MSDN Subscriptions are purchased as an add-on to Visual Studio Professional, Premium or Ultimate.  While the MSDN Subscription provides a whole list of benefits, this post specifically explores the software for dev/test use benefit.

An MSDN subscription license gives a single user the ability to access/use any Microsoft Enterprise product for Dev/Test purposes (i.e. WinServer, SQL Server, BizTalk, SharePoint, Dynamics, etc, etc, etc).  The list of software titles included depends on the level of your subscription.  For example, VS Professional with MSDN only includes SQL Server & Windows only.  Compare here.

Beyond giving a single developer a bunch of cool software… providing an MSDN subscription for all of the Developer and QA team provides an efficient, per-user, license model for your entire Dev & Test environments.  Adopting this model means you do not have to purchase any stand-alone Microsoft products for pre-production.    The MSDN Subscription licenses each user for unlimited installs and instances of the products on their local, shared and virtualized
environments.

Expand this graphic for an illustration of the model:

 

 -CLICK TO EXPAND IMAGE-

 

Once you understand that concept, the next question is generally…  Which MSDN Subscription level (Pro, Prem, Ult) do I need?    The answer
to that is fairly simple with these two questions…

 1)     Does the Dev/Test environment only contain Windows and SQL Server?    If yes, Professional is sufficient.

2)     Does the Dev/Test environment contain additional Microsoft products beyond Windows and SQL Server (i.e. SharePoint, Dynamics, Biztalk, Visio, MSProject, etc)?    If yes, you need Premium or Ultimate.