Microsoft announced Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) at their Ignite conference in late 2018. We knew the announcements would be interesting to our clients running VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure), but we wanted to see more before we started discussing it with our clients. Now that more information has become public, we thought it was good time to start getting this out there.
Also as a result of constant updates, we will continue to revise this blog with information as it becomes public.
- Updated on 7/23 to include Windows 2008 R2 Extended Security Updates in Azure (thanks Nikki @ Entisys360)
- Updated on 7/31 to include clarification on Non-Windows endpoints and Microsoft WVD Licensing (thanks Frank @ CloudJumper)
Why is Microsoft embracing (finally) this model of computing (virtual desktops/virtual apps)?
Our opinion… It isn’t that Microsoft never embraced virtual desktops/applications, it is just that it made money without even focusing on trying to sell it. Citrix, VMware, Nutanix, AWS and others all did the heavy lifting for them by selling the concept to customers and Microsoft reaped the benefit of OS licensing, Office licensing, VDA CALs, RDSH CALs, and other CALs. Now that Microsoft wants to get customers to consume more Azure resources, the VDI computing model is a means to an end for Microsoft. “More Azure consumption!” You’ll see how they do that and why we think Microsoft loves VDI now.
What is Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD)?
Microsoft WVD is management control plane service managed by Microsoft hosted in Azure that brokers access to Azure hosted instances. Image management, profile management, and virtual disks (for offline caching and other items) are available via the Azure portal and Powershell commands.
Using the picture below, WVD is the middle section that is managed and controlled by Microsoft in Azure. Clients (Windows, MacOS, HTML5, Android) on the left are managed by your organization. The Azure VMs on the right, accessible to users via WVD, are hosted in your Azure subscription along with your user profile/offline caching technology (FSLogix acquisition for optimizing the Office 365 ProPlus experience).
The biggest caveat to WVD is it DOES NOT include the Azure consumption cost for resources (CPU/memory, network egress, GPU and storage). Sizing of instances, sizing of storage and network consumption are going to be use case specific and client specific based on your applications, your users, and the Azure region hosting the instances.
Entisys360 Pro Tip : When calculating your Azure resource consumption costs, leverage the Linux instances since the OS is included with WVD (See “How is it licensed?”)
What is the WVD experience like for end users?
- The end users log into a web URL that is globally accessible (managed for you by WVD) for your organization.
- After authentication, the users are authorized by your organization to access Azure hosted virtual desktops or virtual applications that are in your Azure subscription.
- Users select the resource they want to connect to and they get connected via the gateway (managed for you by WVD).
Entisys360 Pro Tip : Connections can be pooled or personal, but personal is only recommended for VDI use cases.
- Administrators will receive diagnostics on utilization and authentication consoles (managed for you by WVD).
Video of the WVD experience: https://youtu.be/30dOLcZ4_9U?t=78
How is WVD licensed?
WVD includes the managed control plane service and the OS licensing itself. However it does not include your Azure resource consumption costs which are application, user and Azure region dependent.
Entisys360 Pro Tip : Entisys360 has recently hired Microsoft Licensing specialists that can help you optimize your Microsoft spend and possibly reduce your total spend with Microsoft.
Example: Microsoft 365 includes Office 365, Windows 10 and can possibly consolidate the the Analytics, Security, Management and Identity Management tools you have been acquiring from other vendors.
The licensing you select to purchase will result in which OS and which user experience is available (i.e. virtual apps or virtual desktop).
- Ability to run Windows 10 (apps or desktop), Windows 10 multi-session (apps or desktop), or Windows 7** (64-bit only, desktop only)
- Microsoft 365 F1, E3*, E5*, A3, A5, Business
- Windows 10 Ent E3, E5
- Windows 10 Education A3, A5
- Windows 10 VDA per user*
- Ability to run Windows Server 2008 R2**, 2012 R2, 2016 or 2019 (apps or desktops)
- RDS CALS with active software assurance
*7/31/2019 : Microsoft 365 E3/E5 or VDA per User Licensing is required to utilize non-Windows Pro endpoints to access Windows 7 or 10 with Windows Virtual Desktop.
** Entisys360 Pro Tip : The end of Extended Support for Windows 7 and Windows 2008 R2 is Jan 2020. If you need to run Windows 7 or Windows 2008 R2 (or SQL 2008/2008 R2/Windows Server 2008 for that matter) but don’t want to pay the hefty price tag of Extended Security Updates (available through Jan 2023), then you can run Windows 7 or Windows 2008 R2 in Azure with WVD (as long as you have one of the licensed options above).
