Windows Virtual Desktop and What It’s Release Truly Means

Since Microsoft announced Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) at last years Ignite (2018), there has been a lot of conversation around it.  I’ve even written on it and discussed at length through various mediums.  I must admit, I like what Microsoft is doing BUT it’s not necessarily from a technical perspective.  A lot of people focus on it and comparing it to Citrix and VMware Horizon View and others.  I think they are missing the whole point of WVD.

Microsoft has traditionally paid, more or less, lip services to Terminal Services or Remote Desktop Services.  For years, virtual desktops have not truly been supported by Microsoft either (Client Operating systems).  The licensing alone always seemed geared to keeping their client operating systems off of virtualization solutions.

Then, suddenly, WVD was announced.  What is WVD though?  There has been a lot of confusion about this and Microsoft really hasn’t done much to correct anyone’s understanding.  WVD is the broker, the gateway and web front end to virtual machines hosted in Azure.  While the names are the same as the RDS services for on-premises, this is not a lift and shift.  These Azure services are designed from the ground up to be run on Azure.  Along with these services, Microsoft is implementing new extensions or a new version of RDP (depends on how you want to look at it).  WVD will only allow this new version to connect to the virtual machines behind it.  In other words, you can’t simply MSTSC into these machines.  You can either access the machines through the web front end or through a client that can be installed on various operating systems.  It’s one or the other, “native” RDP on any version of Windows is not sufficient.

What about Windows 10 multi-user or being able to run Windows 7 virtual machines?  Isn’t that WVD?  Yes and no.  I really consider them entitlements based on your Microsoft licensing and here’s why.  Microsoft is allowing partners to deploy Windows 10 multi-user, Windows 7 and Windows 10 (along with the traditional RDSH virtual machines) through their own brokering system.  For instance, Citrix and VMware can deploy Windows 10 MU on Azure and use their protocols with it instead of RDP.  This does NOT though go through the actual WVD infrastructure.  Remember, WVD only supports the new RDP.

Ok, great Microsoft has finally blessed Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) so what?  DaaS has been around for a while now but it’s been….not necessarily pleasant.  Now Microsoft has a DaaS solution (although it can only run on Azure) and they are pushing it hard.  I’ve been working with Terminal Services for over 20 years.  I’ve been a Microsoft MVP in Terminal Services for many years and an original member of the Citrix CTP’s and I can truly say Microsoft is putting the effort needed behind WVD like they’ve not done before.  I had the pleasure of working with the program managers in the Azure Advisor program.  They were always responsive and helpful and took the feedback given and would pass it along and explain why something is the way it is or why it’s not there yet.  They truly wanted any and all feedback.

BUT WVD is also much like RDS on-premises in that management of WVD is lacking right now.  Image management?  Not really.  Manage at scale?  Nope.  Broker functionality equivalent to others?  Not even close.  So why do I say WVD is a big deal?  Because it validates the DaaS market and evens the playing field in regard to 3rd party brokers and image management systems.

DaaS is in it’s infancy.  Citrix and VMware are JUST starting to really move into this space which means THEY DON’T DOMINATE.  Microsoft now has infrastructure that 3rd parties can use without having to build their own.  These third parties, say Workspot or Cloud Jumper, can compete now with their management capabilities and, this part is huge, pricing.  They can fill the holes that Microsoft has left, and believe me, those holes need to be filled if anyone is thinking of using WVD.  All these smaller companies need now is a management plane, which they already have, and they can come in much cheaper than Citrix or VMware.  RDP is a very good protocol now and the new extensions/version is even better and continuously being updated versus having to wait for an Operating System update.  Unless you absolutely need the functionality of a Citrix or VMware, companies can now potentially save a lot of money in licensing costs alone.

Microsoft has validated the DaaS market.  This will bring in more companies to move desktops into Azure.  I can testify to the fact that enterprises are already doing this even though you don’t necessarily hear about it.  With Microsoft validating the market, it has also opened this market to competition once again.  It’s not a two car race anymore.  In my opinion, things just got exciting again!