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What’s the Big Deal with Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) & What Does It Mean for Enterprises?

Note – Microsoft announced the rebrand of Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) to Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) in June 2021. Read more about it here.

The idea of a virtual desktop is not new – the technology has been around for years, if not decades, starting with Microsoft Terminal Services and then Citrix and VMware. Enterprises typically configured these environments with a collection of on-premises servers and other infrastructures needed to host virtual desktops for their user community. Sometimes organizations deployed the platform within their own facilities and other times they stood up the environment in a third-party data center. In both cases, the enterprise typically invested significant capital in both the hardware and software to run these virtual desktop environments.  

Virtual desktops had and continue to have many benefits; it is an easy way to centralize access and security, particularly for distributed organizations and for remote user support. Virtual desktops are also a scalable solution to a degree and make is easier to run or publish certain applications. However, over the years, despite the great promise, virtual desktops never have seemed to live up to the hype.  Indeed, enterprises discovered virtual desktop environments could be complex to set up and operate. Moreover, they could be expensive when considering the cost of hardware, software licensing, bandwidth, and data center space. They also came with not insignificant ongoing management costs.  

Times are Changing – The Move to Public Cloud 

The first sign of change was when the public cloud became an alternative option to the traditional hardware needed to run virtual desktops. Shifting from on-premises servers and networking infrastructure to an as-a-service model meant that enterprises could now turn their virtual desktop solutions into more of an operating expense; able to grow and shrink without the need for purchasing hardware. Paired with the widespread of broadband access, this enabled many organizations to give virtual desktops a closer look, yet not necessarily adopt with great speed. Certainly, with the hardware piece turned into a monthly consumption charge, organizations began less resistant to testing and sometimes on a small scale deploying virtual desktops running in a public cloud such as AWS or Microsoft Azure. What they found was that there was a level of complexity involved due to needing multiple servers and gateways, some technical requirements (e.g., needing to run Windows 10 on a Windows Server OS) as well as some licensing challenges. All of these contributed to virtual desktop adoption gaining momentum. 

Along Comes Azure Virtual Desktop 

It was then that the release of Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) service in Microsoft Azure changed the game for several reasons. 

First, AVD runs as a service within Azure—no additional servers for gateways, connection brokers, etc.  The desktops run as native Windows 10 desktops under this service—there is no Windows Server license needed to run a desktop. This reduces complexity and with a significantly different licensing model, the cost to run a virtual desktop is dramatically reduced. 

Next, AVD supports pooled desktops. While you can still run a dedicated VM per desktop, you don’t have to do this. Enterprises can run multiple desktops on a single VM, and by correctly sizing the VM, will not have performance issues. Moreover, customers can build these pools across a collection of VMs (also called host pools) that can scale up and down to fit the environment from a cost and performance perspective. Again, this is a simpler, yet more elegant solution that is far more cost-effective.  

The last reason and maybe the biggest reason that AVD is a game-changer in that it truly represents a shift in Microsoft’s strategy. Microsoft has always had tacit support for remote desktops, but with AVD, the company is signaling a much different direction. AVD is a core initiative and is part of nearly every discussion Microsoft and many of its partners are having with customers. The AVD beta program had the highest level of interest ever for a pre-release product, and since AVD went toGeneral Availability (GA), there have been thousands of customers looking at it in some form. Certainly, the pandemic accelerated the adoption of AVD—it became an ideal solution accommodating remote workers–and interest has continued to accelerate. 

Indeed, AVD is the last step in the transformation of traditional software and hardware to a utility-based subscription model. Originally, you had PCs from hardware manufacturers using perpetual software OS licenses from Microsoft. Then, Microsoft developed and sold server OS licensing that then evolved into Azure-based resources. AVD is the natural evolution of desktops into a cloud-based service.  The result is Microsoft now delivers a complete enterprise solution all the way to the end-user. This seamless all-in-one experience is extremely robust, scalable, reliable, and secure. All delivered via an operating expense model featuring a competitive total cost of ownership. 

Nerdio Manager for Enterprise enables IT professionals and Enterprise organizations to quickly and easily deploy, manage, and optimize AVD.  

Deploy a new AVD environment in a couple of hours, manage every environment in just 3 clicks or less, and optimize costs by saving up to 75% on Azure compute and storage with Nerdio Manager for Enterprise. 

Start your free trial today or click here to learn more. 

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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