Wait… did you say Windows 10 multi-session?
Yes. The End User Computing community has been looking for this for years. The full support of running Windows 10 with the benefits of density with multi-session. App developers and vendors won’t need to test for desktop OS and server OS compatibility any longer!
Only downside with Windows 10 multi-session, is it only is available in Azure. It isn’t available for on-premises deployments and it is not available for any other cloud provider. Could this change eventually? Who knows, but it only runs in Azure for now.
Pro tip: As always when determining density, you should test with your applications and your users to determine the correct instance size and number of users per Windows 10 multi-session workload. There will be published documents on sizing for WVD and Windows 10 multi-session, but your usage may (probably will) vary on applications and users.
What are the benefits of WVD?
- Windows 10 multi-session!!! I could almost stop here.
- Ability to run Windows 7 or Windows 2008 R2 with Extended Security Updates (through Jan 2023) in Azure.
- Azure’s security and knowledge in managing a control plane (leveraging their experience from 180 million monthly active users of Office 365 as of April 2019 along with the number of attempted security breaches they stop every day)
- Included with your OS purchase (If you are buying Windows OSes anyway for VDI, why not looking at running cloud hosted desktops in Azure?)
- Additional capabilities to enhance WVD will be available from the Azure Marketplace such as Lakeside Systrack for enhanced monitoring
- Option for reserved pricing
What are the limitations of WVD?
- WVD cannot broker to hybrid, on-premises or non-Azure cloud based desktops. A 3rd party broker (Citrix Cloud is the only 3rd to announce support for WVD at this time) would be required.
- Windows 10 multi-session is only available to be hosted in Azure
- Azure AD Connect is required and the networking must be setup to allow for joining the domain
- No option for fixed pricing model… No one really has this in the public cloud so expect the cost to of a public cloud hosted desktop to always fluctuate
- Expect to execute and learn a bunch of PowerShell to deploy and control settings (some of these might make the GUI by General Availability, but the Tech Preview and other blogs for management show a lot of PowerShell)
Can (or Why would) I use other brokering solutions to connect to WVD?
Currently Citrix Cloud is the only solution that has announced support for Microsoft WVD based desktops in Azure. This option would let you broker to alternate public cloud based desktops or to your on-premises desktops to deliver hybrid multi-cloud support for virtual desktops/applications. This would also allow you to replace the protocol used for enhanced support of multimedia (Microsoft Teams or Cisco Teams support), enhanced options for application layering/image management/environment management, and additional enhancements for security, reporting, and analytics.
We expect other brokers to be supported but at this time only Citrix Cloud has been officially announced (check back for updates).
When is it available?
It’s available now in public preview and can be setup by following this blog:
As to when it will be public, we’ve heard things but nothing official at this time… so stayed tune.
What does Entisys360 want to see next?
- Thin client companies need to support the WVD broker natively (avoid HTML5 client and native support of WVD features).
This also means that Microsoft needs to also work with thin client companies to support Linux based thin clients (not just Windows endpoints only).
- Windows 10 multi-session available for on-premises and non-Azure public cloud deployments. (Don’t hold your breath on this one!)
- More alternate brokers to the WVD Azure hosted desktops/apps/servers to give clients more choice and possibly leverage investments they have already made.
- More help desk and 1st level IT tools to allow non-Azure experts to support and navigate WVD and the Azure hosted desktops/apps/servers.
- Updated pricing calculator that addresses all the new licensing options for Microsoft and the requirements for WVD, and then showing the benefit and caveats of each of these options.
- HTML5 client needs to be as close to native client experience as possible.
So… what should you do next?
- Work with your Entisys360 Account Executive and our Microsoft licensing experts to determine the optimal purchase of Microsoft products for your organization.
- Work with your Entisys360 Account Executive and our End User Computing architects to determine the best course of action for your deployment.
Entisys360 Pro Tip : Hosting your desktops and applications may result in poor user experience if the backend application and data are hosted on-premises or in another public cloud. We will have a blog next week about this scenario and discuss critical questions to ask before you deploy virtual desktops/application in the public cloud.
- Work with your Entisys360 Account Executive and our End User Computing architects to review how the FSLogix acquisition will benefit your VDI deployment no matter where the workloads are located.
- If you are planning to increase your VDI user community because of WVD, we would recommend you work with Entisys360 and LakeSide Software to perform a 100% free assessment of your environment to determine which workloads should migrate into WVD/Azure and what instances they should map to for resources.
- If you still have questions about Microsoft WVD and its impact on your VDI deployment, just reach out to your Entisys360 Account Executive to schedule a meeting with our End User Computing architects.