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Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop Azure DaaS Offering Now GA Worldwide

WVD is poised to help partners drive Azure consumption.

Jeffrey Schwartz

October 4, 2019

5 Min Read
VDI
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Microsoft this week has gone live worldwide with Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD), the new desktop as a service (DaaS) hosted in the company’s Azure cloud.

The new service, revealed just over a year ago, is among this year’s most anticipated new enterprise cloud infrastructure offerings from Microsoft — by both partners and customers. Microsoft is touting WVD as the only cloud-hosted DaaS that allows multisession Windows 10 virtual desktop and app images, support for Windows Server Remote Desktop Services (RDS) and optimized Office 365 ProPlus performance.

As a fully managed service in Azure, WVD provides a cloud broker that can manage infrastructure roles such as gateways, diagnostics and load balancing at scale. Microsoft said this eliminates the more complex process of deploying and managing traditional RDS implementations. WVD allows control over VHD images but it also can host pre-built images. Alternatively, with WVD, service providers and administrators can deploy custom images. It provides more flexibility in performance in that WVD can run any size virtual machine in Azure and allows multiple users on a single VM.

Scott-Manchester-Microsoft-WVD.jpg

Microsoft’s Scott Manchester previewing Windows Virtual Desktop during a demonstration this week.

WVD presents a Windows desktop from any HTML 5 browser, or from the native clients available for Windows PCs and Macs, as well Android and iOS phones and tablets. The WVD release also includes the application layering technology that Microsoft gained from last year’s acquisition of FSLogix, which separates the user profile layer in Windows from the virtual machine.

That aims to reduce the lag found in virtual desktop and application environments, providing a user experience more similar that more closely matches the feel of saving and opening files on a local disk. In reality, it’s saving data onto a VHD hosted file share that WVD can mount to whatever VM the user logs into, Scott Manchester, principal engineering lead and Azure group program manager for Microsoft’s WVD, explained in a prerecorded video demonstration.

Taking that a step further, Manchester described a new feature under development based on the FSLogix tools called “App Attach,” which separates the applications from the Windows VM.

“Like we did with the user profile, we’ve modified Windows so the apps can be stored off the Windows disk,” Manchester explained. “We just need to attach the apps to the VM. Now app groups are assigned to users, and they’re available instantly on login, because you don’t have to stream the app environments. And it looks and feels local to the user and to Windows.” Manchester and Microsoft 365 director Jeremy Chapman also previewed a forthcoming AV redirect feature using the app layering technology to optimize Microsoft Teams conferencing.

Microsoft released the FSLogix tools in July and has integrated them into WVD, according to this week’s announcement authored by Brad Anderson, corporate VP for the Microsoft 365 platform, and Takeshi Numoto, corporate VP for Microsoft Azure . The executives also emphasized the forthcoming App Attach capability, which is based on Microsoft’s new MSIX application packaging tool. MSIX enables application packages to attach dynamically to a virtual machine rather than permanently installing them.

“This is important because …

… it significantly decreases storage and makes it easier for the admin to manage and update the apps, while creating a seamless experience for the user,” Anderson and Numoto noted.

It isn’t clear when Microsoft will release App Attach, but several partners anticipate the company will reveal more on its plans for adding App Attach to WVD at next month’s Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando.

Great Expectations for WVD

Partners anticipate that WVD will drive Azure consumption and provide a significant boost to the burgeoning cloud-based DaaS market because it introduces an economically attractive virtual Windows-as-a-service offering.

“We’re really excited about WVD and believe Microsoft is going to create a lot of energy into the cloud desktop space,” said Brian Barnes, CTO of Coretek Services, an early airlift tester of WVD.

In addition to providing an optimized virtual Windows 10 desktop and apps DaaS offering, WVD will provide one of the few options to extend the life of Windows 7 desktops beyond the January deadline when Microsoft has said it will end mainstream support and updates for the operating system. WVD includes Microsoft’s Extended Security Update (ESU) service for Windows 7 until January 2023 at no additional charge.

Since Microsoft released the WVD technical preview in March, thousands of customers and partners have tested it, according to Anderson.

“The interest is literally off the charts,” Anderson told Channel Futures, during an interview in late May during the Citrix Synergy conference, where the two longtime alliance partners announced integration of WVD with Citrix Cloud.

A key reason for the optimism about WVD is because the license is included with qualifying Windows 10, Microsoft 365 licenses. It also provides an inexpensive and technically appealing alternative to existing VDI desktops delivered by Windows Server Remote Desktop Services (RDS). The Windows Server RDS client access licenses (CAL) are transferable to WVD, which also is included with various commercial editions of Windows 10, including Windows 10 Enterprise and the Microsoft 365 bundle.

Partners who have tested it believe WVD could broaden the use of virtual Windows desktops and apps beyond the narrow VDI market.

“I believe that because of Microsoft’s WVD initiative that we will see net-new seats of Windows virtualization,” said Jason Smith, VP of products at Liquidware Labs, which is working with Microsoft and various systems integrators and resellers to onboard shared customers.

Liquidware is among several alliance partners rolling out services to extend WVD. Others include CloudJumper, Igel, Lakeside Software, Nerdio, ThinPrint, ControlUp and Workspot. Microsoft singled out its largest partner, Citrix, as having worldwide availability. VMware, which announced plans to support WVD in its Horizon Cloud, will offer a technical preview by the end of the year.

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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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