When Microsoft released Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS) in 2007, many MSPs were skeptical about its purpose. No one in the MSP space wanted Microsoft to take away their ability to manage Exchange Servers.
Then came the BPOS successor, Office 365, which was based on Exchange 2010. Earlier on, Microsoft partners were still resistant to the idea of moving a critical workload such as email to “the cloud.”
End-customers were resistant to it as well, fearing security and privacy would be compromised in the still-new-concept cloud. I remember sitting in my company’s conference room when the Office 365 launch was announced and thinking: “Microsoft is out to get us, they are taking over, and the cloud is going to make us obsolete.”
Office 365 Kickstarted VDI Acceptance
However, my fears were unfounded as quite the contrary happened. Fast forward a few years, and Office 365 became the catalyst for MSPs wanting to build that MRR model, which got us to evolve from break-fix to a more strategic mindset.
More on-premises applications started moving to the cloud by having a “software-as-a-service” version. Many first attempts of virtual apps weren’t great but the start of a shift in delivering apps via a browser was really taking off and hosted offsite storage became very popular. Early on, Office 365 had its fair share of outages and problems like every other new SaaS solution, but it became stable, feature-rich and is now mainstream.
How I See the VDI Market Today
The virtual desktop space has been around for a long time, well over 10 years. It never gained mainstream mass adoption due to the complexities of setting it up and the skillset of an engineer needed to maintain the infrastructure. Experts in the market offered their own private cloud VDI hosting services but all this is evolving quickly.
At Inspire 2017, Microsoft announced Remote Desktop Modern Infrastructure (RDMi). The premise of RDMi was that Azure was going to take over some of the infrastructure services around delivering a desktop such has RD Gateway, RD Broker roles, and offering it as a service.
AVD Is the Future
After RDMi, things went quiet for about a year in terms of updates. However, this year at Ignite 2018, Microsoft kicked it up by announcing Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD), which is essentially a rebrand of RDMi, except on steroids. AVD is based on the very successful Windows 10 operating system and will now have a multiuser version.
Think of it like a Remote Desktop Server except the underlying Operating System is Windows 10 as opposed to Windows Server 2019. Windows Server will still keep its RDS role, so no worries there.
The Azure cloud is ripe to support VDIs, internet circuit bandwidths have increased, and costs have come down to allow desktops to be streamed to monitors. All the traditional barriers of entry have been eliminated. Microsoft is finally going for it, taking VDI and making it mainstream, just as Office 365 went after on-premises Exchange Server.
Working to Ensure AVD Success
Microsoft has already positioned itself to be successful in this endeavor. In late November, Microsoft announced the acquisition of FXLogix, which helped solidify its AVD solution. FXLogix has solutions that enable a better user experience through its profile capabilities in order to further enhance Microsoft’s offering.
They’ve partnered with Citrix to overlay Citrix Cloud on top of AVD, an obvious move. Nerdio will help our partners to provision, manage, and optimize AVD when its ready, and help MSPs migrate existing Nerdio deployments to AVD, if desired.
New Fears, But Lots of Excitement
Is everyone as excited about this as Nerdio is? Probably not quite yet, but momentum is picking up. There’s a lot of fear and uncertainty in the MSP community with this announcement. AVD is in private preview at the moment, but it is scheduled to go public preview in Q1 of 2019.
MSPs aren’t sure about what this means for their practices based on how they currently deliver services. If we’ve learned anything from history, MSPs pushed back eight years ago at Office 365, now they can’t seem to sell it fast enough. Most end-customers are now 90% migrated to Office 365 today.
We can presume that this is the next wave of change coming to MSPs, the day has come where delivery of DaaS is now mainstream.
Be Prepared to Join the Action
AVD means good news for the MSP, another MRR revenue stream is coming your way, this time with more margins than Office 365! This is all part of the evolution of an MSP. My advice is to get in front of this wave, figure out as soon as possible how to monetize it and position yourself to come out strong. Become a leader in the space before it becomes just another commodity like Office 365.
Over 10% of today’s Azure workloads are already RDS based; this move is going to have DaaS consume a large piece of the Azure pie. The question is, how quickly will you be a part of it. It’s not a matter of when or if, the question you should be asking is “how fast?”!