On March 21st, 2019, Microsoft announced their public preview of the highly anticipated Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD). We've collected everything a Managed Service Provider (MSP) needs to know about the new service below. We'll continue to add to this article as we learn more, so check back if new information comes up.
Here is an overview of this new Azure-only service, coming soon to General Availability later this year.
Windows Operating System
Most hosted desktops today use a server OS, such as Windows Server 2016, with enabled desktop experience. This allows multiple users to share a single virtual machine (VM), resulting in a more economical and affordable deployment.
However, Microsoft is now releasing a brand-new version of Windows 10 which will support multiple user desktop sessions on a single VM. This is built specifically to enable hosted desktops that function in the same way as the desktops millions of Windows 10 users are familiar with.
Control Plane in Windows Virtual Desktop
The control plane is a collection of services that determine which user gets connected to what desktop VM.
Before WVD came along, Remote Desktop Services (RDM) infrastructure roles handled this. These server roles are installed on domain-joined Windows Server VMs and are managed by the MSP or customer.
With WVD, Microsoft eliminated the need for any domain-joined RDS roles, and they’ve instead created an Azure service that will eliminate the complexity of having to manage RDS roles and the need for costly VMs to power them.
Licensing Windows Virtual Desktop
Without WVD, you’d need a license for both RDS and Server OS to use RDS for hosted desktops. You’d also need to typically “rent” the server OS via Azure or license it through CSP Software Subscriptions.
With WVD, the use of these desktops will be included with any Windows 10 Enterprise subscription at no additional cost. You’ll no longer need to purchase a Server OS license or RDS and there is no additional license to purchase if the user has a subscription to Windows 10 Enterprise.
Profile Management in Windows Virtual Desktop
Profile management on virtual desktops has been a long-time challenge. The solutions on the market today have many tradeoffs associated with them. However, with WVD, these limitations no longer exist through their acquisition of FSLogix, which provides seamless profile management.
Virtual Desktops Through Microsoft
WVD is not a packaged virtual desktop offer from Microsoft. Instead, WVD is a combination of technologies that will allow MSPs and IT staff to build and manage virtual desktops in Microsoft Azure. Deploying these desktops with WVD will require planning, deployment, maintenance, and management of the virtual environment, though it's much less complex than RDS.
Recommendation for MSPs & WVD
Prior to public preview, WVD was called Remote Desktop Modern Infrastructure (RDmi). Many partners, including Nerdio, have been working alongside Microsoft to test and develop every aspect of WVD over the last year. It is in public preview now and will go into General Availability (GA) later this year.
During this time, MSPs should grow familiar with WVD. Look into its terminology, architecture, deployment models, and how MSPs can leverage this technology to grow their Azure practice.
Windows Virtual Desktop and Nerdio for Azure
We plan to have full WVD functionality in Nerdio for Azure on the first day of General Availability. This means MSPs will be able to select an RDS deployment or WVD deployment when they create a new Nerdio for Azure account. We’ll also be offering an automated migration path for customers if they want to move from RDS to WVD!
We have a complete introduction to Windows Virtual Desktop for MSPs available here, but there’s more to learn on the subject. We will continue to collect all the relevant information for MSPs as we learn it, and we’ll keep this page updated with anything important we learn.
Technically speaking, there are many reasons to choose WVD over legacy Remote Desktop Services. Here are just a few of them:
- Windows Virtual Desktop is new and up-to-date.
- It allows for native Windows 10 desktop instead of a Windows 10 “desktop experience” with RDS.
- WVD includes profile management technology from FSLogix.
- The WVD management service is managed by Microsoft, and is a PaaS service.
- It supports OneDrive and indexed search in pooled desktops.
However, some MSPs may choose to continue using RDS over WVD due to one or more of the following reasons:
- RDS is a mature, well-understood and market-tested solution.
- Applications that were written for RDS on Server OS may not work in Windows 10 Enterprise multi-session right away.
- Customers and service providers may want to retain full ownership of not just the desktop VMs but also the control plane (i.e., RDS roles).
- RDS can be used both on-premise and in Azure while WVD is Azure-only.
If a customer is indifferent between the two options, it may come down to cost, which we’ve outlined in more detail in the section below. It could also depend on whether the customer already owns a subscription to Windows 10 Enterprise under any of the Microsoft licensing programs already.
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On the next page we'll dive into the cost of Windows Virtual Desktop and how you can get started.