Windows 7: VECD licensing

As virtualization grows in prominence, so, too, have the Microsoft licensing structures to support virtual environments.

Jorge Orchilles

Adapted from “Microsoft Windows 7 Administrator’s Reference” (Syngress, an imprint of Elsevier)

The Virtual Enterprise Centralized Desktop (VECD) license can seem confusing, but it’s simply the Windows 7 license that manages the virtualization process. Prior to the availability of virtualization, a user would only access one desktop at a time on a single, specific device. When you installed a new desktop device, you would typically require a new Windows license. If you relocated an existing license, the previous desktop was taken out of service.

With virtualization technology in the picture, this is not the typical use case anymore. VECD licensing lets you run a copy of Windows 7 in a datacenter that may provision multiple desktops across several servers in production and for disaster recovery.

A VECD license allows for the following:

  • The ability to run a copy of Windows in a datacenter: This is required for dynamic provisioning and creating Windows 7 deployment images.
  • Rights to move virtual machines (VMs) between servers for increased reliability: With load balancing and disaster recovery, even a virtual desktop may run on several servers in a datacenter or even across multiple datacenters. You would normally need to license each instance of Windows 7, but with the VECD, you only have to license the active instance.
  • Unlimited VM backup: This is especially important for distributed disaster recovery sites. Many companies will back up desktops to multiple disaster recovery sites for rapid recovery if any one location becomes unavailable. This is different from the normal backup to tape or even removable disks. It’s not uncommon for servers to maintain a continuous data-protection model, but more frequently desktops now fit the category of a critical system.
  • Ability to access up to four running VM instances per device: Traditionally, every user needed their own license for a desktop. The VECD will allow the same desktop device to access up to four running VMs. You could create a complete datacenter on just your desktop. You may need to license the other three OSes, but not the connections.
  • Rights to access corporate desktops from home for a user already licensed at work: If a user normally accesses a VM running Windows 7 at work, they can access the same virtual desktop from home without requiring an additional license.
  • Availability to volume licensing keys, such as Key Management Service (KMS) and Multiple Activation Keys (MAKs): This feature lets your organization use the KMS system in Windows Server 2008 to activate and authorize Windows 7 desktops locally, without the need to connect to the Internet or contact Microsoft individually.

The key to the VECD license is the desktops must be covered under Microsoft Software Assurance (SA). This is required to even purchase the VECD license. This can save a great deal on the cost of upgrading and supporting the Windows 7 environment. Consider, for example, the following scenario: You have 100 laptops and desktops in your organization. You also have 100 thin clients.

If the laptops didn’t have SA, you would need 200 VECD licenses (for the 100 thin clients and 100 laptops). If the laptops do have SA, you would need 100 VECD licenses (for the 100 laptops).

You would need to maintain SA on each of the laptops. For more on the ins and outs of the licensing structure, download the latest version of the Software Assurance Desktop Virtualization brochure or contact your Microsoft licensing specialist.

As you can see from this simple example, you can save a significant amount on your licensing costs if you decide to leverage virtualization throughout your organization. Although it’s a bit tricky at first to determine the exact licensing procedure, it’s worth spending a few minutes discussing the benefits and requirements with your licensing provider.

Jorge Orchilles

Jorge Orchilles* began his networking career as a network administrator for the small private school he attended. He’s currently a security operating center analyst, and recently completed his Master of Science degree in management information systems at Florida International University.

©2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Printed with permission from Syngress, an imprint of Elsevier. Copyright 2011. “Microsoft Windows 7 Administrator’s Reference” by Jorge Orchilles. For more information on this title and other similar books, please visit*