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Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) Advanced Specialization – Part 2: Why Your Company Should Pursue It & How to Collaboratively Do So

Neil McLoughlin, UK Field CTO

In our first part of this new series about Azure specialization and certification, we discussed what  the Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) Advanced Specialization is and how to achieve it. Here we will talk about why your company would want to achieve it (aka benefits!) and share collaboration tips to help when pulling together your team, timeline and components for the initiative.  

The Advanced Specialization can take between 3-6 months depending on how mature your existing processes and procedures are. You’ll need to prepare a lot of documentation and route through approvals in your organization, nominate employees to cover off on each required section and of course answer countless questions that emerge during the preparation process.

Company Benefits of Achieving the AVD Advanced Specialization

All of this undoubtedly causes organizations to at some point ask, “Will the ROI outweigh our time invested on the AVD Advanced Specialization?” The answer is an astounding yes. Looking at all of your internal processes, procedures, and existing designs to meet the minimum strict criteria set by Microsoft is a return on investment itself. Additionally, pursuing the specialization affords companies the ability to: 

Differentiate from the Competition

When providing bids or statements of work you want to stand out as much as possible to seal the deal. Achieving the specialization shows your customers that Microsoft recognizes your ability to design, implement and support an AVD solution to the highest standards. Think of it as a prestigious diploma from a well-known university or graduating Magna Cum Laude. But the AVD Advanced Specialization isn’t just important for you to tell prospects once they’ve been introduced to your company, it can be the way that they find out about you and can drive leads in and of itself. For example, you issue a press release announcing the accomplishment and now companies looking into AVD can easily see your recent news and that you are a leader when it comes to understanding and mastering the technology.

Demonstrate Not Only Expertise but Breadth of It

Having to submit production designs, statements of work, processes etc, for the specialization speaks loudly for an entity’s AVD acumen. Additionally, the specialization requires a certain number of Microsoft certified staff per company, which shows an organization, not just an individual, can meet the high bar set by Microsoft. This is a selling point for customers and prospects because they can rest assured AVD expertise is baked into your company and across your staff and service(s), so they aren’t “locked in” to one expert and their packed work schedule. 

Leverage Microsoft’s Keys to Success in Your Sales Process

When engaging a prospective client, the whole process of having an initial conversation and then progressing it through pre-sales, sales, design, implementation and support discussions can be a long and winding road. The specialization follows, and has your detail your approach to, this whole process so Microsoft ensures that when you enter into these talks you are speaking to the right people, in the right departments and with the right messaging and knowledge that will allow you to close the deal and bring the customer on board.

Collaboration Tips & Who to Involve and When

If you are still reading, we haven’t scared you away yet… good! Achieving the specialization is a huge collaborative effort involving many different teams at each stage of the process. It is not meant to be daunting because it is a team initiative involving many different departments all with their own roles and contributions to the overall achievement  

Nobody can do this alone! Ensure the below teams and team players are involved in the actual implementation itself as early as you can to ensure success and keep progress moving forward and team members engaged and committed.

  • Marketing – During the evaluation you will be asked how your company sells AVD solutions. Microsoft will ask to see marketing materials, look at your website and collateral to ensure your marketing practices are up to date.
  • Pre-Sales and Consultancy– The statement of work is one of the most important documents produced as part of the sales process and is a focus of the evaluation so make sure pre-sales is aware of the initiative’s timeline and can supply the documentation. Once a SOW has been signed, typically consultants will produce a HLD and LLD Design document before implementation. This will be one of the most important documents and certainly the most detailed so most of the assessment will be spent on this document. We advise you assign the consultant(s) who authored it to speak directly with Microsoft during the assessment.
  • Implementation – For larger environments an engineer will implement the HLD and LLD Design It’s advisable to have this person be a key player in the entire process also and have them on standby for the assessment in case the auditor asks any questions about the actual implementation itself.
  • Project Handover – The auditors will ask about handover documentation –  SLAs, support procedures and the like. If there are any service managers involved in the process, they will need to be kept informed and while they typically don’t have many actions to take, they may need to produce documentation or answer questions.

If We Use Nerdio, Why Should My Company Pursue the Specialization?

We have plenty of partners who hold this certification and also use Nerdio for all their AVD needs. The reason being is that Nerdio Manager sits on top of AVD, extending all of the native capabilities while adding big benefits when it comes to significant cost and time savings. In fact, we always say some of our best partners and customers are ones who know all about implementing native AVD and have tried it themselves because they immediately see the value Nerdio brings.

Putting everything into place for the AVD Advanced Specialization gives your company a solid foundation to deliver a complete end-to-end AVD deployment. But we all know the hard work doesn’t stop there. Leverage Nerdio to make each existing and new deployment easier to deploy, manage and optimize for maximum ROI. Our uniquely differentiated features around image management, PowerShell scripting, disaster recovery, and powerful automation ensure that your foundation will translate to scalable, reliable results for each of your clients and your overall Azure practice.

I hope you enjoyed this two-part series on the AVD Advanced Specialization. Keep an eye out for our next pair of educational articles on the AZ- 140 certification for individuals to distinguish themselves when it comes to AVD.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at nmcloughln@getnerdio.com.

