In a reversal, Microsoft will allow Office 365 ProPlus on Server 2019

A delightful surprise to go along with the official availability of FSlogix as a Microsoft product.

Fresh off of deciding to do the right thing with FSLogix licensing, Microsoft gained more community goodwill this week by announcing that customers will be allowed to run Office 365 ProPlus on Windows Server 2019. The news was met with immediate cheers on Twitter.

Monday was the big day that FSLogix became available for just about everybody as an official Microsoft product. We knew this was coming, as Microsoft announced this back in March. (By the way, check out the new FSLogix documentation.)

But Microsoft’s blog post, which appeared on the Microsoft 365 blog and was attributed to Jared Spataro, also brought the news about ProPlus on Server 2019, which we didn’t know was coming.

Office 365 ProPlus is clearly the way forward for Microsoft Office in the enterprise, but previously, it was not supported on Windows Server 2019. Many of us in the desktop virtualization space assumed that this was a move intended (at least in part) to nudge more desktop virtualization deployments to go to Windows 10 Enterprise Multi-Session or VDI on Windows Virtual Desktop

Microsoft’s blog post this week didn’t go into much detail about the reasons for the decision, but they did mention that this would help out customers that are close to deadlines for getting off of Windows Server 2008 R2 and 2012 R2. I reached out for additional context, and a Microsoft spokesperson replied that "Microsoft is constantly evaluating its business and listening to its customers."

We know that plenty of customers were not happy about the ProPlus on 2019 restriction. So, all the rabble rousing and feedback seems to have worked, and this week’s news was a delightful surprise. Hurray!

Now, on to other news in this week’s announcement: First, Windows Server 2019 gets another improvement for desktop scenarios, in the form of support for OneDrive Files On-Demand. Plus, there are several other Office enhancements for virtual desktops:

  • Outlook in Cached Mode can sync mail before the calendar, and there are options to reduce the amount of mail and calendar data that gets synced by default overall, all resulting in a faster experience.
  • OneDrive is getting a new per-machine installation option.
  • Windows Search is going to get a per-user index.
  • Teams is getting per-machine installation for Chat and Collaboration, plus a bunch of other planned enhancements.

So what else can we take from this?

Back in March 2018, Brian Madden (then on sabbatical) wrote our most-viewed article of the year, “Windows Server 2019: Session Host is dead! Multi-user Win10 instead?” At the time, it sure seemed like all signs were pointing to Microsoft removing RDSH from Windows Server, as well as someday removing the desktop GUI entirely. But now these signs are being reversed. First, RDSH showed up in Windows server 2019; and now Server 2019 is getting support for Office 365 ProPlus.

We always knew that transitioning desktop virtualization environments off of Windows Server and onto Windows 10 (whether multi-session or VDI) would take years. However, now the horizon for this move has been pushed out further, until 2025. This (along with moves like allowing Citrix and VMware to use WVD entitlements for DaaS offerings) gives us all that much more flexibility for desktop virtualization deployments. We’ll have to leave the speculation about the sunsetting of RDSH and the GUI on Windows Server for some later article.

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This has been down to community requests including ours. As businesses migrate to Onedrive for personal storage and on-prem storage is removed the use of Onedrive in a XenApp/RDSH environment is slow and not officially supported (via Jos Leibens onedrive mapper script). MS decided not to add the filesystem attributes to Server 2016 that support 'files on demand' in onedrive it so that left Win10 WVD and Server 2019 the only options for XenApp. With WVD Azure only the on-prem users (the 90% with legacy applications that will take time to cloudify) were left with a poor performance and patchy support. This decision was the correct one and show that MS actually listen to their customers. Now starts the project to move our environment to Server 2019.