3 Reasons Why All MSP Vendors Should Work With a Cloud Distributor

CSP distributor

At Nerdio, our mission is to empower Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to build successful cloud practices in Microsoft Azure and one of the major investments we make as a company is to partner with high-quality, best in class cloud distributors. Working with the distribution channel was a major investment of Nerdio and it has paid off in a big way. Together with our distribution partners, we have been able to grow the MSP market for cloud services and expose Nerdio to a much broader set of partners than we ever could have done alone as a SaaS company. 

For other SaaS vendors looking to break into the MSP ecosystem, here are three good reasons to seriously consider partnering with cloud distributors: 

  1. You will achieve breakthrough growth.
    As a SaaS startup, Nerdio really started to take off astronomically after we established strong relationships with cloud distributors.  The reach we achieved, and breadth of market distribution is unparalleled and something that is quite difficult to realize by going at it alone.  Most cloud distributors have long-term relationships with MSPs; ones that in some cases they have maintained and grown through several iterations of various technologies.  Being able to tap into a distributor’s network of partners can allow you to scale your business much more quickly than hiring many more of your own salespeople in the early days of your company’s growth.  
  2. Distributors have the pulse of the market. 
    Because of their broad and deep relationships that in some cases have been in place for decades, cloud distributors maintain a strong pulse on the market.  As a cloud vendor, we certainly believe we are deeply ingrained into what is going on with MSPs when it comes to their journey to the cloud with Microsoft Azure, but what we are less aware of is what else is going on with other cloud vendors, what trends we should be aware of, and how others are navigating this generational shift to the public cloud.  Our distribution partners play a big role in advising us as to the latest trends and market shifts so that we can react more quickly and provide the best solution for the broadest set of MSPs possible. 

    Have questions about cloud distributors and what the next steps are? Contact us and we’ll help guide you!
  3. You can leverage sophisticated cloud marketplaces. 
    All cloud distributors have either stood up sophisticated cloud marketplaces, or if they have not, are in the process of doing so.  A cloud marketplace allows an MSP to come to the distributor, and by using one “portal”, gain access to the latest cloud technologies to help grow their business and move their customers to the cloud. MSPs love this because they have one place to go to consume and be billed for cloud services. In the case of Nerdio, our MSP partners enter a specific cloud marketplace and gain access to the key building blocks they need to build their practice—Microsoft Azure, Microsoft 365, and Nerdio Manager for MSP. This friction-free way of purchasing cloud services is the new norm in the MSP ecosystem and short of using the various Microsoft marketplaces is the most efficient way to accelerate your move to the cloud. As a SaaS vendor, integration via APIs into your cloud distributor’s marketplace is a necessity and provides you with a huge advantage relative to your competitors. 
      

At Nerdio, we believe that building strong relationships with cloud distributors is not only a great way to grow your business but is a requirement when it comes to accelerating your MSP partners’ move to the cloud.  We are hugely appreciative of our distribution partners and look forward to much success together in the marketplace.   

A How-to Guide: RDS to Azure Virtual Desktop Migration Walkthrough

RDS to AVD

This article is for two types of partners. First, those who aren’t sure about the Azure/Cloud space and want to load up an RDS environment initially due to familiarity, but may consider migrating to Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) down the road. Second, it’s for existing Nerdio partners who already have an RDS environment and are interested in transitioning to the AVD side (see note at the end of this article).

Nerdio has developed an easy and automated process for transitioning partner from a current RDS deployment to AVD. That being said, there are a few things to consider and some prerequisite steps that should be taken. This article will walk through the entire RDS to AVD migration process from start to finish.

Overview

The migration from RDS to AVD is designed to be as seamless as possible. As a result, no existing servers will get destroyed, and only additions are made to specific VMs (namely DC01 & FS01). Not even a reboot is performed on any of the severs. In theory, this migration could take place during standard work hours without any disruption to end the user (obviously this is not advised, but it’s possible in theory).

