This week’s blog post is another long one. Our blog from last week, “Critical questions to ask that can make or break your cloud hosted virtual desktop deployment”, focused on questions to help you identify where workloads should be located. This week we are approaching the problem from a different point of view.

What if you knew where you were trying to deploy workloads?  What if you knew which OSes you were trying to deploy?  What if you knew how much or how little you wanted to manage?  With this information you may be able to understand very quickly which solutions make sense to review, and which ones don’t meet your requirements.

The goal of this blog will be to identify some of the key differences (including DaaS and non-DaaS offerings) between some of the major VDI brokering solutions available today.

The matrix below has some of the key areas we typically discuss with clients while the rest of the blog goes into more detail. Here are some links if you need to know more information on the topics in the matrix Deployment model, Workload deployment options, Windows OS Support, Linux OS Support, Workload locations (on-premises and public cloud) and Pricing models (not actual $ though).

Note for all vendors/clients: I tried to be as accurate as possible with hyperlinked references, but the options keep changing so I will update this blog as necessary.  If I missed something or this needs an update based on a new announcement, you can e-mail me (if you have it/can guess it) or communicate with me over Twitter (@TheAlSolorzano)/LinkedIn.

Updates

  • 10/08/2019 – Updated matrix, General Availability of Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) and Citrix Managed Desktops, VMware’s announcement to support WVD with a tech preview later this year.

(1) For requirements and details on Windows 7 and 10 on AWS Workspaces – https://aws.amazon.com/workspaces/faqs/
(2) Windows 7 and Windows 2008 R2 are End of Life and Extended Support ends January 2020. If deployed in Azure, you may be eligible for Extended Security Updates (through January 2023). https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/blog/2019/03/01/now-is-the-time-to-make-the-shift-to-microsoft-365/
(3) VMware has a matrix of OS Support/Version Support/Features supported located at https://kb.vmware.com/s/article/2150295 for more information.
(4) VMware further breaks down the differences between their solutions: https://www.vmware.com/content/dam/digitalmarketing/vmware/en/pdf/products/horizon/vmware-horizon-cloud-and-horizon7-comparison-matrix.pdf
(5) Cloud Hosted desktops on AWS or Azure with VMware Horizon/VMware Horizon DaaS will require VMware Cloud on AWS or VMware Cloud on Azure.
(6) See each vendors support documents for exact versions of Linux distributions and feature support.

Management

Deployment model

There are four options here for the management/infrastructure components.

  • Self managed, hosted on-premises – This is the original deployment model where services are installed on virtual machines hosted in your data centers. This requires upgrading the environment often to stay current and supported, but also gives you the most control and flexibility.  Since it has been around the longest, this model typically has the fewest limitations in missing features or lack of integration with 3rd party solutions such as SSO or monitoring tools.
  • Self managed, hosted on a public cloud provider – This is where servers are installed on virtual machines but now the virtual machines are hosted in the public cloud.  The infrastructure still requires periodic upgrades, but since it is hosted in the public cloud, you have access to more data centers globally than a typical enterprise.
  • Management plane “as a Service” by – This model takes the common infrastructure components that are typically deployed in each data center where virtual desktops/apps will be deployed and manages and delivers them to you as a service.  This environment is “evergreen infrastructure” (i.e. software components will be updated for you automatically and you no longer have to buy hardware every 3-5 years) and is monitored as a service with SLA by the provider.  This model may have some limitations since the service is typically re-platformed for the cloud and may not have all the same features as a self managed deployment (on-premises or cloud hosted).
  • Desktop as a Service (DaaS) – This service is typically a “one stop shop” for all components since a DaaS will host the management and the actual desktop in the same cloud.  The benefits include “pay as you go”, “evergreen infrastructure” and monitoring with SLAs, but you also will be typically locked into a single cloud with the DaaS providers.
  • Even with all these options (including DaaS), you still need to consider the image management and application update procedures.  This is not part of any of the major VDI brokering solutions. Managed Services Providers like Entisys360 can be leveraged to provide this service.

