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Get Ready for VDI-DaaS to Go Mainstream with AVD

When Microsoft released Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS) in 2007, many MSPs were skeptical about its purpose. No one in the MSP space wanted Microsoft to take away their ability to manage Exchange Servers.

Then came the BPOS successor, Office 365, which was based on Exchange 2010. Earlier on, Microsoft partners were still resistant to the idea of moving a critical workload such as email to “the cloud.”

End-customers were resistant to it as well, fearing security and privacy would be compromised in the still-new-concept cloud. I remember sitting in my company’s conference room when the Office 365 launch was announced and thinking: “Microsoft is out to get us, they are taking over, and the cloud is going to make us obsolete.”

Office 365 Kickstarted VDI Acceptance

However, my fears were unfounded as quite the contrary happened. Fast forward a few years, and Office 365 became the catalyst for MSPs wanting to build that MRR model, which got us to evolve from break-fix to a more strategic mindset.

More on-premises applications started moving to the cloud by having a “software-as-a-service” version. Many first attempts of virtual apps weren’t great but the start of a shift in delivering apps via a browser was really taking off and hosted offsite storage became very popular. Early on, Office 365 had its fair share of outages and problems like every other new SaaS solution, but it became stable, feature-rich and is now mainstream.

How I See the VDI Market Today

The virtual desktop space has been around for a long time, well over 10 years. It never gained mainstream mass adoption due to the complexities of setting it up and the skillset of an engineer needed to maintain the infrastructure. Experts in the market offered their own private cloud VDI hosting services but all this is evolving quickly.

At Inspire 2017, Microsoft announced Remote Desktop Modern Infrastructure (RDMi). The premise of RDMi was that Azure was going to take over some of the infrastructure services around delivering a desktop such has RD Gateway, RD Broker roles, and offering it as a service.

AVD Is the Future

After RDMi, things went quiet for about a year in terms of updates. However, this year at Ignite 2018, Microsoft kicked it up by announcing Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD), which is essentially a rebrand of RDMi, except on steroids. AVD is based on the very successful Windows 10 operating system and will now have a multiuser version.

Think of it like a Remote Desktop Server except the underlying Operating System is Windows 10 as opposed to Windows Server 2019. Windows Server will still keep its RDS role, so no worries there.

The Azure cloud is ripe to support VDIs, internet circuit bandwidths have increased, and costs have come down to allow desktops to be streamed to monitors. All the traditional barriers of entry have been eliminated. Microsoft is finally going for it, taking VDI and making it mainstream, just as Office 365 went after on-premises Exchange Server.

Working to Ensure AVD Success

Microsoft has already positioned itself to be successful in this endeavor. In late November, Microsoft announced the acquisition of FXLogix, which helped solidify its AVD solution. FXLogix has solutions that enable a better user experience through its profile capabilities in order to further enhance Microsoft’s offering.

They’ve partnered with Citrix to overlay Citrix Cloud on top of AVD, an obvious move. Nerdio will help our partners to provision, manage, and optimize AVD when its ready, and help MSPs migrate existing Nerdio deployments to AVD, if desired.

New Fears, But Lots of Excitement

Is everyone as excited about this as Nerdio is? Probably not quite yet, but momentum is picking up. There’s a lot of fear and uncertainty in the MSP community with this announcement. AVD is in private preview at the moment, but it is scheduled to go public preview in Q1 of 2019.

MSPs aren’t sure about what this means for their practices based on how they currently deliver services. If we’ve learned anything from history, MSPs pushed back eight years ago at Office 365, now they can’t seem to sell it fast enough. Most end-customers are now 90% migrated to Office 365 today.

We can presume that this is the next wave of change coming to MSPs, the day has come where delivery of DaaS is now mainstream.

Be Prepared to Join the Action

AVD means good news for the MSP, another MRR revenue stream is coming your way, this time with more margins than Office 365! This is all part of the evolution of an MSP. My advice is to get in front of this wave, figure out as soon as possible how to monetize it and position yourself to come out strong. Become a leader in the space before it becomes just another commodity like Office 365.

Over 10% of today’s Azure workloads are already RDS based; this move is going to have DaaS consume a large piece of the Azure pie. The question is, how quickly will you be a part of it. It’s not a matter of when or if, the question you should be asking is “how fast?”!

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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