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How to Reduce IT Complexity and Costs When Deploying Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD)

As an IT professional or leader, you are always on the lookout for ways to make your (IT) life simpler. When dealing with Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) and Azure cloud environments, this is no different. The cloud can be overwhelming; your choices are almost limitless and there are about a few dozen other things to be aware of or to look out for. 

Being an Enterprise organization, you don’t want to get lost in the cloud services maze. You’ll come across hundreds, if not thousands of services for you to take advantage of, with new ones being added and removed daily.  

How do you know which ones you need to focus on? And once you figure that out, how will you get your IT team up to speed quickly, given a potentially steep learning curve?  

In short, it can be hard to keep up. Luckily, Microsoft and Nerdio are here to help.  

Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) 

Traditionally, building on-premises desktop infrastructures was a daunting task. There are many moving parts that tightly integrate, and mistakes are easily made. Finding people with proper hands-on experience and up-to-date knowledge is another common challenge to overcome.  

With cloud, it is no different. While cloud offers a ton of flexibility, you will still need to build and configure a bunch of backend (infrastructure) machines running various roles – amongst other things.  

These machines will take care of processes like getting your users onto the correct VMs (load balancing and session brokering), storing critical, performance-related information (database), offering your users an online portal to start their desktops and/or applications (web-interface and remote access), take care monitoring (diagnostics), and more.   

In the end, all of these machines and roles need to be maintained, patched, kept free from viruses, and so on. You probably know the drill. This is where Azure Virtual Desktop shines. 

Microsoft will build, manage, maintain, operate, etc., all of these roles and components for you. You or your IT team do not have to worry about that anymore.  

In fact, these components (web portal, database, brokering, load balancing, remote access, etc., are built as native Azure services available in all regions worldwide and can be leveraged at any time, just think of them as being “always on” – these services combined make up the actual Azure Virtual Desktop proposition.   

With that out of the way, you and your team will have time to focus on more important tasks, like taking care of your users, their applications, desktops, and data, for example.  

What About Licenses? 

With AVD, licensing has been greatly simplified as well. If you purchase or already own any of the Microsoft 365 family licenses, chances are you are entitled to use the AVD service as well, at no additional costs. The same applies to any RDS-CAL licenses you may have been using throughout the years. If you want to continue to leverage Windows Server Operating Systems to service your users, which is a very common use-case, you can continue to do so with AVD by reusing those licenses.  

This makes things simpler, but what about ongoing management, resource usage control, costs savings, and getting your entire IT team (or close to) to build, manage, and optimize Azure Virtual Desktop environments on a daily basis without them diving intothe deep unknown?  

Introducing, Nerdio 

A few years ago, Microsoft and Nerdio started a partnership, which has proved to be very successful. As you may have noticed, Microsoft has been working hard throughout the last year and a half to continuously improve their AVD service. The work that Microsoft is doing and the speed at which they operate and innovate is impressive, to say the least.  

Microsoft continues to focus on core AVD technologies like building out their central management plane within all regions globally, lowering latency, the ARM-based model, MSIX App Attach, Windows 10 Entp. Multi-Session, and much more, while also slowly enhancing the management capabilities within the Azure ARM portal. 

At the same time, Nerdio focuses on incorporating additional value on top of Azure and native AVD. It’s what Nerdio is: a AVD deployment, management and cost-optimization solution on top of Native AVD. Nerdio is all about the complicity, giving you back some of your valuable time, and shortening your time to market.  

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Savings and Added Efficiency  

Nerdio provides features and functionalities not found in the Azure ARM portal – again, they solely focus on innovating on top of the native Azure services, including AVD.  

Nerdio supports thousands of companies world-wide to make use of Azure Virtual Desktop Azure environments more effectively and efficiently, saving on resources and costs. From a technical (image management, autoscaling, migration, auto-deployments, configs, and more) and operational point of view. Some examples:  

  • Saving up to 75% on Azure compute and storage costs. 
  • Enabling over 80% of your IT workforce to be able to build, manage, price, and optimize Azure Virtual Desktop environments– removing the need to worry about that knowledge ever leaving your company.  
  • No steep learning curves – Nerdio will have your IT team up and running in hours instead of weeks of training (saving on human resources). 
  • Automating what would have been hours of work to just a few minutes (image, application, user, and virtual machinemanagement talks, for example), saving on time, which can be put to use more efficiently. 
  • From Greenfield to a complete Azure environment, including a working AVD deployment, in an hour. 
  • Onboarding existing customer environments, AVD or otherwise, in 10-30 minutes or less. 

