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Microsoft's VECD a mandatory license for virtualization

Microsoft requires Virtual Enterprise Centralized Desktop in addition to its base OS license. If you want to virtualize Windows desktops, be aware of VECD's uses and gotchas.

VECD stands for "Virtual Enterprise Centralized Desktop." It's the license that Microsoft requires to use its desktop virtualization. VECD must be purchased in addition to the base Windows operating system license. So if you want to virtualize Windows, you have to buy this VECD license as a second license. If you don't like it -- too bad. Don't use Windows then. (Ah, the joys of a monopoly.)

Note: Much of Microsoft's own documentation refers to VECD as "Vista" Enterprise Centralize Desktop instead of "Virtual" Enterprise Centralized Desktop. The Vista version is the old name because Vista was the current desktop OS when VECD was created. But now that Windows 7 is out, the company just changed what the "V" meant.

Unfortunately, Microsoft requires you buy this license for just about every desktop virtualization use case. For example, you need VECD for the following:

  • Any virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) that remotely connects to a desktop OS running in a data center.

  • Moving a Windows desktop virtual machine (VM) from one physical machine to another (which is common in virtualization scenarios since your Windows desktop VM will probably start on whatever physical host is the least loaded at that moment).

  • The ability for a single device to access more than one instance of a Windows desktop, like for running multiple VMs on a client or running one copy of Windows on a client while simultaneously accessing another one via VDI.

  • The right to access a corporate Windows VM from an unlicensed client device, like for accessing a work desktop from a home computer.

There are two catches with VECD. (Well, in addition to the fact that you need it in the first place :) First, VECD is subscription-based, so you must pay for it per year. Second, you can only buy VECD if you also have Software Assurance, which is Microsoft's subscription-based program for desktop computers. In other words, you have to pay for Software Assurance every year for your desktops just to get started, and then if you want to virtualize those desktops, you have to add the cost of VECD each year.

This is unfortunate because you must license Windows on a subscription basis to use desktop virtualization. So if you just want to pay for Windows once and use it forever -- too bad for you! That's just not an option.

VECD will cost $23 per year in addition to what you're paying for Software Assurance. In addition, note that Microsoft also has a version of VECD for devices that do not run Windows (and therefore do not have Software Assurance), but that version is a whopping $100 per year! So at that point, it's almost cheaper just to pay for Software Assurance.

As you can expect, most people's reaction to VECD is negative. But unfortunately, there's nothing that can really be done about it. Unless you want to switch your whole enterprise desktop infrastructure to Mac or Linux, VECD is mandatory if you decide to virtualize your desktops.

Brian Madden, Independent Industry Analyst and Blogger
Brian Madden is known throughout the world as an opinionated, supertechnical, fiercely independent desktop virtualization expert. He has written several books and over 1,000 articles about desktop and application virtualization. Madden's blog,, receives millions of visitors per year and is a leading source for conversation, debate and discourse about the application and desktop virtualization industry. He is also the creator of BriForum, the premier independent application delivery technical conference.

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