Windows Virtual Desktop – What is it and what do you need to know?

October 4th, 2018
Vadim Vladimirskiy
Vadim VladimirskiyFounder & CEO, Nerdio

(Pssst, we have an updated article on WVD based on recent announcements here if you’re interested)

Ever since Microsoft’s recent Windows Virtual Desktop announcement last week at Ignite, I’ve been getting a multitude of questions about it from partners and customers.  Everyone wants to know what this new technology is all about, how is it different from existing virtual desktops, and how it fits into Nerdio’s product strategy.

This article will hopefully answer these questions in a concise way.

What is Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) all about?

Virtual desktops running on Windows have been around for many years.  You can find them everywhere: from corporate data centers and private clouds to public clouds – including Azure.  So, what’s new about this Microsoft announcement?

The easiest way to answer this question is by looking at what’s changing.  The changes fall into three major categories.

1.      Desktops

Today, the majority of virtual desktops are being delivered using Windows Server OS (e.g. 2012R2, 2016, etc.) with RDS (Remote Desktop Services).  A typical virtual desktop is an isolated desktop session running on top of a Remote Desktop Session Host.  A single host (VM) supports multiple, simultaneous desktop sessions.  Each user sees what looks like a standard Windows desktop, however the actual desktop delivery is published with a server operating system.

Going forward, Windows 10 – the same operating system that’s installed on most physical desktops – will have multi-user capabilities.  Instead of using a Server OS based session host, a VM running Windows 10 will be able to accommodate multiple desktop sessions at the same time.  This will make the end-user experience on Windows virtual desktops identical to physical desktops, at least from the operating system perspective.


2.      Connection Infrastructure

To access a virtual desktop, the user must connect to a connection broker, which is an infrastructure that decides how to route a user’s connection request and land it on the correct desktop VM.  The role of the connection broker is to ensure that each user connects to the correct desktop or application that they are entitled to.

The connection broker functionality is performed by several RDS roles (e.g. RDCB, RDGW, RDWeb, etc.).  When deployed in Azure, these RDS roles are installed on Windows Server VMs.

Going forward, WVD services will be the infrastructure that connects incoming user connections to their desktop VMs.  WVD will be an Azure service instead of a role installed on a server VM.  This is conceptually similar to Azure Files, which is a service that replaces the need for file services role on a Windows Server VM.  No more RDS roles and no more VMs to run those RDS roles.


3.      Licensing

Today’s virtual desktops can certainly have licensing challenges.  To use an RDS virtual desktop, you’ll need to have licensing for Windows Server and RDS CALs.  The Windows Server license can be rented via Azure or brought to Azure as a benefit of existing Software Assurance.  RDS must be purchased as a standalone license with SA and cannot be rented via Azure.  To further complicate things, RDS licensing can be per-device or per-user.  You get the point – it’s not simple.

With WVD and Windows 10 as the virtual desktop OS the only license you need is Windows 10 Enterprise.  This is a per-user license and comes bundled with a Microsoft 365 or can be purchased standalone via a subscription.  Furthermore, the same Windows 10 license will cover a user’s physical and Azure hosted virtual desktop.  No more Server CALs and RDS Software Assurance.  Microsoft licensing becomes easy!  Is that even possible?


Where does Nerdio fit into all of this?

Nerdio is a platform that automates the provisioning of many IT components (including virtual desktops) running in Azure, provides administrators with an easy-to-use portal to manage all these IT services, and uses our patented auto-scaling technology to cost-optimize the IT environment.

Nerdio exists to help MSPs build their Azure IT practice by removing much of the complexity of Azure, reduce the risk of running IT in Azure by simplifying management, and make Azure cost-effective through auto-scaling and optimizations.

We do that by automating the deployment and management of RDS with Server 2016-based desktops.  Once Windows Virtual Desktop services become publicly available, we will continue helping our partners deliver Azure IT services to their customers using this latest technology from Microsoft. While the backend licensing and Azure services may change, the need to make those service easy to use won’t. Nerdio for Azure will continue to be a mechanism to easily provision, manage, and optimize workloads in Azure.

Azure is evolving very rapidly and we at Nerdio are constantly helping our partners leverage the best and latest of what Microsoft has to offer by staying current with all of the upcoming functionality, figuring out the best way to leverage it in the most cost-effective way and integrating it into our platform as it becomes available. All of this is done so our partners can take advantage of the latest and greatest tech without having to maintain multiple Azure PhDs on staff.

For more information on WVD services, contact us today.

For the most recent article on WVD, click here!