How Windows Virtual Desktop Compares with Remote Desktop Services
The desktop virtualization journey started 20 years ago with Windows NT Server 4.0 Terminal Server Edition and culminated this fall with the release of Azure cloud-based virtual desktop technology – Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD).
Along the way, many technologies delivered on the value proposition of desktop virtualization, including Terminal Services, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), Citrix, VMware and, most notably, Remote Desktop Services (RDS). However, desktop virtualization didn’t quite take off in the mass market because of cost, complexity and end-user experience limitations — until now. With WVD, Microsoft has knocked down these barriers. Let’s explore some of the advantages brought by WVD compared with its predecessor, RDS.
One of the major hurdles that managed service providers (MSPs) faced with every WVD predecessor technology, including RDS, was the complexity of the licensing model.
With RDS, MSPs had to license the server operating system (e.g. Windows Server 2016 or 2019), plus the RDS feature of the Server OS, plus a version of Microsoft Office that was almost always a component of a virtual desktop deployment. The challenge was that because the server OS was licensed per-core, RDS client access license (CAL) was per-user with a required Software Assurance subscription, and Office is licensed through the Office 365 subscription model. Putting all these components together was not only expensive but complex and maintaining a virtual desktop environment properly licensed over time was even more difficult.
With WVD, these complexities are resolved. No more operating system, RDS or Office licenses. All that’s needed is a subscription to Microsoft 365 (e.g., Business, E3, E5, A3 or A5) or a standalone Windows 10 Enterprise subscription and you have everything you need to use a virtual desktop running Windows 10 in the cloud with Office. And since most of the business world is moving toward Microsoft 365 anyway, WVD becomes a no-fee add-on to an already existing subscription, saving users money every month.
Desktop Operating System
With RDS, service providers had to use the Windows Server OS to leverage the multiuser capability, which reduces the per-user cost of infrastructure. This meant that all users were using a Server OS as their desktop with a “Windows 10 desktop experience”. Not quite the same as the Windows 10 desktop that everyone was used to. This led to application compatibility issues and user experience challenges.
With WVD, Microsoft introduced a new operating system specifically designed for WVD – Windows 10 multisession. This allows multiple users to utilize the familiar Windows 10 OS for virtual desktop sessions using a single virtual machine (VM) or a pool of virtual machines. This improves the end-user experience while keeping the per-user infrastructure costs in Azure low.
With RDS, MSPs not only needed to run and manage desktop VMs but also needed a set of “infrastructure roles” like RD Connection Broker, RD Gateway, RD Web Access and RD License Server that would be responsible for receiving a user’s connection, determining where it belongs, and placing it on the appropriate desktop VM. This required additional server infrastructure and ongoing management (e.g., Windows patching, monitoring, etc.)
With WVD, these infrastructure roles are no longer needed. Microsoft has taken on that responsibility with the WVD Management Service that is hosted in Azure and maintained by Microsoft. Now, all users need is to …