AVD MANAGEMENT

Multi-Cloud and On-Premises Deployment with Azure Stack HCI (Coming Soon)

Deploy Azure Virtual Desktop in Azure and extend the session host VM placement to on-premises and other cloud using Azure Stack HCI. Nerdio Manager automates deployment of session hosts, AVD agent installation, and full integration into the AVD deployment in Azure.

Create a brand new Azure Virtual Desktop environment or allow Nerdio Manager to discover an existing deployment, connecting to existing resources, and manage them.

Deploy Nerdio Manager from Azure Marketplace and configure a new AVD environment with an easy to follow, step-by-step configuration wizard. First group of users can access their AVD desktop in less than 2 hours.

Service providers, system integrators, and consultants can leverage Nerdio Manager’s scripted AVD deployment template. Create complete environments with desktop images, host pools, and auto-scaling in minutes.

Create and manage AVD environments that span Azure regions and subscriptions. Quickly link Vnets and resource groups and manage AVD deployments world-wide from unified portal.

Link multiple Azure tenants under the same Nerdio Manager instance and manage AVD deployments that span Azure AD tenants. User identities and session host VMs can run in separate tenants for maximum flexibilty and security.

Deploy and manage AVD environments that span across sovereign Azure Clouds. Cross-sovereign cloud support allows identity (e.g. users and groups) to be in one Azure Cloud, while session host VMs are in another Azure Cloud.

Management of workspaces, host pools, app groups, RemoteApps & custom RDP settings

Administer every aspect of AVD with Nerdio Manager including workspaces, host pools, application groups, RemoteApp publishing, RDP properties, session time limits, FSLogix, and much, much more. Every Azure service that AVD relies on can be managed with Nerdio Manager.

Deploy and manage AVD session host VMs. Hosts can be created manually or with auto-scaling, deleted on-demand or on a schedule, re-imaged to apply updates, run a scripted action, resized, put into or taken out of drain mode, and more.

Manage user sessions across the entire AVD environment, within a workspace, host pool or on a single host. Monitor session status, disconnect or log off the user, shadow or remote control to provide support, or send user an on-screen message.

End users have the ability to log into Nerdio Manager with their Azure AD credentials and manage their own session, restart their desktop VM, or start a session host if none are started in a host pool. (Ability to resize and re-image own desktop is coming soon.)

Create, link, and manage Azure Files shares including AD domain join. Synchronize Azure Files permissions with host pools, configure quotas, and enable SMB multi-channel. Manage file lock handles and configure Azure Files auto-scaling to increase quota as needed.

Create, link, and manage Azure NetApp Files accounts, capacity pools and volumes. Configure provisioned volume size, monitor usage, and use auto-scaling to automatically adjust volume and capacity pool size to accommodate the needed capacity and latency requirements.

FSLogix configuration can be complex and overwheling, but not with Nerdio Manager. Create one or more FSLogix profiles with all the needed options, point at one or more Azure Files, Azure NetApp Files, or server locations and select from VHDLocations, CloudCache and Azure Blob storage modes.

Multiple identity source profiles can be set up and used automatically on different host pools. Active Directory, Azure AD DS, and Native Azure AD are all supported. Choose the appropriate directory profile when adding a host pool and all VMs will automatically join this directory when being created.

Create a copy of a host pool with all of its settings: auto-scale config, app groups and RemoteApps, MSIX AppAttach, user/group assignments, VM deployment settings, etc. Save time by creating host pool “templates” that can be cloned to any Workspace, Azure region or subscription instead of starting from scratch.

Apply user session time limits at host pool level. Automatically log off disconnected sessions, limit the duration of idle sessions, control empty RemoteApp session behavior and more.

Assign Azure AD users to personal desktops to ensure the user will log into a pre-configured VM. Un-assign personal desktops from users who leave the organization and re-use these VMs for new users.

Pre-configure custom Azure tags for all Azure resources associated with each host pool. Tags can be used for charge-back and cost allocation by host pool.

When creating session hosts using NV-series VMs NVIDIA and AMD GPU drivers are automatically installed.

Move existing host pools from Fall 2019 (Classic) object model to Spring 2020 (ARM) object model. Choose to whether to move or copy user assignments. Existing session hosts are automatically migrated or new ones can be created in the ARM host pool.

Automatically enable and configure AVD integration with Azure monitor. Zero configuration required. Azure Monitor Insights for AVD can be used instead of or in conjunction with Sepago Monitor.

AVD personal desktops to Windows 365 Cloud PC migration (Coming Soon)

Migrate users from AVD personal desktops to Windows 365 Enterprise Cloud PCs using an existing image and user assignment. (Coming soon)

WINDOWS 365 ENTERPRISE MANAGEMENT

Cloud PC License Usage Optimization (Coming Soon)

Cloud PC device lifecycle management

Cloud PC user group assignment

Intune primary user management on Cloud PCs

Migrate AVD personal desktops to Cloud PCs (Coming Soon)

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