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I was interested in setting up a virtual machine server and wanted to use VMWare Workstation with Windows Server 2012 R2.

My idea is this:

Use Server 2012 R2 to host VMWare Workstation and then use RemoteApp to access the VMWare Workstation application. I live with two other roommates, who are both developers, and might want to also use the VMWare Workstation RemoteApp all at the same time.

My questions are:

  1. If I purchase Windows Server 2012 R2 standard, will it include everything to do this?
  2. I'm worried that I might need to pay something perpetually to Microsoft, like CALs. Will I need CALs, or will I need to pay Microsoft an annual licensing fee to accomplish this?
  3. Is there a better way to do this (ESXi is not an option since it doesn't have the same features that I want in Workstation)?
  • What feature are you missing in ESXi? ESXi is the "full/professional" version of the product, while Workstation is the "consumer/hobbyist" version. – Joel Coel Oct 10 '15 at 15:43
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Windows Server 2012 R2 comes with Hyper-V, it's own VMWare equivalent. Hyper-V includes App-V, Microsoft's answer to RemoteApp. For licensing, once upon a time you got 5 CALs included with the base server license. I'm not sure if they still do this, or if the number changes.

Whether you need to renew your CALs annually depends on your licensing model. Large enterprises will enter into agreements that renew annually, but include software assurance and cost less per license. Smaller businesses will purchase Open Value licenses in smaller packs that do not expire, but are also tied to a specific max version of Windows Server.

Moreover, as developers, you may want to consider an MSDN subscription instead of purchasing Windows Server. This will provide access to most Microsoft products in a manner that doesn't really care about client access licensing, but does prohibit you from going into "production" until you purchase of full license.

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Yes you will sometimes max out your concurrent connections unless you purchase additional CALS. This might be acceptable though, because how often do will 3 or more users be attempting to connect concurrently. On a daily basis you and your roommates should remote desktop, vnc, or ssh directly into the VMs. So you will only need to access Workstation when provisioning or otherwise interacting with the VM's.

You mention in your question that you are looking for features that only workstation has. I can't imagine what that could be, as workstation is more of a consumer oriented hypervisor and one that i don't think of as feature rich. Consider using a hypervisor that has free client software. I don't know enough details about your goals, but Microsoft HyperV should accomplish all the goals in your question, it comes free with the Windows Server license you already plan to buy, and there is a free client that can be installed on any client machine.

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