What is Windows Virtual Desktop?

Windows Virtual Desktop is essentially a terminal server in Microsoft’s Azure Cloud. It can be linked to existing Windows Server infrastructure either on-site or Cloud based. It was announced in Microsoft’s October 2018 Inspire event and will be available under general release in Q1 2019. Though this is a new product, it uses tried and tested technology based on the ubiquitous Windows Terminal Server that we all know and love. The release of this product is great news for the business world since it bridges the void left by Microsoft October on-premise and perpetual license price increases as business migrate on-premise workloads to the Cloud. Currently, there is no financially viable alternative to the very expensive Remote Desktop Services deployment methodology in Azure.

 What advantages does this have over existing infrastructure deployments?

  • Provide your users with the first ever and only full multi-user Windows 10 Enterprise experience.
    • Many applications like Adobe CC build for Desktop environments, rather than a server OS. Support for these is much better than for a server OS
    • Windows 10 is updated on a 6 monthly cycle rather than Long Term Support for server OS, inherently has greater application support than Server OS
    • More familiar environment for users, than Server OS
  • Only pay for resources used
    • Spin up Desktop environments on the fly and only pay for computing resources required at that point in time
    • Only pay for the IaaS consumption of the Desktop host, a fraction of the cost of a full RDS deployment
    • Flexible, scalable without further hardware investment
  • No need to upgrade on-premise client machines to Windows 10
    • Many businesses are facing a wholesale migration from old Windows 7 supported hardware to Windows 10 capable devices.
    • With a virtual desktop environment, old hardware can be repurposed as a thin client to access the powerful Cloud infrastructure
  • Optimised for Office 365
    • Office applications built into the environment optimised for speed and efficiency
    • Always up to date, without downtime
    • Directly connected to Office 365 servers, so mailboxes and Cloud features are fast
  • License included in Microsoft 365
    • New Reserved Instances make consumption charges more predictable and easier to forecast spend.
    • Every user with Microsoft 365 E3 or E5 has access to the new WAD environment in addition to Office, Intune and EMS (MDM) and a raft of security and compliance features.

I’m interested, how do we go from this to that?

Migration from existing Terminal Server deployments are straightforward; users are prepared for the workflow, and the migration pathway is well defined. The migration should be completed in a short time frame. Migrating from a Thick Client environment where users primarily use their own machine as the workhorse in their role, is more challenging both technically and for users to adopt new processes to get their work done. The approach taken by most businesses in this situation is to phase the migration, starting with a specific Cloud-based line of business application first, followed by company files, and any other services that are suitable for migration.

Windows Virtual Desktop represents a quantum leap forward in Microsoft’s Azure service, both from a technical and operational point of view, but also a licensing position standpoint. This will simplify deployment, migrations, administration, and billing for many SMEs and their IT support provider, resulting in smoother future transitions of technology and processes, and also a clearer understanding of their financial position with respect to infrastructure spend.

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