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How Microsoft's Expansion Of Enterprise Licensing Terms Benefits Businesses

How Microsoft's Expansion Of Enterprise Licensing Terms Benefits Businesses

by Peter WendtJuly 25, 2013

On July 1, Microsoft quietly rolled out new and expanded terms for its enterprise licensing program. Companies using the Windows Azure operating system to host desktop environments will now be able to obtain Subscriber Access Licenses through Microsoft’s Service Provider Licensing Agreement. The downside is that companies now must license their virtualized desktops as service providers. The upside is significantly expanded license mobility and cloud computing availability.


The new licensing allows companies to access more than two simultaneous Remote Desktop Services (RDS) sessions at a time. There will be no change in existing licensing requirements that come with Windows Azure for individuals and small businesses accessing a single RDS session. The multi-session licensing makes it easier for cloud computing resellers to provide virtualized Windows desktop sessions as a service. However, it requires all companies serving desktops through Windows Azure to register as service providers, whether or not they in fact are sellers of services.

Customers will now be able to use third party hosting products with Windows cloud desktop computing services. This means users with iOS or Linux platform RDS clients can now easily access Windows desktop virtualization within the terms of the license. However, these hosts will be limited to accessing Terminal Services features. No additional hosted Software as a Service (SaaS) elements of Windows Azure are allowed to be accessed from third party RDS clients.

Windows client OSes, such as Windows 8, are not allowed to be hosted. Microsoft is trying to draw a clear distinction between old school desktop computing and Azure-based cloud computing. Multi-tenant environments are treated as different and prohibited in the new licensing terms. The new licensing terms also carry opportunities for companies wishing to use Windows Embedded 8. Volume licensing options are emphasized with the new terms.


The biggest plus is the ability to now host more than two concurrent RDS sessions. Previously, only two sessions were allowed simultaneously. The idea was that at any given time, a user and a system admin may need access in order to sort something out. With the expanded rights, companies can now share out a desktop environment aggressively, as long as they are licensed as a service provider.

The move also advances end users closer to the all-cloud, all-the-time world that Microsoft envisions. This provides a wide range of options in terms of where a company can station its resources. A business can keep its software on premises, if it wishes, or it can seek a third party provider. Likewise, it can seek hosting directly from Microsoft.

Companies deploying systems using Windows Embedded 8 will have greater flexibility in linking their front-end operations to back-end data storage and mining. As internet connectivity becomes embedded in non-traditional devices, the new terms make integration easier. Costs will also be lower.

The Future

There are strong indications Microsoft intends to roll out its own branded and cloud-driven SaaS version of Windows desktop virtualization sometime in 2014. Microsoft is already pushing hard for cloud-based SaaS with its Office 360 program. Other major software vendors, such as Adobe, have taken a similar tack with their newer software packages. Microsoft has indicated it will allow service providers to sell their own branded services using future Windows cloud platforms.

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Peter Wendt is a writer from Austin, Texas. For more information on Microsoft Enterprise Licensing, visit 

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Peter Wendt