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.
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.