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Introducing Nerdio Manager for Enterprise: Deployment & Management of Azure Virtual Desktop for the Enterprise

Today, we’re launching the public preview of a brand-new product called Nerdio Manager for Enterprise. It is an automation platform designed for Enterprise IT Professionals to deploy, manage, and autoscale Windows Virtual Desktop (AVD) in Azure.

We’ve been quietly building this product for some time now and have worked with several global enterprise companies, system integrators, and ISVs during the private preview phase where the product was put through its paces. Now we are excited to make it available to the world and help accelerate and further drive adoption of AVD by enterprise organizations.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT NERDIO MANAGER FOR ENTERPRISE 

How we got here – the release of Azure Virtual Desktop

Sixteen years ago, long before Nerdio was founded, we created a hosted, virtual desktop MSP in Chicago using Terminal Services(then RDS) and eventually VMware Horizon (View) VDI technology. Over the course of a more than decade and countless customer deployments, we learned what it takes to deploy and, more importantly, manage virtual desktops at a large scale. This experience is what led to the birth of Nerdio, which started as an automation platform for MSPs to build a hosted virtual desktop practice using our private cloud.  It didn’t take long for us to realize that MSPs were much more interested in building their virtual desktop cloud practices in Azure, not in our private cloud.  Nerdio for Azure (NFA) was our answer and for the past three years,Nerdio has helped thousands of MSPs price, deploy, manage, and optimize virtual desktops in Azure.

The release of AVD, which entered general availability in October 2019, was a game changer. I expected it to be quite popularbut underestimated the magnitude of interest in this new technology and IT delivery model.  We released AVD support in Nerdio for Azure the day Microsoft launched AVD, and as a result MSPs rushed to try AVD with NFA as native, manual deployment with PowerShell is so complex and time consuming.  Having an intuitive and easy to use interface for deploying and managing AVD has given us the opportunity to work with many large, global enterprises looking to implement AVD for their workforce.

Having spent time with these large enterprises learning how they wanted to leverage AVD, it was very clear they had unique needs and requirements when it comes to virtual desktop management that were significantly different from our MSP partners. 

First, each deployment is very large with thousands and even tens of thousands (or more) virtual desktops and users spread all over the world. Data residency, security, and compliance are critical elements.  Fast and efficient user management and easy deployment are at the top of the list.  Cost savings and Azure spend optimization, at such large scale, are critical. Finally, flexibility of configuration to accommodate complex environments and the ability to integrate with existing deployments were table-stakes.

After being introduced by Microsoft into many such conversations when AVD first launched, we quickly realized there was a tremendous opportunity to create value and help these organizations adopt AVD natively. We were faced with a choice: retrofit our existing, MSP-focused, Nerdio for Azure product to accommodate this type of customer or start from scratch. We chose the latter path and created Nerdio Manager for Enterprise as the most modern, secure, and feature-rich native AVD management product on the market.  I won’t go into a feature discussion here, but you can see all the product details on our website and Azure Marketplace listing.

How is Nerdio Manager for Enterprise built? 

Nerdio Manager was built as an Azure native, PaaS-only (no VMs) application that is deployed by customers exclusively through the Azure Marketplace into their own subscription in any region they choose. This is an innovative deployment model that addresses customers’ data residency and security concerns. They choose where the Nerdio Manager deployment lives and fully control access to the application. In contrast, all other AVD management solutions on the market use a multi-tenant, SaaS model that connects the vendor’s control plane into the customer’s Azure environment. A compromise of the vendor’s systems could lead to unauthorized access into the customer’s environment. The customer also has little control of how their data travels and where it resides. With multi-tenant control planes, compliance can also be a challenge with data residency being hard to identify and pin down since a third-party controls and has access to this metadata.

Nerdio Manager for Enterprise’ unique single-tenant deployment model is just one component of the product’s innovation.  It is also deployed and billed through the Azure Marketplace. This means that organizations with a typically extensive procurement process can start using the product without any hurdles because it is billed by Microsoft alongside all other Azure consumption – on the same invoice.

