concurrent sessions.

What is needed?

  • 1100 Zero clients mean 1100 VDA subscription licenses.


Scenario E) External contractors accessing the VMware View environment

Your company has 25 external contractors using their laptops/iPADs for a project in the first 3 months, then 10 external contractors will access the VMware View vDesktops for the rest of the year for another project.

What is needed?

  • Each contractor-owned PC requires a Windows VDA license. Because you may permanently reassign Windows VDA licenses after 90 days of ownership, you would only need 25 Windows VDA licenses for the external contractor-owned PCs.