Virtualizing windows for services only

Hi Guys,

Looking for a few ideas.

I have several customers who have linux based server setups. KVM hypervisors with a few VM’s running (file server, unifi, pfsense, freepbx).

I am going round all my customers migrating to xcp-ng after seeing (amongst others) Tom’s reviews and trialing it for myself since just before christmas but have hit a bit of a stumbling block.

A couple of customers have a physical windows 7/10 box running as “servers” for things like access control systems or courier software that only run on windows. I would like to migrate those machines over to xcp-ng as well and whilst I don’t think this is too difficult from a technical perspective I’m not sure about the licensing.

It looks like windows 10 can only be used as a vm on a server using VDI licensing (which I understand is expensive) but this doesn’t seem to be the right fit for a vm that is basically hosting an MS SQL Server express instance. It’s per user licensing but there is no actual user.

The other option would be to install server standard 2016/19 but that seems like it’s overkill and an expensive option.

What are peoples thoughts / What are you guys doing in similar situations?

Easy, just phone up a microsoft vendor / reseller for sure they will tell you what licenses you need. Pretty sure you need CALs.

The cheapest option looks to be purchasing Win10 Pro Retail. Here is the license agreement:
Just search “virt” on the doc and you’ll see the key points that matter to you.

You can only allow it to run on one virtual host and you need a license for each VM. Cost is around $200. If you see it much cheaper it is either OEM or not legal. OEM does NOT allow virtual installs.

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I’m not sure you can use Windows 10 for what you’re suggesting. Check the EULA as posted by FredFerrell above, specifically section V of the restrictions which states you do not have the rights to “… use the software as server software,…”. It could be worth running it past a Microsoft licensing specialist/vendor as suggested by Neogrid

Thanks for the pointers everyone.

Neogrid, I will of course check with my MS Licensing vendor but I wanted to know what other people were doing. With Win 7 I was happy to use a retail licensed copy in a VM but everything I had found seemed to indicate that you were not able to do this with 10.

The terms that Fred linked to seem fairly clear to me that you CAN use a retail licence on a VM. That’s great news.

The “server” restriction (2.c.v) is interesting. I guess it depends on your definition of a server. Does that clause mean that you can’t share a folder on a windows 10 machine with another system on your network… It doesn’t seem to be restricted to virtual environments so if that’s right then there are a whole lot of people (who genuinely think they are compliant) breaching this clause in a whole lot of organisations.

Just so you know, I run a cloud hosting business and have a Microsoft Service Provider License Agreement (SPLA) so I have dealt with many questions running Windows OS’s in a virtualized environment. Most people in my field would have sold you a Microsoft O365 E3 or E5 license, but those are much more expensive over time and since you aren’t having users actually login to use the VM this is the cheapest option that I see.

Perfect, thanks Fred.

I used to deal with volume licensing for education and it has always managed to confuse me. MS seem to make it really difficult to understand.

I figured this forum would be a good place to ask.

What’s your company. Happy to keep your name on file in case we ever need your services.

CloudBerryIT. I mostly focus on high level security hosting with Windows RDS and DUO for MFA. I do use Citrix as well if the use case requires it.

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Here is an odd question… What defines a server? I ask because I do have a “server” that I purchased from a company that came with win7 embedded. They ship a newer model with some version of win10. It absolutely serves “things” and users connect remotely to control it, as well as FTP into/out of it and has a “large” amount of storage in a RAID setup. Also rack mounted and built on a “server” main board from SuperMicro.

It’s a video record/playback device in our TV studio, but not going to say the name of the company. I know they are following the licensing, they are a MS partner, but it seems the licensing might be flexible depending on who you are.

My thoughts exactly. I’ve worked with several software vendors who ship “servers” on desktop class PCs running desktop OS’s. Additionally, if MS don’t want you to use it as a “server” then why include the ability to do things (SMB shares) that would quite clearly be defined as serving… The clue is in the name…

I guess sometimes reading the TOS/EULA is actually not a good idea.

Having worked for a Gold Partner I can tell you the licensing was a headache to suss out we always used a vendor to quote. Obviously it’s by design, you can cut a deal with MS under the right circumstances but as it’s MS you know you will have to pay up or at least it’s better to assume so for a business.

MS licensing seems to be a nightmare. It seems the only time you find out if you’ve done the right thing is when you get audited.

With regards to what is a server? That’s a good question, but if you read the EULA it does state you can use Windows 10 for serving certain services, such as file shares, websites, etc. But to a maximum of 20 devices (section 2-D-III). This is also true of Win 7 embedded, but bizarrely for only 10 devices, which may be @Greg_E how your device is ok. So @garethw if all you want to do is serve the access control and courier software then it seems you should be ok, just as @FredFerrell suggested. I would still be checking though as I don’t trust me :smile:

I should mention that I’ve actually talked to MS Licensing, and the people I talked to were either very helpful, or not helpful at all. This was probably about 6 or 7 tears ago, every time a management change happens and I need to clear my ability to directly access MS resources.

Don’t worry, I won’t be passing anyone’s name on to MS if they come knocking!

The general consensus seems to be;

  • 10 is fine
  • licensing is hard
  • I should check with my normal license vendor

Thanks for the help boys and girls.