Simplifying(hopefully) vSphere for Desktop licensing

There has not been a single week at VMware so far that I have not been asked to clarify vSphere for Desktop licensing.

Last week, two of Singapore’s biggest FSI customers contacted me on exactly this. I thought it will be a good idea to document some of the clarifications that was needed.


vSphere for Desktop is a license to run “VDI and related” workloads.

Note: All details that follows is as of 1 July 2016. VMware has all rights to change licensing in the future.

For starters, the following are some of the salient aspects you will need to remember:

  • vSphere for desktop is only meant to run VDI and related workloads. This includes Windows Desktop OS workloads and Windows Server OS workloads to run Remote Desktop Services based applications or desktops. This license also includes VDI management components such as Connection brokers, profile servers, application delivery controllers that are used as in a VDI environment. Monitoring tools are also covered by this license. So in a nutshell, anything related to VDI is covered by the license.
  • vSphere for desktop licensing is NOT based on CPU or sockets.

vSphere for Desktop for VMware Horizon VDI

  • All editions of VMware Horizon are bundled with vSphere for Horizon.
  • Horizon licensing is based on named user or concurrent user. It doesn’t matter to vSphere for Desktop how many hosts you use for your Horizon VDI and related workload. As long as you only host VDI and related workloads and not other non-vdi server workloads, you are free to use this license on as many hosts.
    • o For egs, lets say you have 300 VDI desktops. You may host 300 desktops and Horizon Management cluster on any number of physical hosts and this license covers all.
  • vCenter for Desktop is also included as a part of Horizon. So you may run as many vCenter Servers for your Horizon VDI infrastructure.

vSphere for Desktop for non-VMware VDI (for egs: Citrix)

  • vSphere for Desktop can be bought separately to host VDI and related workloads from another vendor such as Citrix.
  • The licensing is NOT based on CPU or sockets or named users or concurrent users.
  • The licensing is based on number of “Powered On” VMs. This means that the total number of “powered on” vms are counted. For egs, if you have 10 vms for VDI management, 100 desktops for user workloads, you will need to license 110 VMs as a part of vSphere for Desktop.
  • Please note XenApp or RDS VM is also considered as a VM even though you can host multiple sessions or users on a single RDS or XenApp VM. So a single XenApp or RDS workload will only consume a single vSphere for Desktop license.
    • Turns out the above advise is not correct anymore as it is dated. VMware licensing team has modified this clause and now the below referenced KB article says “you can use vSphere Desktop to power Virtual Desktops and the underlying VDI infrastructure as mentioned above for a maximum 100 users per pack of 100 virtual machines
    • What does the statement in blue actually mean?
      • It implies the licensing is still “Powered On” VMs. But…but…maximum number of users you can host is only 100. This is quite straightforward in the case of XenDesktop VDI as the mapping between a VM and a user is 1:1. In the case of XenApp, not quite so. It does not mean you can run 100 XenApp VMs as each XenApp VM could host 30 users, so you will end up hosting 300 users instead of 100.
      • So to simplify things, you could read this as “100 user max” license. Whether you are running XenDesktop or XenApp, the max number of users you can host is 100. 
  • vSphere for Desktop does not include vCenter for Desktop.
    • You will need to purchase vCenter separately to manage your VDI infrastructure.
    • As of writing this, you CANNOT buy vCenter for Desktop separately. vCenter for Desktop is ONLY bundled as a part of VMware Horizon and not available for non-Horizon customer. So you will to buy the “normal” vCenter Server to manage your VDI workload.


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