Remote Desktop Services are now allowed on Windows Azure

I’ve not seen a lot of news about this so I thought it was worth writing a short post just to remember everyone that on July 1st, Microsoft has officially changed Windows Azure licensing terms (PUR) to allow the use of Remote Desktop Services (RDS) on Windows Azure Virtual Machines. Previously this scenario was not allowed in Windows Azure. Before July 1st you could only access an Azure Windows Server VM for purpose of server administration or maintenance (up to 2 simultaneous sessions are authorized for this service).

Let’s see some details about this change:

  • To enable more than 2 simultaneous sessions you will need to purchase RDS Subscriber Access Licenses (SALs) through the Microsoft Services Provider Licensing Agreement (SPLA) for each user or device that will access your solution on Windows Azure. SPLA is separate from an Azure agreement and is contracted through an authorized SPLA reseller. Click here for more information about SPLA benefits and requirements.
  • RDS Client Access Licenses (CALs) purchased from Microsoft VL programs such as EA, do not get license mobility to shared cloud platforms, hence they cannot be used on Azure. UPDATE (12/3/2014): Effective January 1, 2014, Volume Licensing customers who have active Software Assurance on their RDS User CALs are entitled to RDS CAL Extended Rights, which allow use of their RDS User CAL with Software Assurance against a Windows Server running on Windows Azure or other service providers’ shared server environments. This RDS User CAL Software Assurance benefit allows each User to access RDS functionality only on one shared server environment (i.e. Windows Azure or a third party server) in addition to access the respective on premise servers. More details are available in Appendix 2 of the Software Assurance benefit section of the PUR (Product Use Rights).
  • Windows ‘Client’ OS (e.g. Windows 8) virtual desktops, or VDI deployments, will continue to not be allowed on Azure, because Windows client OS product use rights prohibit such use on multi-tenant/shared cloud environments.
  • Customers can use 3rd party application hosting products that require RDS sessions functionality (e.g. Citrix XenDesktop), subject to product use terms set by those 3rd party providers, and provided these products leverage only RDS session-hosting (Terminal Services) functionality. Note that RDS SALs are still required when using these 3rd party products.

These new licensing has been updated in the latest Microsoft Product Use Rights docs and in the Windows Azure Licensing FAQ.

So if you are a service provider with a legacy application that needs RDS to work (eg. WinForms based solution), you can now offer it to your customers on Windows Azure.

UPDATE (12/3/2014): For technical details to create a reliable desktop hosting solution please read the Windows Azure Desktop Hosting - Reference Architecture and Deployment Guides.

Hope it helps.

Comments (11)
  1. Alexey Bokov says:

    Great post, thanks!

  2. Thanks. Now what is the procedure for configuring for RDS on Azure?

    See my MSDN question at:…/run-remoteapp-on-a-single-azure-vm

  3. Marcello says:


    Can I purchase and install the normal RDS Cals in the VM if I pay my subscription directly to Microsoft ( I am not a service provider).



  4. lpanzano says:

    @Marcello I would advise you to contact your local Microsoft representative for that scenario.

  5. lpanzano says:

    @LorimInnovation I suggest opening a support ticket in . They will help you with details.

  6. William B says:

    In case anyone is reading this stuff, it seems odd to me that I can sign up for an Azure virtual server directly from Microsoft, but I can't do the same for access licenses.  Remote Desktop is how we need to use this service, yet I have many stumbling blocks to just get this simple access.  Why is not RDS access licensing an option as part of the signup?

  7. Vegu says:

    A practical remark about activating RDS CALs on 2nd RDS License Server in Azure:

    1. Imagine the following scenario:

    -Customer has purchased all RDS CALs in Volume Licensing with SA.

    -Customer has an on-prem RDS environment, and now they build an RDS environment in Azure IaaS.

    -The 2 environments are using 2 different License Servers (1 for the on-prem, and 1 for the Azure environment, and there's no VPN connection between 2 environments).

    -Customer has submitted all necessary documents requested by Microsoft (ie. License Mobility Verification form, etc).

    2. Problem:

    -2nd License Server cannot be activated using the same VL Agreement number using automatic activation via internet, because the 1st License Server has been already activated.

    -What should customer do when activating RDS CALs on 2nd RDS License Server in Azure?

    3. Solution:

    => Microsoft ClearingHouse needs to be called via phone, and customer needs to tell that they want to use RDS CAL Extended Rights on the 2nd License Server (for RDS environment in Azure), and it will be managed by ClearingHouse guys.

  8. Santosh Ramamurthy says:

    I have a very pratical question

    If i have 80+ users in my corporate network who wanted to use azure VM, Do we have to procure that many RDS licenses?

    Could you help me in this regard

  9. lpanzano says:

    Hi Santosh,

    For questions about licensing I suggest you to reach directly your license distributor or your Microsoft account manager. They will be able to help with your specific questions.

  10. Dan says:

    @ Santosh – Yes, all of your users will need a Remote Desktop CAL to access the Azure VM

  11. Dan says:

    Sorry, that was meant to be *SAL (Subscriber Access Licence)

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