Workload deployment options

  • On-premises only – This is the original deployment model for VDI and requires you to have the virtual infrastructure to support the peak utilization based on your use case rather than for average utilization.
  • Cloud hosted only– Deploying desktops in the public cloud allows for consumption based pricing (i.e. pay for only what you need) which is optimal for seasonal workloads or large fluctuations in usage hour-to-hour or month-to-month.  Potential limitations include:
    • Security concerns based on type of data being access
    • Latency issues as the workload is cloud hosted but data/backend application remains on-premises
  • Hybrid – This workload deployment option allows you to run the workload in the optimal location whether it be on-premises, public cloud provider or both.  The optimal location could be business related (e.g. seasonal workloads, not having a data center in a specific location, CAPEX vs OPEX, use case) or technical related (e.g. avoid application performance issues due to latency of running desktops and data in different data centers, supporting a specific OS, data security concerns).

Entisys360 ProTip: We recently wrote a blog on Critical Questions that Can Make or Break Your Cloud Hosted Virtual Desktop Deployment that reviews questions you should be thinking about when deciding to locate your workloads.

Windows OS Support

We are not going into detail here since there are so many different options. The important things to understand are:

Linux OS Support

Linux OS support has even more complexity when it comes to support by the VDI brokering solutions than Windows Operating Systems. There are typically very specific builds supported and often there are limitations in a feature so visit the appropriate vendors support page for Linux for more details.

Workload locations

Entisys360 ProTip: GPUs are becoming more common place in VDI deployments to deliver an equivalent experience to a modern desktop. GPUs increase the per user/desktop price but result in a much better user experience for users leveraging multimedia apps, HTML5 web sites and Office apps.  GPUs are required for use cases where users are leveraging CAD/CAM/GIS applications Siemens PLM/Solidworks, Dassault CATIA, and AutoDesk Inventor/Revit to name a few.  For workloads being deployed in the cloud, GPU enabled instances can be very expensive.

On-premises

  • Most flexibility for operating systems, hypervisor support and integration with existing solutions
  • Optimal workload location for applications that have data/backend application in your managed data centers
  • Lacks scalability
  • Limited number of data centers
  • Citrix and VMware both support remoting and power state management of physical PCs (this model is often used to start VDI projects for a quick ROI or to address a recent purchase of new desktops)
  • Nutanix Xi Frame supports on-premises workloads but the on-premises infrastructure for workloads must be running Nutanix Acropolis Hypervisor (AHV) with Prism Central
  • VMware Horizon has full support for VMs hosted on VMware vSphere/vCenter but has limited support for VMs hosted on alternate hypervisors (example: VMware Horizon can broker to a VM hosted on Microsoft Hyper-V but it cannot handle image management directly or power state)

AWS

  • Massive scalability
  • Numerous data centers to deploy from
  • Optimal workload location for applications that have data/backend application in AWS
  • Support for Nutanix Xi Clusters (ability to run Nutanix Operating System on bare-metal instances in AWS)
    • This can enable connectivity to Azure as if it is Nutanix AHV but not be supported by the VDI brokering solution (so check on it)
  • Support for VMware Cloud on AWS (ability to run VMware vSphere on bare-metal instances in AWS)
    • This can enable connectivity to AWS as if it is VMware vCenter/vSphere but not be supported by the VDI brokering solution (so check on it)
  • Interface is geared toward DevOps/application developers
  • GPUs can be very expensive in the public cloud

Azure

  • Massive scalability
  • Numerous data centers to deploy from
  • Optimal workload location for applications that have data/backend application in Azure
  • Windows 10 multi-session will only be available in Azure (see our blog Everything you need to know about Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop) and only by leveraging Microsoft WVD, Citrix Managed Desktops, Citrix Cloud – Virtual Apps and Desktops or VMware’s option later this year (https://www.vmware.com/content/dam/digitalmarketing/vmware/en/pdf/products/euc-vmw-msft-announce-external-faq.pdf)
  • to broker the connection (this could change later)
  • Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop includes the brokering and the license to run the Windows OS in Azure for the following license models (but this does not include the storage/compute/network costs of Azure):
    • 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
  • Supported by the most VDI brokering solutions
  • Support for VMware Cloud on Azure (ability to run VMware vSphere on bare-metal instances in Azure)
    • This can enable connectivity to Azure as if it is VMware vCenter/vSphere but not be supported by the vendor (so check on it)
  • Interface is geared toward Microsoft knowledgeable virtual infrastructure administrator
  • GPUs can be very expensive in the public cloud

* 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).

