What will Microsoft do next with Windows Virtual Desktop? Look at their cloud priorities

Will WVD be a success? Will FSLogix be widely available? Will WVD and multi-user Windows 10 ever open up? Will Microsoft make any more changes in user environment management or printing?

Now that Microsoft announced Windows Virtual Desktop, multi-user Windows 10, and most recently, the acquisition of FSLogix, the whole desktop virtualization industry is holding its breath, waiting to see what will happen next.

The public preview of WVD is due soon (though I heard that it might slip to January), but general availability won’t be here for a while. We have to wait for more news about packaging options, especially for FSLogix.

We have a million questions, but far fewer firm answers.

The Microsoft cloud effect

When pondering these question, it helps to keep in mind that one of Microsoft’s biggest goals is to grow Azure usage. For example, one of the ways that this is demonstrated is in how Microsoft compensates top executives. Mary Jo Foley broke things down in October, but essentially, the biggest metrics for something called performance stock awards (i.e., bonuses) are cloud revenue and cloud subscribers. (For broader context, I found this timeline of how Microsoft has evolved under Nadella to be useful.)

Of course, the individual product groups may have their own plans, and we have to think about them differently from “the giant, overarching Microsoft cloud company.” But, when looking at these questions, we can use Occam’s razor to offer some rough guidance. The simplest answer is that Microsoft will choose to do whatever will lead to the most Azure growth.

How big will this be?

The main question is how successful Windows Virtual Desktop will be, compared to previous efforts.

While various commenters and Twitterers have expressed doubt, all the people and groups that have been looking at it (admittedly, these are mostly partners that have an interest in it being successful) have high hopes that it’s going to be a good product.

So far, I’ve talked to several of the official partners (yesterday I wrote up thoughts from Liquidware) as well as insiders on and off the record. If you’re interested in testing multi-user Windows 10, images are now available in the Azure gallery; I’ll be especially interested to see tests from Login VSI.

One of the WVD partners is CloudJumper; recently I spoke to their team, including JD Helms, Mike Walsh, and Robin Brandl. They said WVD definitely works better than doing RDSH the traditional way; they appreciate the multi-tenant structure; and they noted that desktop admins will appreciate the familiar Windows 10 experience. Like other partners, WVD will allow CloudJumper to move up the stack into higher level functions.

The CloudJumper team also noted that there are still plenty of people that don’t really know much about desktop virtualization yet, but were excited to learn about WVD. At Ignite 2019, Microsoft talked more openly about desktop virtualization than ever before (they said this was the shot heard around the world). They said that literally everybody who does desktop virtualization should be interested, especially at this cost.

As I’ve covered before, Microsoft said that RDSH-related workloads already make up almost 10% of Azure compute hours, and many customers already own the rights to use it, since it comes with M365 and Windows 10 E3/E5.

Overall, the simplest answer to this question, is that Microsoft is doing (and will continue to do) everything it can to make Windows Virtual Desktop successful, since it drives Microsoft cloud usage.

The FSLogix question

Next, will Microsoft make FSLogix widely available, or restrict its usage to Windows Virtual Desktop? Many folks—especially Cláudio Rodrigues—talked about their hope that Microsoft would go with the more open option. Cláudio wrote that having a consistent on-premises and cloud experience would help customers ease the transition to the cloud when they’re ready.

However, I can’t help but be pessimistic. (Somehow I’m the opposite of Cláudio!) Microsoft doesn’t exactly have a history of desktop virtualization licensing that’s customer friendly. I hope that I’m wrong, but I think that the simplest explanation is that they’ll use FSLogix as a carrot (or really, a stick) to get people to use Windows Virtual Desktop in the Microsoft cloud.

Wider WVD usage and more acquisitions?

This brings up the related questions of whether Microsoft will let WVD manage workloads in other clouds and on premises, and whether Microsoft will ever allow wider usage of multi-user Windows 10. So far, Microsoft’s stated plans in response to questions I posed are that both will be restricted. Again, this is the simplest explanation: it’s an Azure play.

How about making more acquisitions or changes to improve user environment management or printing? Liquidware and ThinPrint are WVD partners, but plenty of folks have suggested that Microsoft should make some more acquisitions and address these problems head on. Here, it’s harder to say what the simplest answer is, so this Occam’s razor idea is breaking down. Though, you could say that UEM and printing are less extreme issues than making Office 365 work with WVD. Plus, there’s more established precedent for leaving these issues for partners to solve.

Conclusion

Occam’s razor is just an idea that I’m keeping in mind here, so if you make a big bet on it, that’s on you. But regardless, the litmus test of “will this grow Azure?” is quite useful when looking at any potential Microsoft decisions.

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