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Azure Virtual Desktop 2020 “Spring Update” – What This Means for Nerdio

Today marks a new milestone in the evolution of Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD).  The 2020 “Spring Update” release of AVD adds exciting functionality to this very popular Azure offering.  Much of the new functionality comes from customer feedback and is welcomed by many. 

Here are some of the new features you’ll find in the 2020 AVD Spring Update: 

Azure Resource Manager (ARM) Object Model

This is a significant “back-end” change in the architecture of the AVD service, which brings with it lots of new capabilities.  AVD will now be a “first-party” rather than a “third-party” Azure service.  Here is what it practically means: 

  • There is no longer a need to register the AVD application in the Azure AD tenant.  AVD is now just another Azure Resource Provider (like compute, network, and storage) that is registered in the Azure subscription. 
  • Standard Azure roles (e.g. Owner, Contributor, Reader, etc.) can now be used to manage AVD objects.  Roles like “RDS Owner” and “RDS Reader” are no longer used in the new version.  This allows for role-based access control to AVD deployments using existing Azure architecture. 
  • And now this is the BIG one… Because 2020 AVD Spring Update is now integrated with ARM, it supports native Azure AD users and GROUPS.  You can assign one or more Azure AD groups (in addition to users) to an application group and entitle all members of these groups to access desktops and RemoteApps.  This means that when group membership changes outside of Azure/AVD the users automatically get added or removed from AVD resources.  This was the single biggest request from customers who are deploying large AVD environments. 

Native Azure Portal Management Blade

Partially as a result of the ARM object model update, many aspects of AVD can now be managed via the native Azure portal.  You can create host pools, manage workspaces, add hosts and configure application groups without PowerShell, which was a big limitation in the previous release.  The new AVD Azure portal management will simplify the process of deploying a new environment and simplify many common user session management tasks like log off and disconnect. 

Preview of upcoming capabilities  

In addition to the new ARM object model and Azure management portal, Microsoft has announced the public preview of a few highly anticipated features such as MSIX AppAttach and Teams audio/video integration.  As these features enter General Availability, they will further increase the value of Windows Virtual Desktop as a complete cloud desktop platform. 

Nerdio has been hard at work alongside the Microsoft product team innovating on top of the great work the AVD team is doing.  Since AVD launched in general availability last October, our MSP partners have done well over a thousand customer deployments using Nerdio Manager.   

On March 10th, we launched Nerdio Manager for Enterprise (NME), a revolutionary product that helps government, education, and Enterprise customers deploy, manage and auto-scale large AVD environments.  In less than two months, Nerdio Manager was used by some of the largest global organizations in over 300 AVD deployments across many hundreds of thousands of users.  The largest of these organizations had over a million objects in their Azure AD.  Nerdio Manager was also extremely well received by the most prominent EUC implementation partners and dozens of them have adopted NME as their primary deployment and management tool for AVD. 

As an ISV partner in the Microsoft ecosystem, Nerdio’s job is to add significant customer value on top of Microsoft’s native technology and Nerdio Manager does just that.  NME extends the native AVD functionality with capabilities that increase the value of Azure Virtual Desktop and lower the operational and management costs for the customer.  At Nerdio, we believe in earning our customers’ business every single day.  NME provides measurable value during deployment, initial configuration, ongoing management, and day-to-day service delivery. 

Nerdio Manager for Enterprise delivers benefits in three categories: 

  • Operationalize large AVD deployments through a powerful and intuitive UI used by engineering and help desk staff to deploy the environment and provide ongoing user management.  Capabilities like desktop image management, performance monitoring, and user session control eliminate the need for complex scripting and speed up response to end-users.  With NME, users can be up and running in under 2 hours. 
  • Reduce Azure costs with schedule and event-driven autoscaling.  Azure compute and storage costs can be reduced by up to 75%.  Additional savings result from consolidating user management and monitoring tools and eliminating third-party apps.  End-users can also control the state of their personal desktops powering them on and off as needed, further reducing Azure compute costs. 
  • Reinforce existing security policies, compliance, and address data residency concerns.  Nerdio Manager is deployed as an all-PaaS, secure Azure application inside a customer’s own subscription in a geographic location of their choice.  No user data ever leaves the Azure environment and there is no third-party access to the deployment.  Organizations can leverage NME’s role-based access control to delegate administration to different groups of users with the appropriate level of access.  This allows service delivery and engineering teams to securely perform their work without exposing the system with unnecessarily elevated privileges. 

What Makes Nerdio Manager for Enterprise Unique

Having delivered on our promise to earn our customers’ business each and every day with unique features like advanced auto-scaling, desktop image management, dynamic host pools, and 2-hour deployments we’re not about to stop or slow down.  Nerdio is regularly releasing new, significant and exciting functionality based on customer feedback.  Our Product Roadmap is full of high-value features like Azure AVD cost modeling and auto-scale savings reporting, deployment automation for Azure NetApp Files and Azure Files with AD integration, Ephemeral OS disks, Desktop Image versioning, Role-based access control, and much more.   

Security and data privacy remain front-and-center priorities.  Nerdio Manager for Enterprise’s unique deployment model (Azure application rather than a multi-tenant management platform) sets us apart from every other AVD management product on the market.  This unique deployment model has been extremely well-received by even the most security and compliance-conscious organizations in the world who require complete control and visibility of all applications connecting to their environment.  No other WVD management platform vendor can come even close in terms of security, compliance and data residency posture. 

Nerdio Manager for Enterprise will continue to be a platform for all-things-AVD with tight product integrations with many third-party AVD solutions that are often deployed together.  NMW will be the central management console for these products and apply its simplicity and automation across the AVD ecosystem.  Stay tuned for the announcements and functionality coming soon. 

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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