Quick Guide to Windows 2012 R2 RDS Licensing



  • Windows Server 2012 RDS Licensing (aka Remote Desktop Licensing) is generally pretty simple and straightforward but can sometimes be confusing as it is used to very rarely. Even organizations that use RDS every day often have a "set it and forget it" licensing policy and only need to review when there are big changes, such as a version upgrade or a change in architecture.

    Microsoft RDS or Remote Desktop Services is the new name for the former Terminal Services product. Microsoft referred to this role as TS until Windows Server 2008 and as RDS from Server 2008 R2 and later.*

    Note: Licensing for RDS has remained consistent since Windows Server 2008 R2 through Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2. So licensing here for RDS applies to those previous versions as well.

    First we need to address Windows Server Licensing. We cannot skip this, it is foundational to any discussion about RDS. In order to use RDS you have to have both a Windows Server and users and machines that will access RDS. It is that simple, it just doesn't exist conceptually without these three things. As with all services on Microsoft Windows, in order to have users who depend upon the Windows Server infrastructure, those users must be licensed. These licenses fall into two categories: Server Licenses for the install of Windows Server itself, and CALs (Client Access Licenses) which are applied sometimes to Devices (called Device CALs) or, far more commonly, to Users (called User CALs.) You need every server deployed to be covered by a server license and every user or device covered by a CAL (it's user or device, not both.)

    By far, most organizations will opt for User CALs, as these are generally easier, most cost effective and just dramatically more clear to define. A user is a user, you can put a name on them and talk to them. You know for sure when they are hired or fired, or their access is created or revoked. Device CALs are more complicated, but for companies with shared access stations can be more cost effective so should be considered. A Device CAL is required for each device that will access Windows Server resources. Each organization must choose User or Device CALs, it is not mix and match. In the SMB especially, User CALs are the most common. Device CALs are most common in the mid-market, especially in manufacturing. With User CALs, each named user can have unlimited access devices (desktops, laptops, tablets, and so forth.) Each Device CAL's listed device can have unlimited users access via that device.

    We assume that your Windows Server environment is already properly licensed (or will be now that we've covered the basics, although we glossed over what is needed there and you should research specific needs for your organization separately as this is a topic focused on RDS licensing) and now we can license RDS on top of that.

    It is important to remember that RDS licensing is totally in additional to normal Windows Server and Windows CAL licenses, it never replaces them or is instead of them. RDS must be licensed additionally.

    Like Server CALs, RDS works on a CAL system. The base product, the RDS Server itself has no license which makes it very simple. The base server is included as a role with Windows Server 2012 R2 and needs only to be installed. No licensing is needed beyond the base Windows Server licensing as long as you only intend to install, but not access, RDS. This may sounds strange but this is very different than say Exchange or SQL Server where you need a base application license even just to install the products.

    The only thing that we need for RDS (after licensing our Windows environment, of course) is RDS CALs. Like Server CALs, RDS CALs can be RDS User CALs or RDS Device CALs. Unlike Server, RDS CALs can be mix and matches, User and Device. So for every user who may use RDS resources and/or for every device that might be used to access RDS resources we need an RDS CAL. It's that simple! Any access needs to be covered either as a named "RDS User" or as a named "RDS Device."

    RDS licensing is needed for any use of the RDS roles, no matter what they are or why they are used (unique exception: up to two system administrators may use RDS technologies for the sole use of systems administration tasks on a server.)

    A few quick questions that people often have

    • Are RDS CALs required for remote access of Windows Servers via third party terminal server tools such as Citrix XenApp, nComputing and such? Yes, multi-user access of Windows Servers is always governed by RDS CALs and so are always necessary if more than one user accesses any Windows Server.

    • Are RDS CALs Backwards Compatible? Yes, if you have 2012 R2 RDS CALs, you may use them to run Server 2012 R2 RDS, Server 2012 RDS or Server 2008 R2 RDS. Older RDS CALs are not valid for newer versions, but backwards is fine.

    • Are RDS CALs needed for only using some components of the RDS stack while not accessing a multi-user Windows Server GUI? Yes, any use of the RDS components, such as may be used to enable Microsoft's own VDI or other VDI type systems requires RDS CAL licensing.

    • Can I use RDS licensing with a Client OS such as Windows 7? No, RDS and Windows multi-user access are limited to Windows Server operating systems and are not applicable with client OSes.

    RDS also has a third license type, the per-server External Connector license that only applies to users accessing a single RDS server over the WAN from the Internet and does not apply to users that are on the local network (LAN) and must be licensed for each RDS server in the pool.

    Reference:

    https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/Licensing/learn-more/brief-windows-server-2012-rds.aspx



  • Definitely looking for all possible feedback here. What common questions do people have that I have missed, did I get anything incorrect, etc. We certainly want licensing to be as clear and accurate as possible.



  • It is not so much that RDS licensing is complicated. I see more folks struggle with licensing Microsoft Office on RDS than anything else.

    From an old Microsoft post and I'm paraphrasing here:

    Joe Business User: Hey, I have 300 users that need to use MS Office on RDS, but really only 10 will be connecting. So how many licenses do I need to purchase?

