Microsoft Releases Azure-Based Windows Virtual Desktop DaaS Technical Preview

Partners and customers can get their first look at Microsoft’s cloud-based DaaS offering.

Jeffrey Schwartz

March 23, 2019

4 Min Read

The technical preview of Microsoft’s cloud-based Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) is now available for partners and customers to test.

Microsoft revealed plans for WVD last fall at its annual Ignite conference for IT professionals. The service, which will run in Azure, will provide VDI-like, multi-session Windows 7 and Windows 10 desktop and virtual app experiences.

Since Microsoft announced WVD, it has created significant interest among partners and customers amid growing interest in cloud-based virtual DaaS services such as Amazon Work Spaces, VMware’s Workspace One and Citrix Workspace Cloud, among others.


Microsoft’s Brad Anderson

All partners and customers can now test WVD, according to a blog by Microsoft corporate vice presidents Brad Anderson and Julia White, who announced the release. WVD is “the only service that delivers simplified management, a multi-session Windows 10 experience, optimizations for Office 365 ProPlus and support for Windows Server Remote Desktop Services (RDS) desktops and apps,” they noted.

The WVD service will be included with Microsoft 365 F1, E3 or E5 subscriptions as well as those with Windows 10 Enterprise E3 or E5 licenses and Windows Virtual Desktop Application (VDA) customers. Additionally, Microsoft revealed it will include WVD with Windows Server desktops and with existing Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS) Client Access Licenses (CALs).


Microsoft’s Julia White

Those with RDS will also get to use the application provisioning and layering it gained with last November’s acquisition of FSLogix, which provides accelerated loading of files. “If you had an RDS account, you get the basic functionality of profile container for use in Office 365 and other large profiles, and that enables people to use it both on premises and off premises,” said Jason Smith, vice president of marketing at Liquidware, an ISV partnered with Microsoft to offer WVD.

The FSLogix technology provides faster load times for non-persistent users, notably who access offline .ost Outlook or OneDrive files.  Scott Manchester, Microsoft’s principal group program manager, who leads the WVD effort, demonstrated how WVD can load offline Outlook files. “Not only does it load quickly, but it actually will automatically be hydrated with all of my OSTs,” Manchester said.

The RDS-based client and server support for hybrid environments and will allow Microsoft Cloud Solution Providers (CSPs) to offer their own DaaS and value-added services to their customers, as well as ISVs and service providers, which can also offer specialized WVD solutions in the Azure Marketplace.

Liquidware is among those that offer its ProfileUnity as an extension to WVD. “I think what’s telling is how complete solution WVD and how Microsoft was able to create this without going too far outside of the ecosystem,” Liquidware’s Smith said, adding that Liquidware’s Profile Unity, can extend the FXLogix tool.

The launch of WVD has raised questions as to whether Microsoft is muscling into a business that its partner Citrix has emphasized. But Citrix reiterated that is partnering with Microsoft to build services that extend WVD and gave it an endorsement, encouraging customers and partners to test it. Citrix said its partners can offer value-added services on top of WVD.

“Administrators can integrate Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops service with Windows Virtual Desktop, taking advantage of advanced networking capabilities, robust management tools, and high-definition user experience optimizations,” said Citrix alliance executive Nabeel Youakim, in a blog. “Using Citrix, you can manage these new app and desktop workloads alongside …

… existing on-premises deployments for maximum flexibility in your cloud adoption.”

Pete Downing, chief marketing and technology officer at XenTegra, tested the WVD preview and said the inclusion of FSlogix will lend itself to extending into Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops. “From a partnership point of view, we can we can definitely build a lot of great solutions around this and then we can plug it into our MSP offering and really enhance the end to end Azure story with Citrix,” Downing said.

While WVD will appeal to those looking to move their on-premises VDI datacenter infrastructure to Azure, Microsoft is also touting it as an option for those who want to continue running their Windows 7 environments after mainstream support for the OS officially ends next January.

Customers who have legacy applications or other reasons for needing to remain on Windows 7, will have to pay Microsoft a significant monthly fee to continue receiving patches and security updates. According to Microsoft, WVD will include those patches until 2023. WVD will virtualize Windows 7 desktops with free Extended Security Updates (ESU).

About the Author(s)

Jeffrey Schwartz

Jeffrey Schwartz has covered the IT industry for nearly three decades, most recently as editor-in-chief of Redmond magazine and executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner. Prior to that, he held various editing and writing roles at CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek and VARBusiness (now CRN) magazines, among other publications.

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