Microsoft, Windows Virtual Desktop and Azure

When Microsoft announced Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) in 2018 during Ignite, there was a lot of hoopla, a lot of discussion and a hefty dose of skepticism. After all say the naysayers, this is Microsoft’s third go around with trying to get Remote Desktop Services (RDS) workloads into Azure and out of customers datacenters. The first two were not good, not good at all. Why should we care this time around? Because of your own point, this IS their third attempt at it AND it is better than the first two. It is the second part that is being missed.

These people have every right to be skeptical but I think they are missing some of the bigger picture here. In fact, I believe they are missing a huge part of the picture. First, the cloud is NOT going away. As much as people complain about costs and moving to the cloud, let’s be honest, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), isn’t the panacea that it was made out to be when cloud was first pitched. What IaaS was, was easy for people to understand especially those administrators and c-level executives that weren’t directly involved in companies like Salesforce, Dropbox, etc that were started directly using cloud as a Platform as a Service. It’s what we now call the ‘lift and shift’ model. Take your existing infrastructure and move it directly into the cloud. No muss, no fuss.

Now look at how far the cloud has actually come in becoming a pervasive part of companies lives. Salesforce, Dropbox, Office365 to just name a very small few. And let’s be honest, the cloud is in in it’s infancy yet. It’s barely been around and it’s going to continue to evolve as companies and people push the cloud vendors for it to do very different things than even the vendors predicted. I think the internet is a great comparison. Look back at the web back in the 90’s and compare it almost 30 years later. Does it look even remotely the same? In another 30 years, it’ll evolve even more.

Second, Microsoft has an obvious, vested interest in the cloud in that they own and run Azure. They want and need Azure to succeed and they are in a very unique position right at this moment to make that happen. The question is, can they take advantage of the window (pun intended) while it’s open. They own Windows but more specifically they are the only company in the world that can sell Windows client (currently Windows 10) directly to companies. This, in my eyes, is probably the number 1 reason why we now have Windows 10 Enterprise Multi-User (or whatever the official name is) AND they aren’t allowing companies to run Office 365 on Windows Server 2019 RDSH. If you want to move forward with a supported multi-user operating system that can run Office365, you’ll have to run Win10MU and it is currently only available in Azure. Carrot meet stick. And that’s just it, Microsoft has a lot of carrots and a lot of sticks at it’s disposal, it’s really a matter of if/and/or when it chooses to use them.

Let’s skip to the meat of my, why should we care about WVD anyway and not completely dismiss it. I am not arguing that WVD will succeed but I am saying we need to pay attention because at some point Microsoft WILL succeed.

I’ve been playing with it the last few weeks and it has a long way to go but this is a better attempt than the first two by far which leads me to one of my points: Microsoft does NOT need to succeed with WVD. Let that sink in. They’ve already tried twice and failed. This is their third time but it is obvious they are taking lessons learned in each iteration and applying what they have learned. WVD isn’t the on-premises broker, gateway and web front end of RDSH. It’s been completely rewrote for the cloud. That is not a small undertaking (Citrix and others need to take this lesson to heart. Don’t lift and shift and then try to write new code for the cloud. Write the cloud code first and while it may take longer, it will be easier for you and the customer over the long haul). Are these new services fully polished? Absolutely not but the base is there if Microsoft allows the service to be fully developed.

Another thing to look at is that Microsoft made a big deal of the whole thing at Ignite and announced launch partners, go to partners along side WVD. Liquidware, FSLogix and others and that shows a commitment that has really never been there before. As well, more of the sales and support staff are being compensated on WVD acceptance. Oh and they bought FSLogix to plug some holes in multi-user. Think about that, they bought a company specifically to fix problems with multi-user. When was the last time Microsoft did that? I’ve also talked with partners that will be taking advantage of the WVD infrastructure so there is definitely something there. Citrix being one of them.

Last point, Microsoft can afford for this to fail. They can, and guess what? I would put good money down they would come back with another attempt that improves over this version. The cloud is there future in their eyes and they will continue to push down that road. If this was Ballmer, I’d be pretty sure it would fail or, really, it’d be done already and we wouldn’t even have WVD. Microsoft has Satya Nadella and I have been nothing but impressed with what he has done with Microsoft since he has taken over.

That’s my take on this whole thing. I think you dismiss this at your own peril. Not because I think it’s going to be a huge success or a huge failure but it’s the fact that Microsoft is learning from their mistakes and applying those lessons learned to make each iteration better.