Automation is great and is highly encouraged for all technically orientated IT professionals to get acquainted in some form or way, or even deep dive right into it. However, you also need to be realistic and look at it from a business perspective. Getting real hands-on experience takes a lot of time; automation and DevOps can be tricky to maintain, and it’s definitely not for everybody.  

IT Professionals 

When it comes to IT professionals, you roughly have two kinds; the tech-savvy “I really like to dig in” kind of sysadmin, and the more all-round and laid-back “I don’t want to spend my free time getting to know (new) technology” kind of sysadmin.  

The latter doesn’t mind digging in a bit and staying current in general but has no interest in going all in, all the time. He or she likes it when things are automated for them. They like to work with “to the point” graphical user interfaces – that being AVD or any other type of service/technology, like VDI in the past, for example. They’ll keep their certifications up to date but won’t become an automation, PowerShell, or scripting guru anytime soon. It’s a job they love, it gives them fulfillment, but that’s it. This will apply to 80% of the people in IT, give or take. 

The tech-savvy sysadmin likes to deep-dive whenever he or she can. They’ll probably blog about it, help others on various forums and social media, contribute to community programs, and so on – work becomes a hobby, or vice versa, in many cases. It isn’t for everyone; far from it, even. And that’s OK, too. 

The Risk 

This also imposes a risk for companies; those who are using AVD/Azure or are thinking about doing so, and those who do not. 

Most companies will have a couple of tech-savvy senior system administrators employed. Up to a certain point they will be able to automate and streamline deployments, script image updates, use various kinds of DevOps methodologies, and so on. They will have it running as smoothly as possible, they will handle all code, templates, updates, daily management tasks, you name it. 

However, what happens when something breaks and they are not available for some reason? Maybe they have some time off and are not reachable, they might become ill for a longer period of time – or even worse – what if they leave your company? The saying “putting all your eggs into one basket” comes to mind. 

Will you educate and train other employees? And more importantly, do they want that responsibility? Doing your “job” because you are asked or told to is something completely different than when it’s born from passion, as part of your day job, if that makes sense. 

What about hiring in the expertise? Sure, but they won’t know your company the way you or your former employee(s) did, they are often much more expensive, and eventually, they will leave as well. A vicious cycle. 

Managing IT resources, AVD or otherwise, should not require “special” skills or take a longer period to learn, I think most companies will agree. If anything, it should reduce your time to market and help make you (more) money. Preferably, by taking advantage of cutting-edge technology supercharging your Azure/AVD deployments.  

The goal should be to relieve individuals from unneeded stressful situations, spread the workload evenly across your team, do more with less, and save hours per weeks on common day-to-day management tasks, creating room for other types (more interesting, fun, or important) of tasks. 

Final Thoughts 

Hopefully, this has given you some insights into how Microsoft and Nerdio enable companies of all sizes to build and maintain anAzure cloud practice – within days instead of months or even longer.  

At Nerdio, we all want to make life a little easier, be more effective and efficient without losing focus on quality. Over the past year, dozens of organizations all over the globe grow their business and revenue by leveraging and applying the above.  

Bas van Kaam

Nerdio Field CTO, EMEA

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About Nerdio 

Nerdio empowers IT Professionals to deploy, manage, and auto-scale AzureVirtual Desktop. Created to address the technical and security requirements of enterprise customers, Nerdio Manager for Enterprise is ideal for IT Professionals looking to deploy and manage large amounts of AVD environments and can be connected to an existing AVD setup or used to stand up a new AVD deployment. Nerdio Manager is an all-PaaS Azure application that runs in a customer’s own Azure subscription, making it one of the most secure and compliant solutions on the market.  Learn more at getnerdio.com/nme

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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