The migration process is broken into four phases:

  1. Environment Preparation
  2. Server Migration
  3. Infrastructure Configuration & User Migration
  4. Environment Cleanup

Phase 1: Environment Preparation

Due to the nature of the backend automation taking place during this process, we advise that everything is as clean as possible in the environment before the migration kicks off. This means running updates on the servers (primarily DC01 & FS01), checking the Event Logs to make sure everything is healthy, and reviewing the Nerdio Admin Portal (NAP) logs to make sure there aren’t any lingering issues (also known as AD Cache failing to sync).

We also recommend creating a test user on the RDS side. Make sure this user has the resources and licensing necessary to simulate standard user activity in the environment. In Phase 3, this user should be the first one to migrate over to the AVD side. This test user can then verify things like applications, printers/scanners, folder redirects, etc., are all working as expected before live users are migrated over.

Phase 2: Server Migration

This is the actual migration part of the process where the Nerdio scripts get ran. Reach out to Nerdio by emailing engineering@getnerdio.com to schedule this piece of the migration.

Once a date and time have been set, the Nerdio team will launch the migration and manage this phase. On average, this phase will take 1-3 hours. Once Phase 2 is complete, there’s no going back to the RDS side. As a result it’s important to ensure users & resources that need to be built on the RDS side have been built before the switch. This is especially true if Phase 3 is intended to take a few weeks. Let’s say there is a new employee of the company that will need to work on the RDS side while the AVD side is getting configured. Add this user before the migration so there’s no disruption to workflow.

Phase 3: Infrastructure Configuration & User Migration

After the migration script has completed, the most notable change to the environment will be the additional Golden Image for the AVD side, along with an option to create AVD pools. All old RDS infrastructure will still be intact and working as expected. User will still be able to login and execute their regular task just like they did before the migration.

The next step is to configure the AVD side of things. This includes configuring the AVD Golden Image (this will be brand new and is not cloned from the RDS Golden Image), creating a AVD pool, and configuring the WVD pool template. Once the pool(s) are dialed in and ready to go, bring over the test user and assign it to the AVD resources to verify standard workflow and the correct configuration.

As long as the test user is working as expected, it’s safe to begin migrating live users. We recommend keeping the first group fairly small (5-10 users) and have them in the environment for at least 2-3 days without any issues before moving the next group over. One thing to keep in mind is that the UPDs for each user will not get migrated over from the RDS to AVD side as part of this process. It’s very important to have users save their data (we usually see partners leverage OneDrive or File Shares for this) and once they get assigned to the AVD side, the data can be loaded in their AVD environments, documents, & favorites folders.

Once all users have been migrated to the AVD side and everything is working as expected, you’re ready for Phase 4.

Phase 4: Environment Cleanup

The environment cleanup phase involves removing all the old RDS resources. This includes things like the RDS Collections, RD Gateway & Connection Broker — and the RDS Golden Image can be deleted. This ensures that no Azure spend is charged for these resources, especially since they will be obsolete in the new AVD environment. Once all the resources have been cleared out, simply update the Nerdio ticket for this case and the Nerdio team will run the command to mark the account as officially migrated to AVD. This will conclude the cleanup process and the migration from RDS to WVD will be complete.

Final Thoughts

That’s it. Overall, it’s not too complicated and the average time allotment we see partners apply for this is one to two weeks — however, that obviously varies depending on the environment size. Due to the permanence of this migration, we advise partners to consider all factors involved before going down this path. This is especially true if the client utilizes proprietary applications that were configured for RDS and may not have been tested in a Windows 10 native environment.

* Note: We cannot take an existing Azure RDS environment that was configured outside the Nerdio orchestration, apply Nerdio to that environment, and then transition it to AVD. This only applies to RDS deployments configured through Nerdio.

Nerdio Manager for Enterprise Version 2.0 – ARM (Spring Update) Object Model, Sepago Integration, & More

Today, we are releasing Version 2.0 of Nerdio Manager for Enterprise.  There are several major enhancements and exciting new functionality in this release.  We’ll delve into some of them here but be sure to watch our YouTube Channel for demos of new features as they are released.

AVD Spring Update – ARM Object Model

In version 2.0, Nerdio Manager for Enterprise now supports the Fall 2019 Release (non-ARM) object model, Spring 2020 Update (ARM) object model and a hybrid mode.

