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How Nerdio Enhances the Provisioning & Management of NEW Windows 365

Bas van KaamField CTO - EMEA
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Windows Virtual Desktop
July 21, 2021Articles

Now that Windows 365 is out in the open, you might be wondering: what is the added value of Nerdio Manager on top of the native service? A fair question. Let’s dig in a bit more and see how Nerdio makes the life of a (future) Windows 365/AVD administrator easier and more efficient.  

First, it’s important to understand that Windows 365 has been built on top of the existing Azure Virtual Desktop architecture, meaning there are many similarities, even though most might be hidden to the end user.  

Second, Nerdio has a proven track record when it comes to automating, managing, and optimizing new and existing Azure Virtual desktop (AVD) environments. In fact, from a development and support perspective, Nerdio has been partnered with Microsoft even before day 1 of AVD availability. We go as far back as when it was still referred to as RDmi a few years ago.  

So, you could say that we have some experience in that area (understatement). Today, Nerdio Manager is recognized by thousands of companies globally as being the go-to management and automation platform regarding everything AVD (and now also Windows 365) related.  

When it comes to Cloud PC, history repeats itself, in a good way. For the past year,  Nerdio has  worked closely with Microsoft  Engineering to help  develop Windows 365  and provide support for  cloud PCs in  Nerdio  Manager for MSP and Nerdio Manager for Enterprise, and is once again ready to go on day 1 of availability.  

Nerdio is familiar with all the ins and outs, the pros and cons, limitations and flexibility of both platforms and we are well known for helping our customers pick the right solution for their unique use-case(s), which, needless to say, we’ll continue doing.   

Next to everything we have been building for AVD throughout the last couple of years, this has now been complemented by a complete, designed from the ground-up management suite for Windows 365  Cloud PCs.  

The Two Types of Windows 365 Cloud PC

As you might be aware, Windows 365 comes in two different SKUs: Enterprise (MEM-Managed) and Business. MEM stands for Microsoft Endpoint Manager. While this document is not meant as a deep dive into Windows 365, it’s important to understand the differences between these two models, including a few things to keep in mind in terms of evaluating both options.  

As a side note… For more details on the underlying architecture, license requirements, how to set things up, and such, see this article

Enterprise Cloud PCs are designed for companies that have invested in Microsoft Endpoint Manager and are using this powerful platform to manage their existing, physical Windows 10 desktops.  Enterprise cloud PCs require an Intune license for each user  who is  assigned a cloud PC M365 SKU.  

However, if you are new to MEM and still have not implemented it, this might come with a (steep?) learning-curve and some other forms of investment.  

On the other hand, Business Cloud PCs are designed for individual users and very small businesses that typically go to their local Best Buy (or European equivalent) when they need a new PC.  Now, instead of  visiting  a Best Buy, they can go to Microsoft and subscribe to a new Cloud PC and have it ready to use in an hour.  Business Cloud PCs do not require  an MEM/Intune license and are managed entirely by the user,  which is similar to  a stand alone physical PC.  

Depending on your requirements, knowledge level, and management capabilities, this may or may not be a good fit.  

Finally, Windows 365 VMs can best be compared to physical machines, meaning they are persistent to the user and everything a user does on that machine will be stored and saved on the underlying/attached hard disk.  

Overall Management of Windows 365

Enterprise  Windows 365 Cloud PCs  are  managed via  Microsoft Endpoint  Manager (Intune)  and via  the Azure portal  for networking.  Administration of  MEM-managed Cloud PCs  can also be unified  (together with AVD) via a single portal like the Nerdio Manager. MEM  allows management  of Cloud PCs at the OS  level and above.  

This means that  admins do not have access to  make changes to the underlying VM resources; they can  only make changes to Windows and applications.  As highlighted, virtual networking is managed  via the Azure portal, unless Nerdio is used, of course.  

We enable you to manage all of your Cloud PC network connections directly from Nerdio Manager.  

Business Windows 365 Cloud PCs are not  integrated with  Endpoint Manager  and do not have a dedicated management portal (except for the 365-license portal to assign licenses and kick-off the (re)provisioning process).  They can  only be managed  by the  end user assigned to the desktop while logged into it, much like a physical PC. 

Actions such as  PC restarts  can be performed by the user  from the cloud  PC  web portal. Nerdio Manager enables you to set up all pre-requisites, provision/re-provision your Cloud PCs, run scripted actions, and restart them as needed.

Applications and (Image) Updates 

Enterprise Cloud PCs can be updated via MEM or  manual methods. Image-based software deployments are not typical without  third-party tools like Nerdio Manager, as is the necessary user profile management that comes with it.   

Also, MSIX AppAttach application delivery  is not  currently supported with Windows 365, however, it wouldn’t be a surprise if this is introduced in the future, and when that happens, Nerdio has MSIX AppAttach support fully integrated and ready to go.  

