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What is Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD)? Here’s What You Need to Know

On June 7th, 2021, Microsoft announced Azure Virtual Desktop, or “AVD”.  If you want to know the technical details behind the marketing, understand whether this a new product or rebranding of the existing WVD, what Microsoft’s vision is for AVD, and what’s new in virtual desktops in Azure, then read on. 

Is Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) a new product? 

No.  AVD is Microsoft’s attempt to re-align Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) branding with their vision of the future of virtual desktops.  Replacing “Windows” with “Azure” in the product name serves to clarify at least a couple of things: 

  1. Azure Virtual Desktop is likely to not remain exclusive to Windows, whereas Windows Virtual Desktop certainly implied that.  This means that other desktop OS support (e.g. Linux) could possibly be introduced in AVD in the future. 
  2. Azure Virtual Desktop is all about Azure.  For those of you wondering if the Windows 10 multi-session OS would at some point become available for on-premises or other cloud deployments, I’d say that this is an indication that it won’t.   

Microsoft’s vision is for AVD to be a very flexible Azure-based VDI platform for any use case. 

What are some of the new features that Microsoft announced together with rebranding WVD as AVD? 

There are several important features that Microsoft has been working on for some time based on customer feedback.  Some of these were publicly announced on June 7th when Windows Virtual Desktop was renamed to Azure Virtual Desktop.  Let’s explore each one. 

Azure AD Join 

This capability is something that WVD users have been asking for since the day it launched back in late 2019.  Currently, AVD requires session host VMs to be joined to an existing Active Directory Domain Services domain.  This can be an existing AD domain controller or Azure AD DS PaaS service.  This one requirement adds significant complexity to AVD deployments.  You need a vNet that can route to a domain controller, correctly configured DNS, AD credentials to join the domain, etc.  The AD pre-requisite is also making SSO more challenging requiring users to type in their password twice – once for their Azure AD password to subscribe to AVD feed and then again for their AD password to log into a session host. 

Azure AD joined session hosts will not only eliminate the additional complexity of requiring AD but will unlock new features such as single sign-on (SSO), easier integration with Microsoft Endpoint Manager, and new security capabilities from streamlined management of session host VMs via Azure AD.  Users who still need to rely on Active Directory will continue to be able to use it and can transition to easier-to-manage Azure AD joined hosts over time. 

Microsoft Endpoint Manager support for Windows 10 multi-session 

For those who want to manage both physical and virtual desktops through Microsoft Endpoint Manager, it is now possible.  Managing personal, single-session desktops has been possible for a few months now and recently multi-session support for MEM was released in preview. This could be an alternative to managing host VMs using images, which we often find to be the easier method, and instead manage each VM as a standalone device.  There are some limitations with multi-session VMs in MEM, namely the fact that “User scope policies” aren’t currently supported and all Windows 10 multi-session configurations must be targeted to Azure AD device groups. 

Onboarding QuickStart via the Azure Portal 

Historically, WVD has been challenging to deploy quickly from start to finish, which is one of the reasons Nerdio Manager was created.  Several months ago, Microsoft created the WVD QuickStart to speed up and automate a basic deployment.  You specify the needed parameters, and the automation builds out all the necessary components so you can start testing WVD in an hour or two rather than spend days or weeks reading documentation and configuring things manually.  The WVD QuickStart was not an official Microsoft product and did not come with Microsoft Support.  It seems that now that this QuickStart concept has been formally integrated into the Azure portal to speed up AVD deployments and will be fully supported. 

RemoteApp streaming with per-user monthly pricing 

Many software publishers (ISVs) are looking to AVD as a platform to deliver their rich, Windows-based apps to customers at scale.  ISVs have to solve the technical challenge of how to create a secure, multi-tenant environment for many customers that’s manageable and easy to support, and also figure out the commercial model to estimate the Azure consumption that each customer’s users will drive.   

To add more complexity, WVD licensing wasn’t very clear in these ISV scenarios.  That’s because WVD is an entitlement of a Windows 10 Enterprise subscription for the customer.  If an ISV wants to publish an application, they need to ensure that all users connecting to this RemoteApp have the necessary Win10 subscription in their corporate Azure AD tenant.  This is obviously a huge challenge. 

The new licensing model for ISV app streaming in AVD will allow software publishers to pay Microsoft for each user connecting to the application via AVD ($5.50/user/month for RemoteApp and $10/user/month for desktop) without having to worry about the user’s existing Windows 10 Enterprise entitlements.  This new pricing goes into effect on January 1st, 2022, and until then ISVs can publish applications with no additional licensing needed under a “promotional period”. 

It’s very important to note that no technical changes are being made to AVD as part of this remote app streaming announcement.  This is simply a new licensing model for a specific ISV use-case.  For those familiar with RDS in the SPLA program, this will look very familiar.  Also, the Azure consumption (i.e. VMs, storage, bandwidth, etc.) is not impacted by this either.  

With Azure Virtual Desktop, do I still need Nerdio Manager?  

We certainly think so.  If you want to save 50% to 75% on Azure costs, increase the reliability of your deployment through no-code orchestration, and reduce IT admin time and Azure skills required for ongoing management, then yes, Nerdio Manager remains the best way to go.   




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)


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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