    Microsoft: 300.

    Joe Business User: [Comment deleted by Moderator]

    Next add some of the Enterprise benefits of O365 and it gets even more confusing.

    .................My two pennies.



  • @DenisKelley You mean each time you talk to a Microsoft Rep they each give you different information, right? 😃



  • @wirestyle22 said in Quick Guide to Windows 2012 R2 RDS Licensing:

    @DenisKelley You mean each time you talk to a Microsoft Rep they each give you different information, right? 😃

    Prepare for some licensing talk from @scottalanmiller 🙂

    I am also getting an education today.



  • @DenisKelley said in Quick Guide to Windows 2012 R2 RDS Licensing:

    It is not so much that RDS licensing is complicated. I see more folks struggle with licensing Microsoft Office on RDS than anything else.

    From an old Microsoft post and I'm paraphrasing here:

    Joe Business User: Hey, I have 300 users that need to use MS Office on RDS, but really only 10 will be connecting. So how many licenses do I need to purchase?

    Microsoft: 300.

    Joe Business User: [Comment deleted by Moderator]

    Next add some of the Enterprise benefits of O365 and it gets even more confusing.

    .................My two pennies.

    MS Office licensing is the reason why I am on Office 365.



  • I called Microsoft about Sharepoint and O365 for NPO's. They told me no matter what it costs $5 a month per user. Right before I left my last job I found out that wasn't true. smh



  • @wirestyle22 said in Quick Guide to Windows 2012 R2 RDS Licensing:

    @DenisKelley You mean each time you talk to a Microsoft Rep they each give you different information, right? 😃

    No, they never give an answer, that's their policy. You need an attorney to get proper clarification. MS will never act as your advisor or attorney on legal matters.



  • @DenisKelley said in Quick Guide to Windows 2012 R2 RDS Licensing:

    From an old Microsoft post and I'm paraphrasing here:

    Joe Business User: Hey, I have 300 users that need to use MS Office on RDS, but really only 10 will be connecting. So how many licenses do I need to purchase?

    Microsoft: 300.

    I don't know why someone would even need clarification there. What part of "300 users using Office on RDS" would prompt a question? How could that possibly be clearer or more obvious.

    I need five cars, how many do I have to buy. Um.. five.



  • @scottalanmiller I think he means concurrent licensing?



  • @scottalanmiller said in Quick Guide to Windows 2012 R2 RDS Licensing:

    @wirestyle22 said in Quick Guide to Windows 2012 R2 RDS Licensing:

    @DenisKelley You mean each time you talk to a Microsoft Rep they each give you different information, right? 😃

    No, they never give an answer, that's their policy. You need an attorney to get proper clarification. MS will never act as your advisor or attorney on legal matters.

    mf reading this
    0_1469561146321_mfw.jpg



  • @wirestyle22 said in Quick Guide to Windows 2012 R2 RDS Licensing:

    @scottalanmiller I think he means concurrent licensing?

    Sure... but still a red herring. Why would concurrent matter? If you need five cars and only plan to drive two at a time... you still need five cars. Introducing concurrent in a discussion where currency isn't relevant isn't, well, relevant. RDS has no concept of currency.

    Let's take this out of the RDS context and see how silly it sounds...

    Question: I have 300 PCs and I need to install Office 2013 on all 300 of them for my 300 users. But only about ten users tend to have Office open at any given time. How many Office 2013 licenses do I need?

    Answer: 300. What does "tends to use at one time" have to do with the question?



  • @scottalanmiller said

    I need five cars, how many do I have to buy. Um.. five.

    The better question is.

    I have 5 people who need a car to drive to the store, but they all don't have to drive at the same time.

    Reality says buy 1 car. MS licensing says otherwise.



  • @BRRABill it's sad how right you are



  • @BRRABill said in Quick Guide to Windows 2012 R2 RDS Licensing:

    @scottalanmiller said

    I need five cars, how many do I have to buy. Um.. five.

    The better question is.

    I have 5 people who need a car to drive to the store, but they all don't have to drive at the same time.

    Reality says buy 1 car. MS licensing says otherwise.

    But that's not the question. That's a question about concurrency, but concurrency isn't related to these licenses. So introducing it is purely purposeless. You have a need for five cars, the currency is irrelevant.



  • @BRRABill said in Quick Guide to Windows 2012 R2 RDS Licensing:

    @scottalanmiller said

    I need five cars, how many do I have to buy. Um.. five.

    The better question is.

    I have 5 people who need a car to drive to the store, but they all don't have to drive at the same time.

    Reality says buy 1 car. MS licensing says otherwise.

    Okay then, five people need to drive to the store. How many driver's licenses do you need? Government says five, @BRRABill says one.

    See why it sounds weird?



  • @scottalanmiller said

    But that's not the question. That's a question about concurrency, but concurrency isn't related to these licenses. So introducing it is purely purposeless. You have a need for five cars, the currency is irrelevant.

    But I do NOT have a need for five cars.

    Licensing says I do. Reality says I do not.