Nerdio Manager was built from the ground-up for AVD. It is not a legacy product retrofitted to work with AVD. That means it’s lighter, faster, more secure, and easier to use than the alternatives. It is also priced at a fraction of the cost of other products.Ultimately, it delivers value to enterprise IT Professionals, who want to deploy and manage large AVD deployments, in 3 ways—

  • 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 images, performance monitoring, and user session control eliminate the need for complex scripting and speed up response to end-users.
  • Reduce Azure costs with schedule and event-driven autoscaling and speed AVD deployment with a guided setup wizard reducing engineering workload. Azure compute and storage costs can be reduced by up to 75% and deployment time from weeks to hours. Additional savings result from consolidating user management and monitoring tools and eliminating third-party apps.
  • Reinforce existing security policies, compliance, and address data residency concerns. Nerdio Manager for Enterprise 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.

Isn’t this functionality being built by Microsoft?

After a customer sees and uses the product, the feedback we consistently hear is that this is how AVD should be “out-of-the-box”. Many ask how Nerdio plans to stay relevant if Microsoft will build their own management portal for AVD. Won’t it make Nerdio Manager irrelevant?

Before making a significant investment into building this product we carefully considered this question.  With Azure, Microsoft is building amazing technology and at an unbelievable pace. The rate at which Azure and AVD are evolving are hard to keep up with. However, Microsoft is primarily focused on innovation of the core AVD product. Things like Windows 10 multi-session, AppAttach, AVD control plane, ARM-based object model and a multitude of other innovations that Nerdio, or anyone else for that matter, could not do. After all, most of these are proprietary Microsoft technologies. Where Nerdio adds value is in our deep operational expertise with virtual desktop environments and the ability to move and innovate rapidly, building on top of Microsoft’s technology, in response to customer feedback.  Nerdio Manager for Enterprise is launching with an extensive list of AVD management and scaling innovations beyond anything that is expected from Microsoft in the near term. Things like UI-integrated schedule and event driven autoscaling, desktop image management, and performance monitoring are just a fewexamples.

One of Nerdio’s core principles is to earn our customers’ business every day. That is why our products are priced on a consumption basis with no monetary or time commitments. That is also why we strongly believe in “no vendor lock-in”.  Nerdio Manager for Enterprise can be removed just as easily and non-disruptively as it can be added into a AVD environment. No custom VM agents or user clients, no vendor-managed control planes, and no license commitments. We strongly feel that the power and ease of use of our products speak for themselves and the cost reductions in Azure spend and labor far outweigh the licensing costs. No other AVD management vendor can credibly make this claim.

We plan to keep innovating at a fast pace and continue to constantly build new value on top of AVD.  Being nimble allows Nerdio to respond quickly to customer requests.  Nerdio Manager’s brand new, Azure-native code base allows for limitless possibilities in terms of new features and functionality.  As a matter of fact, we already have a well-defined roadmap of groundbreaking virtual desktop management functionality for the foreseeable future based on early-adopter feedback.

How is Nerdio Manager for Enterprise billed?

During the public preview phase, Nerdio Manager for Enterprise is available at no charge and can be deployed directly from the Azure Marketplace. Once in general availability, we will offer two pricing models: per-named and per-concurrent AVD user. This will provide flexibility to organizations who have many users entitled to use virtual desktops but a smaller number logging in at the same time.

Is Nerdio shifting focus away from MSPs?

Nerdio’s primary mission has always been and remains to empower MSPs to build successful cloud practices in Microsoft Azure. The creation of Nerdio Manager for Enterprise was an incremental investment and was done without redirecting any resources, staff or focus away from our core MSP mission.  Our new enterprise sales, product development, and service delivery teams will focus on Nerdio Manager for Enterprise and help customers with very large AVD deployments. The rest of the organization will continue to provide world-class training, engineering assistance, sales, and technical support that our MSP partners have come to expect from Nerdio. Our award-winning Nerdio for Azure platform will continue to improve and evolve at an ever-increasing pace to empower more MSPs to build and grow bigger and more profitable Azure practices.

It is an exciting time to be part of the amazingly fast evolution of the IT industry towards cloud and virtual desktops.  Windows Virtual Desktop holds the promise to revolutionize the IT delivery model and dramatically grow the, already sizable, virtual desktop market. Nerdio spends every day talking to partners and customers to understand their needs and couple them with our deep operational experience to create revolutionary products and functionalities that remove speed bumps to adoption.

To learn more about Nerdio Manager for Enterprise, click here.

Click here for the Azure Marketplace listing. 

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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