When will Windows Virtual Desktop be GA? We don’t know, but there’s plenty to talk about

The buried lede is that Citrix Managed Desktops will go GA on August 26, the first day of VMworld.

It’s August. We’re still waiting for Windows Virtual desktop, and we don’t know when it will become generally available. (Update, August 13: It might be soon, though. See the update at the end for more.)

There’s a lot to talk about, though. At Synergy, Citrix gave more details about their WVD-based DaaS offering, Citrix Managed Desktops. VMworld is around the corner, and surely then we’ll learn more about their take on WVD. And in the most recent development, my colleague Jesse Scardina reported at SearchVirtualDesktop.com that Citrix Managed Desktops will go GA on August 26.

With all that, it's a good time to take stock of where we are.

WVD versus multi-user Windows 10

First, we should clarify something that we’ve been talking about, but I haven’t written about explicitly. Back in March, we got the public preview of Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD), as well as the lauded news that a broad swath of customers would be entitled to use FSLogix.

At the same time, Citrix published a short video that showed multi-user Windows 10 running on top of Citrix Cloud Virtual Apps and Desktops infrastructure, rather than on top of the WVD infrastructure. Microsoft’s Scott Manchester confirmed this on Twitter, writing “Windows 10 multi-user can be used on Azure with WVD or with Citrix Cloud through WVD entitlements.

This is an important point. Back in September, Microsoft said that multi-user Windows 10 could only be used on top of WVD. But now we know that there’s some more flexibility.

Things can get confusing, because is WVD is really two things. There’s the WVD infrastructure, which consists of the Azure services formerly known as RDmi (Remote Desktop modern infrastructure). These are modern replacements Microsoft RDS (Remote Desktop Services) Windows Server roles, including RD Broker, RD Web, and RD Gateway.

The other part of WVD is the right to use the new multi-user Windows 10 operating system. Multi-user Windows 10 is often described as a “feature” or “entitlement” of WVD, or you’ll see it called “the new multi-session Windows 10 experience of Windows Virtual Desktop.” But it’s not the same thing as the infrastructure. This is like how RDS and RDSH are not the same thing either (one is Microsoft’s complete desktop virtualization offering, and the other is the functionality in Windows Server, which gets used as a part of may other offerings).

So, you can see how this gets confusing. If somebody just says they’re supporting WVD without being specific, you might not know what they’re talking about.

To use the multi-user Windows 10 entitlement of WVD, the workload VMs have to run on Azure (there’s still no mention of using it on other clouds or on premises), and you have to have the licensing rights, which most customers have through their Office 365 or Microsoft 365 plans.

Speaking of entitlements, the other important one that comes with WVD is the right to use Windows 7 for three more years after it reaches end of life.

Citrix Managed Desktops and WVD

Now let’s look at Citrix. When they announced their initial WVD offerings in September, I think most of us were assuming they would be on top of the WVD infrastructure, based on Microsoft’s wording. But now we know otherwise, as I described above.

Citrix followed their video of multi-user Windows 10 on Citrix Cloud Virtual Apps and Desktops with a public preview guide in April. Then at Synergy, we got a lot more details about Citrix’s DaaS service, which is called Citrix Managed Desktops. (Here’s the Synergy session video, and here’s a quick rundown from Bas van Kaam.)

Note that Citrix Managed Desktops is going GA before WVD (and thus the multi-user Windows 10 entitlement). Until WVD comes out, you’ll just be able to use Windows Server 2016 as your workload OS.

One thing that people have noted is that at $16 per user per month, plus $5 of commited Azure consumption per user per month, and with a minimum of 25 users, there is a limit to the flexibility. Customers could buy smaller amounts from partners, though.

VMware and WVD

In the meantime, VMware and Microsoft got a lot closer during Dell Technologies World in April. (Those pictures of Michael Dell, Satya Nadella, and Pat Gelsinger altogether were pretty memorable.) At that point, VMware announced their support for WVD, too.

We don’t have all the details, just that they would “extend the capabilities” of WVD and that they will be “leveraging” Horizon Cloud on Azure. VMware specifically mentioned that they were not planning to resell Microsoft licenses or Azure Compute.

VMworld is right around the corner, and there will be a session on WVD on Wednesday, which will include Scott Manchester.

More thoughts

If you’re already paying for VMware Horizon or Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, you probably don’t care as much whether or not you’re using the underlying WVD infrastructure—you really just care about the entitlements.

Multi-user Windows 10 is interesting; as we’ve all discussed, in theory it should have the resource savings of RDSH, but with the benefits of a desktop operating system. However, there are two other points to mention.

First, these days, doing full VDI (a desktop VM for each user) isn’t that much more expensive than session-based desktops.

Second, one of the big reasons for going to multi-user Windows 10 was because Microsoft wasn’t going to support Office 365 ProPlus on Windows Server 2019. But Microsoft reversed course on this in July.

So for Citrix and VMware customers, the most interesting part of WVD is probably the Windows 7 entitlement—otherwise, Windows 7 end of life is only five months away.

Given this, I think it will be interesting to see what customers do with plain WVD infrastructure (which is essentially free), either on its own or in combination with other products that will sit in front of the WVD stack, and be cheaper than Citrix and VMware.

The last thing to talk about is general availability of WVD. In an article here at BrianMadden.com, Kevin Goodman thought that it might be out in July, but that didn’t happen. (The rest of Kevin’s article still stands, though!)

So, will Microsoft wait all the way until Ignite to release it? That’s three whole months from now. If they do that wait that long, we should hope they have a good reason (such as support for more regions, as suggested by Kevin).

Update, August 13:

Scott Manchester recently tweeted: "We are feature complete with #WVD and will be moving to the final phase for GA." So we might not have to wait until Ignite after all.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed the GA date of Citrix Managed Desktops. It will go GA August 26, not August 20.

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Very good clarity Jack! Nice story.  A lot of people still do not yet understand the difference between Windows 10 Multi-Session on Microsoft WVD and Citrix or VMware Windows 10 Multi-Session on Azure. Once people evaluate WVD vs Citrix they get it.