Business Cloud PCs can be updated  with Windows update manually by the user or by using third-party management tools.  

Enterprise Cloud PCs support Microsoft provided images based on Windows 10 Enterprise (single-user only and persistent only, remember), or any custom images that the customer might have available in their subscription.  

Nerdio already offered unparalleled image management options for AVD and now offers the same functionality for Windows 365, all from a single management interface, side-by-side. This makes image-based software deployments, updating and patching your Enterprise Cloud PCs a breeze since everything can be automated and scheduled at will. The same image can be used to update both AVD and Windows 365. 

Azure Virtual Desktop and Windows 365 Go Hand-in-hand 

I already mentioned that both solutions are based on the same underlying architecture and thus have a lot in common. As such, we expect many organizations to be using some form of Windows 365 next to AVD.  

Click here for a comparison of Windows 365 and AVD.

By using Nerdio Manager, you’ll have it all in one place; one single management console to provision, manage, and optimize both AVD as well as Windows 365 - single and multi-tenant.  

Multi-tenant 

MSPs who are managing dozens, if not hundreds of customer tenants - and even more users-  might want to start exploring Windows 365 as well. Nerdio Manager for MSP offers a single management interface where you can build, manage, and optimize as many customer tenants as you would like globally and goes way beyond the concept of Azure virtual desktops, regardless of type.  

Spinning up a Windows 365 and/or an AVD host is one thing; taking care of everything else (users, identity, backup, networking, monitoring, autoscaling, and the list goes on) is something different altogether. What about all of your other virtual machines (outside of AVD and or Windows 365)? Are there any VPNs you might need? This could be a single environment or hundreds - all it takes is just a few clicks. 

In short, Nerdio Manager for MSP enables managed service providers to build their entire cloud practice around AVD, Windows 365, or both.  

The above partly applies to Manager for Enterprise as well. We tightly integrate with many other native Azure services often used in combination with AVD, and I can imagine Windows 365 as well going forward.   

Scripted Actions 

These have been a big hit as of day one. Extremely flexible and powerful at the same time. You can leverage Scripted Actions (100% PowerShell based) on your Windows 365 environments as well. Even though this might seem like a small matter, it’s huge! More info on this specific topic will be published soon.   

Windows 365 + Nerdio Feature Set Available as of Day One 

The below will be available using Nerdio Manager as soon as Windows 365 will enter General Availability (GA). Do remember, though, we have an extensive roadmap lined up and as you are used to from Nerdio, you can expect many more updates, features and functionalities to be added going forward – we’re just getting started.  

  • Prepare your environment with all pre-requisites for Windows 365
  • Create and manage on-premises network connections and provisioning policies
  • Create and manage desktop images, including backups and versioning
  • Manage Active Directory profiles
  • Assign users, groups, and licenses
  • Provision and re-provision cloud PCs
  • Restart cloud PC machines
  • Manage multiple environments from a single interface (multi-tenant) 
  • Manage cloud PC user settings (i.e., local admin role)
  • Consolidated view of all cloud PCs provisioned and their status
  • All Windows scripts scripted actions capabilities of Nerdio Manager
  • Everything is audited and can be viewed in detail
  • And a whole lot more (coming)

Differentiating Windows 365 and AVD

Nerdio  Manager for MSP provides Managed Service Providers with a unified console to price, deploy, manage,  and optimize  all types of virtual desktops  in  the  Microsoft  cloud – both AVD and Windows 365 – across multiple customers. Selecting the right technology for the right  use-case  and deploying it with ease, using best-practices, and in the most cost-effective manner.  

Nerdio  Manager for Enterprise  helps IT pros enable Windows 365 in their existing Azure environment and to manage both AVD and Windows 365 from a unified console leveraging  powerful and automated image management, monitoring,  auto-scaling,  and scripted actions.  Nerdio  Manager will also enable  migration scenarios from AVD to Windows 365 and vice versa so each user can get the right type of virtual desktop  in the most  cost-effective  way.  

AVD is a  flexible, Azure-based VDI solution , while Windows 365 is a  simpler  and more limited Cloud PC service.  Nerdio  Manager integrates the two  services  into the  simplest, most  cost effective,  and  automated  way to deploy, manage and optimize virtual desktops  and applications  in the Microsoft  Cloud.   

Conclusion 

These are exciting times. With Windows 365. Microsoft offers another, and in some cases more simplified way, to leverage cloud based virtual desktops at a fixed price. Though, before getting too excited, make sure to read through the details, prerequisites, and such -- or come and have a talk with us; we’ll make sure to pick the right solution for your use-case while keeping a strong focus on ongoing manageability and the financial side of things.  

 

Thank you for reading.

Bas van Kaam

Nerdio Field CTO, EMEA

 

Learn more about the all-new Microsoft Windows 365 product by clicking here!

Windows 365