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Full Disclosure: Nerdio Manager for Enterprise Costs and Licensing

To start, all of the information shared in this article is already “out in the open”, so to speak. We don’t “hide” anything from our (potential) customers or partners. Why would we? However, we do understand that sometimes it can be a bit confusing when it comes to licensing, the PaaS services involved, associated costs, how billing works, etc. Therefore, we decided to collect all of this information into a single post – full disclosure, if you will.

Throughout the last couple of weeks, I have had some very interesting talks around Nerdio Manager for Enterprise (NME in short), which included some of the above topics as well. Though, in some cases it was more about the bits and bytes; the technology involved than anything else. Like the talk I had with Claudio Rodrigues, for example.

Claudio was kind enough to take the time and go over our product. Not only during our meeting, but also in the days after. He provided some valuable feedback. You might have seen some of his tweets. A few of his Tweets were on the feature set of NME, it’s completeness, and how it stands out compared to others (thank you again for that, Claudio), others were on pricing, and “hidden costs” regarding the underlying PaaS services where NME is built on. Which, in all fairness, we didn’t cover during our talk.

To be clear, Claudio and I have been in contact afterwards as well. At one point he asked me what I normally see around the PaaS resource usage on a monthly basis from a financial perspective. From there, his tweet around the NME infrastructure costs was born. Claudio also offered his help providing input for this post.

We are an open and transparent company. What will follow is an overview of all associated components, their costs, our licensing model, how those costs are calculated on a monthly basis, and some explanations here and there regarding some of the choices we’ve made along the way. We try not to leave anything out, so if it turns out we have, it is by no means intentionally – trust me on that.

Let’s start at the beginning.

How and What is Installed?

Nerdio Manage for AVD is installed through the Azure marketplace. There is no other way to get it. NME is an Azure application, which is 100% PaaS based, meaning no virtual machines are used.

When we or one of our partners plans an installation/configuration session, the customer will always receive our QuickStart Guide beforehand, listing a few prerequisites that need to be in place for the installation to be successful.

This includes basic things like proper permissions, subscription owner rights, disabling MFA and conditional access just for the purposes of the installation, things like that. Here I’d like to note that downloading and executing an auto generated PowerShell script is optional as well. With the PowerShell approach, disabling MFA and/or conditional access won’t be necessary. All this will take the customer around ten minutes to check and/or set up. If they have any questions, we are always here to help.

During the installation, the account will only be used once, meaning, afterwards it will no longer be needed for NME to function. It is not stored somewhere, cached, etc. In fact, if you want to use a temporary account and delete it afterwards, you can.

The installation process will create the following resources within your Azure Tenant/Subscription:

  • App Service;
  • App Service Plan;
  • Azure SQL Database;
  • Application Insights;
  • Key Vault;
  • Storage Accounts;
  • Automation Account;
  • Runbook

Of course, not all of these services are free to use. On average, we see associated costs of somewhere between 250 and 300 euros on a monthly basis. This is based on the default configuration of a B3 App Service Plan and a Standard SQL pricing tier. At the time of writing, the B3 plan was priced at 184.68 EUR/Month and the SQL tier at 25.30 EUR/Month.

The default configuration makes sure you will be able to manage tens of thousands of machines. Note that you are able to scale down these plans via the Azure Portal. Just be aware that if your environment starts to grow this might impact the responsiveness of the NME console, including any manual and automated actions performed by the platform.

Some of the other PaaS costs involved are more variable and will differ slightly on a monthly basis. You can find more information here. 

Design Considerations

The reason we designed NME the way we did cannot be answered in one sentence. To start, security plays an important role. We believe NME to be one of the most secure solutions in the market. NME is deployed directly into the Tenant/Subscription of the end customer.

That means the application is private to the customers’ environment and no one has access to it unless they are explicitly granted access by the customer (or via their IT partner).

It being based on PaaS services also makes the platform extremely flexible. Resources can easily be scaled up and down and developing the product becomes much easier as well. And by the way, adding multiple Subscriptions as part of your Tenant is also an option.

Going forward, this will even become more flexible – keep an eye on us in the weeks to come.

Usually, after only a few weeks we see the cost of Nerdio licenses + the PaaS services mentioned being saved many times over by using our unique autoscaling engine and the ease of use our product brings to companies. We also offer various reports where these savings can be viewed over time – on a per host pool basis even.

Compute and Storage Overview

When configuring auto-scaling on a host pool, it will show you the associated minimum and maximum monthly Azure compute and storage costs. For example, when you change the machine type for an host pool – or the OS disk to go with a virtual machine – you will see the minimum and maximum amounts change. If you add or remove machines to the base host pool capacity, the pricing will change accordingly.

