Why, I Believe, this is the Beginning of the End for RDSH

A discussion broke out on twitter the other day about Office, O365, RDSH and WVD.  It was regarding Microsoft’s announcement that Office 365 will not run on Windows Server 2019 RDSH.  Office with a perpetual license will continue to be supported on Windows Server 2019 RDSH.  The question became:  Does this, or does it not, signal the end of RDSH?

In my opinion (we all have those right?), this is the start of the end of RDSH as we know it.  I will get into why I do truly believe that but first, I would point you to Claudio Rodrigues’s blog about it here.  He believes this is not the end of RDSH.  So, please, read his blog and mine to find out our reasons why we believe the way we do.

Windows Virtual Desktop and Remote Desktop Session Host

Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) is, currently, an Azure-only Windows 10 desktop with a twist.  It is Windows 10 Enterprise with full blown terminal services turned on.  That’s it, nothing more, nothing less.  It can provide desktops to multiple users from one virtual machine just like RDSH does.

The paragraph above is extremely important to understand.  Why?  Notice what I said above:  Full blown terminal services turned on.  This is not new technology.  As other have pointed out, the underlying technology, originally developed by Citrix, has been around for a very long time.  In fact, if you look back in the past when Microsoft started merging server and client code bases, there was a point you could actually flip a switch and turn Windows client into WVD.  You were limited to 10 sessions due to a limitation on the client OS that limited it to 10 incoming network connections.  Even after Microsoft turned that switch off, companies were finding a way around it and selling product that did it for you.  Obviously, Microsoft squashed that completely because they didn’t want companies buying cheap client OS to be run as a server.  Here’s another interesting fact, the code was still there.  Microsoft didn’t pull the code for terminal services or else you wouldn’t be able to remote into your Windows 10 desktop.

Due to those limitations, we had no other choice but to use Windows Server to deliver applications.  This presented an issue if you were serving up full desktops that has been a thorn in the side of server based computing people since the beginning:  The user interface is different than what end users are used to.  We could get the UI close but never quite 100% equivalent to Windows client.  This would cause confusion amongst end users.  If you are publishing applications, then it’s not really a problem, but not everyone publishes applications.  Having the actual UI be Windows 10, while seemingly a small issue, solves a huge headache for admins and end users.

Let’s talk a bit more about applications.  End user applications are designed for client operating systems first.  All of those line of business applications on RDSH will run on WVD as well.  The biggest issue for applications has always been the multi-user nature of the operating system.  Guess what?  We already know how to get those applications installed, configured and running in a multi-user environment.  All of that knowledge of RDSH and getting applications to work will transfer to WVD.

Office and Office 365

Office and Office 365 are interesting because they are the same, yet different, in many ways.  The point made about compatibility issues may happen but upgrading the application that relies on Office may cause compatibility issues as well.  These are not new issues to deal with.  Office 365 gets updates regularly which is true.  Office perpetual gets updated as well.  Sometimes updates break stuff.  This isn’t Office specific either.  As I mentioned though, Office 365 is already being used on RDSH with existing applications and this, so far, has not been a huge issue for companies.  I believe it’s a bit of fear-mongering pushing the Office 365 is vastly different than Office perpetual and will break things.  Let me ask this question:  Would Microsoft push updates out to O365 that would break compatibility with a large number of applications?  Over time, yea, but that will happen with Office perpetual as well.  Keep in mind, that Microsoft doesn’t want people on the perpetual license anymore.  They want people on Office 365.  This means they have a vested interested in keeping that compatibility between Office and other applications.  Why would anyone move to Office 365 if it broke a majority of their applications?  Again, companies have moved to Office 365 and this “fear” has not come to fruition.

What happens if Office cannot be run on RDSH?  As has been pointed out, a large number (possibly majority) of line of business applications have some sort of tie into Office.  If Office cannot be used on Windows Server, this has a huge cascading affect on what can be delivered through RDSH.  If you cannot deliver your LOB application through RDSH, what are your alternatives?  Local install?  Probably not because there is a reason you were delivering the way you were.  It really leaves WVD as the option for delivery.

And that’s what I believe is key here is Microsoft’s feelings on perpetural licenses.  They want people using Azure and its service including Office 365.  They have made big strides in getting companies to move over to it already and this will continue to accelerate as more and more enterprise and other licensing agreements come up for renewal.  Why is it so hard to believe that they will pull the plug on being able to run Office on Windows Server?  This actually falls in line with the “leave Server to do server stuff and Client to do client stuff” mentality.  I wonder how much time and effort must go into making sure that Windows Server is able to handle, what are supposed to be, client-side applications especially now that the code bases for Server and Client are splitting again.

