Windows Virtual Desktop (or WVD, if you’d like) was officially announced a day ago, and we’ve all spend the last day and a half thinking about and debating WVD. (48 comments and counting!)
One salient feature is that it’s free with Windows 10 E3 and E5 licenses (Or with Microsoft 365, which is a bundle that includes Windows). On first glance, this sounded a bit anti-competitive to some people.
But what this boils down to is that Windows 10 E3 and E5 purchased with an Enterprise Agreement and Software Assurance come with with virtual desktop access rights (VDA), and you could just as easily take those licenses and use them with another VDI or DaaS offering. And of course, you still have to pay for all the compute and storage for the workload VMs. (On Azure, of course, but more on that later.)
So what are they giving away? It’s just an Azure-based management plane, which as several folks, including Freek Berson on Twitter, have pointed out (but was not officially mentioned) is the evolution of Remote Desktop modern infrastructure.
For sure, giving this away for free is way more competitive than other vendors that charge $15 a month for their cloud-based desktop virtualization management planes, but that’s Microsoft’s prerogative. What are Windows Virtual Desktop services are going to cost Microsoft? Five cents worth of Azure compute per user per month? That’s a great deal Microsoft, considering they’ll get all the Azure usage from the desktop workloads.
Windows Virtual Desktop does have some holes around profile management, Outlook and OneDrive cache management, and so on, but that’s where the partners will step in. And if this really is a big deal to Microsoft, I’m sure they’ll take care of it in one way or another.
Bigger questions surrounding Windows Virtual Desktop
There are a few big unanswered questions, still.
First, will you be able to use Windows 10 Enterprise for Virtual Desktop, a.k.a. the new multi-user Windows 10 version, in other locations? All of Microsoft’s language right now (in blog posts and as quoted by Mary Jo Foley) indicates that it’s Azure-only, only for use with the Windows Virtual Desktop service.
Next, if you’re using Windows Virtual Desktop to manage a workload based on a Windows Server VM, do you need an RDS CAL? Also, since WVD will support Windows 10 workloads, does that mean we’re allowed to do Windows 7 on shared hardware? I haven’t heard the answer to these quite yet, but they shouldn’t be too hard to find.
Where these questions come together is in the future of RDSH.
Clearly, running desktop apps—and even having a GUI at in the first place—are on their way out for Windows Server. I wholeheartedly agree with the idea that RDSH has a limited future in light of multi-user Windows 10.
If Microsoft does kill off RDSH, you would think that they would have to let people use multi-user Windows 10 in other clouds and on premises, and with other management systems. If they didn’t open up multi-user Windows 10 but went ahead and killed off RDSH, that would be one of those crazy anti-competitive moves that would bring out the pitchforks.
In fact, things are already headed this way, considering all the Windows 10 features that you can’t get with RDSH on Server 2019, so it’s probably time to start making some noise.
On the other hand, the fully-realized version of this scenario is a couple years down the road. By then, don’t you think we’ll be ready to just do VDI for everything? I mean, multi-user Windows 10 will still have occasional app compatibility and security issues, and infrastructure providers are getting so fast at building up and tearing down VMs. Doing VDI with full normal desktop VMs could easily make sense for almost all use cases.
I also wonder if at some point, Microsoft will open up Windows Virtual Desktop-managed workloads to other locations (on premises and/or other clouds). That’s harder to imagine today, so I’m not holding my breath, but it’s another thing to think about.
As of Tuesday, I’m thinking that Windows Virtual Desktop is slightly less of a big deal to Citrix and VMware then I was thinking on Monday. It’s just one bit of infrastructure, and it almost feels like, “yes, this should come with Windows!”
Citrix and Microsoft will still have their own agents, analytics, security, protocols, clients, and halos of other products and services to offer, plus WVD covers the parts that Citrix is bad at.
Now, this doesn’t mean that they’re completely in the clear, competition-wise, but this is only one small component in an EUC stack.
It’s actually far too early to have final thoughts, but this is where I stand for now. It’s time to go stream some Ignite sessions!