However, please note, this is only meant for Azure compute and storage costs, nothing more, nothing less. Going forward, this will become more granular as well.  

Of course, depending on the configuration and overall usage, your actual monthly costs will be somewhere in between the minimum and maximum amount displayed

Licensing

Nerdio Manager for Enterprise can be licensed in one of two ways:

  1. Per-named user ($4/month) – maximum number of unique users assigned to AVD host pools at any given time in the past month
  2. Per-concurrent user ($6/month) – maximum number of unique users connected to AVD hosts pools at any given time in the past month

Perhaps even more interesting, if you would like to change your licensing model in between, you can! On a monthly basis even. This is configured through the “Settings” page within NME.

To make sure everyone understands how the above mechanism works, let me explain in a bit more detail.

To start, we will always advise the license model that fits our customers best, meaning the least expensive model. So, when in doubt, we will help with that.

Every month (around the 1st), our system inventories how many unique users have been assigned or connected (depending on license type, see above) to the configured AVD host pools during the last month.

This will be the number of licenses that get billed through Azure. Preferably billing will take place through one of our NME partners. If not, we will bill the customer directly.

An example:

Example named license: if at any time within a month you have a maximum of 250 users assigned to one or multiple host pools (we will de-duplicate the assignments, meaning a single user being assigned to multiple host pools will only be counted once), license costs will be $1000 (250 x $4), regardless of how many users were connected at peak.

Example concurrent license: if at any time within a month you have a maximum of 325 users connecting to one or multiple host pools (we will de-duplicate the assignments, meaning a single user connected to multiple host pools will only be counted once), license costs will be $1950 (325 x $6), regardless of how many users were assigned at peak.

The only thing that is being sent back to Nerdio is a limited amount of metering data. No usernames, session information, host names, etc.

Support and Updates

Since Nerdio Manager for Enterprise is based on various PaaS services running natively on Azure, in general, we do not get a lot of technical support questions – if Azure is online, we are too. Therefore, most questions are related to the various configuration options we offer within the product. We are available for questions via email, phone, and video, and are well known in the industry for our world-class partner and customer support.

We have a ton of online material on our Zendesk page dedicated to Nerdio Manager for Enterprise, including a bunch of KB articles explaining how to set things up as well as a whole series of videos ranging from 2 to 10 minutes, clear and easy to digest.

Of course, if one of our partners is involved during the purchase/deployment process, they will be your main point of contact, and we have their backs if/when needed.

We are an extremely agile company. We have new versions of our software coming out monthly and to say that our roadmap is impressive would be an understatement. Throughout the weeks and months, we value the feedback we get from our customers, partners, and community members. It’s something we take very seriously, which shows in our product as well

Both the software updates and support are included into our license pricing.

Monthly “Minimum”

Nerdio Manager for Enterprise has been developed with bigger enterprise sized companies in mind – the aim is around 250 users and above. That’s also how we get to a minimum amount to use our service of 1,000 dollars per month (if you think or scroll back to the licensing model of $4 per named user) that you might have read or heard about.

The overall costs of the underlying PaaS services, as highlighted earlier will be less of an issue in bigger environments with hundreds or thousands of users, instead of dozens where it will have a bigger impact on the price per user, per month.

You don’t need deep technical expertise to operate NME; not at all. Though, when it comes to AVD you still need to be familiar with the terminology and some of the underlying technical aspects of the AVD service itself. This is where smaller shops and MSPs might fall a bit short, generally speaking. Exceptions to be made, of course, and it’s always something we can talk about, please remember that. 

To prevent situations where we would need to become more of a services company (which we are not) answering all sorts of questions regarding the underlying technology, AVD in this case we’d prefer them to have a look at Nerdio for Azure instead. In over 95% off all cases this works out better for both parties involved.

Conclusion

And there you have it. We’ve discussed the core PaaS services, which lay the foundation of Nerdio Manager for Enterprise, the license model and costs involved, we addressed the “monthly minimum”, and that’s about it. If you think we left anything out, do let us know. If you have any questions about the above, let us know as well.

Now that you have everything in one place, make sure to give us a try (and let us know) and compare us to some of the other solutions out there. Even when you add things up, we’ll still be a lot cheaper; the only solution available today that can do what we do around native AVD without locking you in, and much more agile than anyone else out there.

As always, thank you for reading.

Bas van Kaam

Nerdio Field CTO, EMEA/UK

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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