As with everything in Nerdio Manager, we made the process of switching to ARM mode or hybrid mode very easy and intuitive.  One of three modes can be selected on the SETTINGS page.

  • “Fall 2019 Release – non-ARM” – in this mode, AVD TENANTS menu is visible and all functionality uses the non-ARM object model.
  • “Spring 2020 Update – ARM” – in this mode, WORKSPACES menu is visible and all functionality uses the new ARM object model.
  • “Hybrid – ARM and non-ARM” – in this mode, both WORKSPACES and AVD TENANTS menus are visible and both object models can be utilized at the same time.

In the near future, while in Hybrid mode, you will be able to migrate an existing non-ARM deployment to the new ARM object model non-disruptively.  You’ll be able to migrate the entire deployment or individual host pools and select whether to copy or move existing user assignments. 

There are three things you’ll notice when you enable the ARM object model in Nerdio Manager:

  1. It is now possible to assign users AND groups to host pools. You will see groups listed on the Manage assignments page (previously called Manage users).
  2. What used to be called “AVD Tenants” in non-ARM mode is now called “Workspaces” and these objects can be placed in different Azure geographies. (As of this writing, only US locations are available, but others are coming later this year.)
  3. Objects created in Nerdio Manager for Enterprise are visible and manageable in the Azure portal (and vice versa). You can now see Workspaces, Host Pools, and App Groups in the Azure portal.

All other functionality that Nerdio Manager for Enterprise users have come to love and rely on in the non-ARM model is still available in ARM mode.  Desktop images, auto-scaling, role-based access controls, etc. work exactly as they used to.

Sepago Azure Monitor Integration

Visibility into AVD environments, both in real-time and historically, is a key component of operationalizing Windows Virtual Desktop in production environments.  Knowing what is going on inside of the user sessions, what the end-user experience is like, how much infrastructure is being consumed at a given time, what users’ work hours look like and many such questions were difficult to answer – until now!

Nerdio has partnered with sepago and integrated their Azure Log Analytics based monitoring tool for AVD right into the Nerdio Manager.  It is now possible to automate the deployment of Log Analytics workspace, custom AVD workbooks (i.e. visualizations and reports), and the installation of the sepago Azure monitor agent on each newly created session host VM.

Sepago Azure monitor is enabled on the SETTINGS page in Nerdio Manager for Enterprise.  It can deploy a new Log Analytics workspace or leverage an existing one.

Once enabled, the sepago agent that collects all telemetry data will be automatically installed on any newly deployed or re-imaged session host VM.  These settings can be controlled globally (as defaults) or customized on a per host pool basis.

Finally, custom dashboards and reports can be defined and linked directly in the Nerdio Manager navigation menu and made available to all Nerdio Manager users.  As new Workbooks are created, they can be linked and made available to others automatically.  Nerdio Manager will not only deploy the Log Analytics workspace but will also manage the access on this resource as new users are added to Nerdio Manager.  As new users are added, they will be automatically entitled to see the sepago Log Analytics workbooks depending on their role.

Want to learn more about the new sepago integration into Nerdio Manager for Enterprise? 

CLICK HERE FOR PART 1: ENABLING THE INTEGRATION

CLICK HERE FOR PART 2: CREATING & LINKING DASHBOARDS 

Dynamic Host Pool Cost Estimation

Several other enhancements are also included in the Version 2.0 release of Nerdio Manager for Enterprise.  With this and future releases, we are adding more visibility into the costs associated with deploying and operating a AVD environment. This starts with estimating the minimum and maximum compute and storage costs of a host pool and then measuring the actual cost and auto-scale savings over time.  In Version 2.0, you will see a new table on the Manage auto-scale screen that shows the estimated minimum and maximum costs of a selected configuration.

Our mission with Nerdio Manager for Enterprise is to empower IT Professionals to operationalize large AVD environments in a cost effective and secure manner.  Stay tuned for many more exciting features coming soon.

Learn more about Nerdio Manager for Enterprise and start your free 30-day trial today.