    It's like a book. I can buy 1 book and have 5 people read it, as long as they aren;t all reading at the same time. I don't need 5 books.



  • @scottalanmiller said

    Okay then, five people need to drive to the store. How many driver's licenses do you need? Government says five, @BRRABill says one.

    See why it sounds weird?

    The car is the comparison to the software licensing, not a driver's license.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Quick Guide to Windows 2012 R2 RDS Licensing:

    @BRRABill said in Quick Guide to Windows 2012 R2 RDS Licensing:

    @scottalanmiller said

    I need five cars, how many do I have to buy. Um.. five.

    The better question is.

    I have 5 people who need a car to drive to the store, but they all don't have to drive at the same time.

    Reality says buy 1 car. MS licensing says otherwise.

    But that's not the question. That's a question about concurrency, but concurrency isn't related to these licenses. So introducing it is purely purposeless. You have a need for five cars, the currency is irrelevant.

    If 5 people need 5 cars at the same time then 5 cars are needed. If only 1 user will ever drive at a time you only need one car.



  • @BRRABill said in Quick Guide to Windows 2012 R2 RDS Licensing:

    @scottalanmiller said

    But that's not the question. That's a question about concurrency, but concurrency isn't related to these licenses. So introducing it is purely purposeless. You have a need for five cars, the currency is irrelevant.

    But I do NOT have a need for five cars.

    Licensing says I do. Reality says I do not.

    It's like a book. I can buy 1 book and have 5 people read it, as long as they aren;t all reading at the same time. I don't need 5 books.

    No, you changed the discussion. You need five cars was the base question. You can't just change the base requirement.



  • @BRRABill said in Quick Guide to Windows 2012 R2 RDS Licensing:

    @scottalanmiller said

    Okay then, five people need to drive to the store. How many driver's licenses do you need? Government says five, @BRRABill says one.

    See why it sounds weird?

    The car is the comparison to the software licensing, not a driver's license.

    But we are talking about licensing.



  • @wirestyle22 said in Quick Guide to Windows 2012 R2 RDS Licensing:

    @scottalanmiller said in Quick Guide to Windows 2012 R2 RDS Licensing:

    @BRRABill said in Quick Guide to Windows 2012 R2 RDS Licensing:

    @scottalanmiller said

    I need five cars, how many do I have to buy. Um.. five.

    The better question is.

    I have 5 people who need a car to drive to the store, but they all don't have to drive at the same time.

    Reality says buy 1 car. MS licensing says otherwise.

    But that's not the question. That's a question about concurrency, but concurrency isn't related to these licenses. So introducing it is purely purposeless. You have a need for five cars, the currency is irrelevant.

    If 5 people need 5 cars at the same time then 5 cars are needed. If only 1 user will ever drive at a time you only need one car.

    Not if you go to a car rental place, for example. One per driver. Each rental is normally licensed to just one driver.

    You are forgetting two things:

    1. The base need was five cars, we didn't state why. But five are needed, period. Paying for less is paying for less than received.
    2. This is about licensing, not physical products in hand. So compare to driver's license or leasing.


  • cant...argue....on....ML...anymore....about.....licensing...........



  • @scottalanmiller said in Quick Guide to Windows 2012 R2 RDS Licensing:

    @DenisKelley said in Quick Guide to Windows 2012 R2 RDS Licensing:

    From an old Microsoft post and I'm paraphrasing here:

    Joe Business User: Hey, I have 300 users that need to use MS Office on RDS, but really only 10 will be connecting. So how many licenses do I need to purchase?

    Microsoft: 300.

    I don't know why someone would even need clarification there. What part of "300 users using Office on RDS" would prompt a question? How could that possibly be clearer or more obvious.

    I need five cars, how many do I have to buy. Um.. five.

    It's quite simple, Scott. As you noted they make both User and Device CALs pretty much across all their platforms except for MS Office. It is only available as a Device CAL.



  • @DenisKelley said in Quick Guide to Windows 2012 R2 RDS Licensing:

    @scottalanmiller said in Quick Guide to Windows 2012 R2 RDS Licensing:

    @DenisKelley said in Quick Guide to Windows 2012 R2 RDS Licensing:

    From an old Microsoft post and I'm paraphrasing here:

    Joe Business User: Hey, I have 300 users that need to use MS Office on RDS, but really only 10 will be connecting. So how many licenses do I need to purchase?

    Microsoft: 300.

    I don't know why someone would even need clarification there. What part of "300 users using Office on RDS" would prompt a question? How could that possibly be clearer or more obvious.

    I need five cars, how many do I have to buy. Um.. five.

    It's quite simple, Scott. As you noted they make both User and Device CALs pretty much across all their platforms except for MS Office. It is only available as a Device CAL.

    Office 2013 / 2016 is available on RDS via Office 365. No need for device CALs.



  • The XX concurent users only comes into play if the licensed application offers such a thing. In the case of something like Office 2013, you'd definitely need 300 license...

    But for Something like... Raiser's Edge, or a Student Information System... You'd only need to license for the expected number of concurrent users.

    IE: Raiser's Edge can be installed on every computer on my campus... But only 15 of us can log in at one time.