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What is Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD)? Here’s What You Need To Know (FAQs)

With Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) now in wide use, I’ve put together a list of the most frequently asked questions we receive, such as: What is AVD? How does it work? How much does it cost? How is it licensed? How do you access WVD and what are the tech requirements?

Read on for these answers and more information.

1. What is Azure Virtual Desktop? 

Azure Virtual Desktop or AVD (also sometimes incorrectly referred to online as Microsoft Virtual Desktop or MVD, and also as its previous name of Windows Virtual Desktop, or WVD) is a set of technologies from Microsoft Azure that enables IT professionals and Managed Service Providers (MSPs) to create Windows 10 virtual desktops in Azure.  AVD was launched in 2019 and is the evolution of Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Services (RDS) technology.  Windows Virtual Desktop consists of 4 primary innovations: 

  1. Windows 10 multi-user operating system, which allows multiple concurrent users to use a single Azure virtual machine as a desktop.  Prior to AVD, this was only possible with the Windows Server operating system. 
  2. User profiles are handled independently of the virtual machine that serves are the user’s desktop.  These profiles are placed in containers and the containers are stored separately from the desktop VM in Azure.  This is enabled by FSLogix technology that Microsoft purchased in 2018.
  3. Microsoft Azure has a new Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offering that contains the management and connection broker functionality for AVD.  It is the service that determines which users end upon which Azure virtual machine when they connect.  Before Windows Virtual Desktop, this was handled by RDS server roles such as RD Gateway, RD WebAccess, RD Connection Broker, and RD License Server. 
  4. Licensing for AVD has been drastically simplified from prior virtual desktop technologies like RDS.  AVD rights are included at no additional charge with multiple Windows 10 subscriptions including Microsoft 365 and Windows 10 Enterprise. 

2. How much does Azure Virtual Desktop cost? How is AVD licensed?  

There are two cost components to AVD:  License and Azure infrastructure

Microsoft License – Azure Virtual Desktop is an entitlement of a Windows 10 subscription license.  This license can be purchased as part of Microsoft 365 Business/E3/E5/A3/A5 or as a standalone subscription (e.g. Windows 10 Enterprise E3).  If you already own one of these licenses there is no additional cost to use WVD from a software perspective.   
 
If you don’t already have a Windows 10 subscription license, then the least expensive option that covers AVD is Windows 10 Enterprise E3 for $7/user/month.  AVD license covers the cost of the operating system (Windows 10 single user and multi-session) and the use of the AVD management service that’s hosted by Microsoft in Azure.   
 
This license also replaces the need to pay for Windows Server OS license in Azure and the RDS license, since neither of these technologies is used to deliver Windows Virtual Desktop. It is important to note that AVD covers only Azure virtual machines and cannot be used to license on-premises deployments or other clouds.   
 

Azure Infrastructure – Once the license portion of AVD is covered, what remains is the cost of Azure infrastructure to run the virtual machines that users will connect to and use as their desktop.  In addition to the desktop VMs, you will need a place to store users’ profile containers and Active Directory (in addition to Azure AD).  Profile containers can be stored in Azure Files or on a Windows File Server VM in Azure, and Active Directory can be Azure AD DS or traditional AD running a Windows Server VM in Azure.   
 
The cost of all these components will include the virtual machines (compute), storage (disks and files), networking (egress bandwidth), etc.  The precise cost will depend on the number of users, amount of storage per user, how many and what types of applications the users use and many other factors.  The easiest way to calculate the precise cost is to use a tool like Nerdio’s Azure Cost Estimator to have it architect the infrastructure and figure out all the costs.  As a rough range, the Azure infrastructure cost component for pooled desktop users (those sharing a VM or set of VMs) would be in the $10-$30/user/month, and for a personal desktop user (those with dedicated desktop VMs) being in the $60-$130/user/month range. 
 

3. Are there different pricing plans for AVD? 

There are not.  License cost is per-user and is the same no matter what type of desktop you’re using.  The cost of Azure infrastructure to run the virtual desktops varies based on what types of desktops you want to deploy.  It is very flexible. 

4. Can I subscribe to AVD?

AVD is an entitlement of any Windows 10 subscription license such as Microsoft 365 and Windows 10 Enterprise E3/E5, etc. 

5. How do I access Azure Virtual Desktop?  

AVD can be accessed from any modern, internet-connected device no matter what operating system it uses.  It can be accessed using an installed Remote Desktop client app.  This app is available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.   
 
This is not the same app as the one that is used for accessing RDS so be sure to download the latest version.  The Remote Desktop client allows a user to run both full session desktops (aka published desktop) and individual published apps (aka RemoteApps).  The RemoteApps and session desktops are even added automatically into the local computer’s Start Menu for easier access.  AVD can also be accessed via any HTML5 compatible browser.  This allows a user to run any session desktop or RemoteApp inside of a browser window or tab. 
 

6. How does Azure Virtual Desktop work?   

AVD allows IT pros and MSPs to create virtual desktops and RemoteApps in Azure and publish them to users who can access them from their own devices.

7. How do I create a virtual desktop on Windows 10? 

Windows 10 is the operating system that’s primarily used to deliver Microsoft’s Windows Virtual Desktop desktops to end-users.

8. How do I get started with AVD?  

Azure Virtual Desktop can be quickly and easily provisioned automatically with Nerdio Manager for MSP
 
Getting started with AVD is easy. In fact, you can deploy a desktop within 60 seconds using Nerdio Manager for MSP.   

9. What are the technical requirements for running Azure Virtual Desktop?

To run AVD, you’ll need a Windows 10 subscription license and an Azure environment with all the prerequisites met. 

10. What is Azure Virtual Desktop session virtualization? 

Session virtualization is a technology that allows the same Azure virtual machine to be used by multiple users concurrently, each for their own desktop session.  This is in contract to VDI or personal desktops where each user gets his or her own dedicated Azure virtual machine to use as the desktop.  Session virtualization is a good way to increase “user density” and reduce costs. 
 

11. What operating systems does Azure Virtual Desktop support? 

On the Azure side, AVD supports Windows 10 Enterprise (single user), Windows 10 multi-session, and Server 2012/2016/2019.  On the client side (end-user device), AVD supports all modern, internet-connected devices such as PCs, Macs, iOS, Android and any device with an HTML5 browser. 
 

12. What hardware supports Azure Virtual Desktop? 

AVD is an Azure-only technology and can only be used in the Microsoft cloud.  Users of AVD can use any modern, internet-connected hardware device.  There are also hardware vendors who produce thin clients designed specifically for AVD. 
 

13. Which remote desktop clients support Azure Virtual Desktop? 

AVD supports all Remote Desktop client devices that are internet-connected. 
 

14. What are the limitations of Azure Virtual Desktop? 

AVD can only be used in Azure and not for on-premises or other cloud deployments.  It also requires a subscription to Windows 10 Enterprise.  This must be a subscription and not a perpetual Windows 10 license. 
 

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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