Google Cloud Platform

  • Massive scalability
  • Numerous data centers to deploy from
  • Optimal workload location for applications that have data/backend application in Google Cloud Platform (GCP)
  • While supported by Citrix and Nutanix Xi Frame (Early Access), there is limited functionality or very specific requirements to support workloads in GCP
  • GPU support for VDI brokers is unknown currently

VMware Cloud

  • Massive scalability
  • Numerous data centers to deploy from
  • Optimal workload location for applications that have data/backend application in VMware Cloud
  • Only VMware supports VMware Cloud at this time (VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud on Azure are supported by other solutions though)
  • Interface is geared toward VMware administrators as it leverages the many of the same interfaces for VMware vSphere/vCenter
  • GPUs can be very expensive in the public cloud

Pricing Models

Licensing models

  • Subscription vs Perpetual licensing is typically the first starting point for licensing. While most VDI brokering solutions are converting to subscription, they also have a lot of clients that acquired perpetual licenses previously.  Any solution being built now is based on a subscription model, but not all subscriptions are built the same.
    • Perpetual licensing models typically come with yearly maintenance fee.
    • Subscription models need to be reviewed since there could be commitments for service length (“better pricing for a 3 year up front subscription”) or may have a limitation in scaling down appropriately.
  • Concurrent vs Per User is the next point since some solutions allow for concurrent licensing while others support named licensing model (either user or device). Some solutions allow for per device licensing to address use cases where a single device might be used by 10 users throughout the day (example: a teller at a bank).
    • Concurrent licensing models are great for shift workers, a global workforce, or for users who don’t expect to be using the desktop/application for a full 8 hours a day.
    • Per User are great for users who expect to be using the system for 8 hours a day and when the total user community is close to the concurrent number of users.  Typically, “per user” licenses cost less than concurrent users models but you need more licenses to cover a larger user community to cover the correct number of users.
  • Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop includes the brokering and the license to run the Windows OS in Azure for the following license models (but this does not include the storage/compute/network costs of Azure):
    • 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

Windows OS Included

  • DaaS solutions typically include Windows OS licenses, however due to how Microsoft works with its cloud services providers, the Windows 7/10 client OSes can be licensed on subscription. This is why most DaaS offerings leverage Windows Server OS 2012/2016 (which is subscription from Microsoft) and make it look like Windows 10 best the can for the user.
  • AWS and VMware Horizon DaaS have specific requirements for deploying Windows 7/10 including Bring Your Own License (BYOL) and minimum requirements.
  • Running Windows 7 or 10 in the public cloud with any VDI broker is possible with Bring Your Own License (BYOL) and your own image.
  • Windows 10 multi-session will only be available in Azure (see our blog Everything you need to know about Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop) and only by leveraging Microsoft WVD, Citrix Managed Desktops, Citrix Cloud – Virtual Apps and Desktops or VMware’s option later this year (https://www.vmware.com/content/dam/digitalmarketing/vmware/en/pdf/products/euc-vmw-msft-announce-external-faq.pdf) to broker the connection
  • If you are looking to host your infrastructure in Azure, Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop includes the brokering and the license to run the Windows OS in Azure for the following license models (but this does not include the storage/compute/network costs of Azure):
    • 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

*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).

Compute Included

  • DaaS solutions typically include the compute costs in their offering.
  • As it pertains to running any workload in the cloud, not all costs are included in the up-front web pricing so pay attention to GPU, storage (typically a finite amount) or network egress (not included or only a finite amount).
  • Most of the solutions require you to have subscription with the cloud provider so expect a bill from the cloud provider in addition to the VDI brokering solution.