Timeframe

Will this happen next year?  I’d be really, REALLY surprised.  Will it happen in approximately 3 years when the next version of Windows Server comes out?  I would say if it doesn’t happen then, Microsoft will at least put us all on notice that the end is coming sooner rather later.  Yes, it has been said a lot can happen in 3 years especially in technology and that’s been an argument presented against the death of RDSH.  The problem with that argument is that it works both ways.  It is also entirely possible that RDSH will be completely dead in 3 years.

On-Prem vs Cloud

This argument has validity.  Not everyone wants to put things up in the cloud but, to go along with the timeframe, a lot happens in 3 years.  Cloud adoption will be much bigger in 3 years than it is today.  Let’s say though that WVD in the cloud doesn’t take off nearly as much as Microsoft would like.  Are they going to dump WVD or would it be a smarter play to allow it to be on-premises?  Again, 3 years is a long time but it is also a short time.

Analogy Time

Let me bring up an example from my own experiences that aren’t directly related but really seem to capture the essence of many arguments on this subject.

Digital entertainment (music, movies, books) vs physical media.

I’ll admit, I held off way to long on going digital on music and books and have only recently decided to move to digital for movies and shows as well.  Why did I resist?  Basically, because I “liked” having physical.  It was engrained into me because of the time in which I was born and grew up but then realities started setting in.  CD’s/DVD’s/Blu-ray’s can be broken or scratched or scuffed to the point of not being playable.  Books, I love books.  I read all the time, but have you been almost to the end of a good book you want to finish and it’s part 2 of a series but you need to travel?  Do you bring both books (finish the one and start the other)?  Do you bring just the one so you can finish?  And what if they are large books, say Game of Thrones size books.  Those are hefty books to say the least.  My e-reader can hold my digital library and that’s a lot easier to haul around than physical books.  Same with music and movies.

What I’m trying to say is that things change especially in technology.  We have to adjust to the realities whether we like it or not.  My first real job was as a server admin at a hospital.  This was in the mid-90’s.  The hospital had multiple email systems through the building.  Not least of which were MS Mail and Notes but there were others.  Now we have the option of not even having to support our own email servers for a company to deliver email to employees.  It can all be done in the cloud.

Attitudes change as you can see from my example of me resisting digital.  Not that long ago, when smart phones were growing in popularity, there was, essentially, an unwritten rule that you had to have your phone with you at all times and respond when an email or text or whatever came to you.  No matter the time of day.  You were tethered to your job even after you were off the job and I’m not talking about on-call duties.  That’s a reality you can’t avoid as an admin.  People were fired if they didn’t respond in a timely manner.  Now, that attitude has very much changed.  We’ve started developing work/life balances where we don’t need to be 100% on company time.  Does the older way still happen?  I’m sure it does but that is not the norm anymore.

Conclusion

Let’s cut to the chase here.  Microsoft has made the first real shot across the bow in regard to Office and RDSH.  WVD will replace RDSH and Office 365 will replace Office.

  • Microsoft does not want users on perpetual Office. They want users to move to Office 365.
  • Microsoft wants companies to use Azure.
  • WVD uses the same technology as RDSH. The argument that there are “so many unknowns” about WVD, in my opinion, is completely false.
  • Because WVD is RDSH on Windows client, there are more advantages than any perceived disadvantages for administrators, end users and 3rd party product vendors.
  • If you look at Microsoft’s sales commission basis, it is skewed towards Azure in a big way. This means sales people are looking to push this in a big way.
  • Microsoft has the leverage. They have every reason to discontinue Office perpetual and RDSH as we know it.  If they can deliver the same functionality through Office 365 and WVD, then why wouldn’t they pull the plug on both?
  • Office 365 is already being used on RDSH and works. Again, not nearly as many unknowns as people believe there is.
  • A lot of the resistance appears to be the “it’s worked for us for X years, why would we change that?” Yea, Mainframes worked great and people knew those inside and out.  Why would anyone move to the client/server model?
  • It’s still Windows, it’s still multi-user, it’s, essentially, the same experience for users. The big difference really is that, as of right now, it’s cloud only.  That too can change.

I will admit, I may be completely off-base on this.  Things do change rapidly in our line of business and all this talk we are having now may not even be relevant in 3 years.  The technology may have completely changed by that time.  What I’ve tried to do is follow the breadcrumbs and reach a logical conclusion.  The upcoming death of RDSH is my conclusion based on what I’ve seen, what I’ve experienced and what I know.  It is not going to happen right away but it will happen sooner than people, who say it isn’t happening, expect.

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