Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) 6 months in, what do we have to show for it?

WVD reached general availability six months ago, on September 30, 2019 to be precise. Let’s have a look the timeline so far.

Due to the importance of social distancing and the increase in Azure traffic as a result of this, Microsoft is currently prioritizing support for critical health and safety organizations worldwide. Microsoft has placed (temporary) limits on free offers to prioritize capacity for existing customers. These are referred to as “soft quotas” according to Microsoft.  

In Italy alone they saw an increase of 775 percent of Teams usage in just a single month; exceptional times! They also mentioned that WVD usage was up over three times. Now, this can mean multiple things. For one, companies that were already leveraging WVD before COVID-19 have increased their capacity. Especially now that working from home (#WFH) is trending worldwide, this would make sense.  

A lot of companies are investigating and prioritizing solutions they can use to enable their employees to work from home, WVD being one of them. Lastly, now that people are locked down at home, they might have more spare time on their hands to fiddle around a bit with WVD, which will add to the additional consumption as well.

Since the general availability of Windows Virtual Desktop, the WVD/RDS team(s) over at Microsoft have put in a lot of effort to optimize the service, with and without the help of various technological partners. It will be interesting to see how all this works out once we are allowed back into our offices within a few months from now.

Will companies find the WVD proposition appealing and promising enough to keep using it once the dust settles?

WVD shortcomings

One of Windows Virtual Desktop’s shortcomings, at least today, is the lack of proper management tooling, including image management and a simplified way of setting things up.

Having said that, Microsoft is working on multiple features and updates that will enhance the overall administrative experience, which is something to keep in mind as well. Next to that, they have a pretty impressive partner ecosystem.

Many are waiting for the announced WVD Azure ARM management portal (check out this snippet they showed at Ignite). As mentioned, setting up and managing WVD isn’t that straightforward, yet. This is especially true for the thousands of IT administrators who don’t like to spend their evenings or weekends figuring stuff out.

If they can get away with a few clicks to set things up, monitor, and maintain their Hostpools, the interest and global use of WVD resources worldwide will grow exponentially. Perhaps I’m exaggerating a bit, but this will definitely help.

Of course, Azure resources will need to available for this to work. Luckily, the portal release is planned for Q3 later this year, as shown on the WVD Roadmap, so there is time.

What else has Microsoft been working on throughout the last six months? Let’s have a look at the WVD timeline. What has been released, announced, or is still in (private) preview?

Windows Virtual Desktop timeline

  • The official GA date of Windows Virtual Desktop was September 30, 2019.
  • From a partner perspective, Citrix announced day 1 support for WVD. This launch enables customers to run Azure-hosted virtual machines running Windows 10 Enterprise Multi-Session and Windows 7 side by side using existing on premises or cloud infrastructure. Providing all benefits of the HDX stack. 
  • Since FSLogix is tightly integrated into WVD (it’s the main reason why they got acquired), the GA date also marked the launch of FSLogix version 1909.
  • On the site, they published their first WVD training module, which is still relevant today.
  • As part of the GA launch, they also introduced the Windows Virtual Desktop Experience Estimator. A really handy online tool that measures the RRT (in ms) from your current location, through the Windows Virtual Desktop service, to each Azure region in which you are able to deploy virtual machines. I think it’s pretty cool and used it a few times already. Apparently, and I think we’ve all noticed it, throughout the last couple of weeks, the internet is a bit more “busy” than usual. Don’t be surprised to see some above-average RTT times every now and again.
  • In the meantime, the partner ecosystem around WVD began to grow as well, in rapid pace I might add. Check out their dedicated WVD partner page.
  • Apart from the WVD announcements (the above all happened within the first week!), Microsoft also introduced Office 365 ProPlus support for Windows Server 2019 for on-premises deployments. This also included the use of FSLogix, free for all. Interesting, since most of thought the lack of support was part of a strategic cloud push by Microsoft, as I’m sure most of you will remember.
  • On October 17, the option of letting WVD admins chose where to store (U.S. or Europe) their WVD service metadata was added to the WVD Roadmap. Scheduled for Q3 of 2020.
  • During Ignite 2019 in Orlando, Florida (November 4-8) a ton of (preview) announcements were made. Some have made GA in the meantime. Here are the ones still pending:
    • The private preview of running your WVD Host Pools on Azure Stack Hub.
    • It has been mentioned that MSIX AppAttach will be the preferred and default way to publish applications to your users when using WVD. Visit the MSIX documentation page to download the latest release. The preview was officially announced on November 23, 2019.
    • Microsoft Teams AV Redirection. Microsoft Teams has been, or will soon be, optimized for Windows Virtual Desktop use cases. Have a look at this Microsoft Mechanics clip on YouTube explaining it in detail. It’s planned as a 2020 Q3 release.
  • Microsoft’s applications compatibility promise (Desktop App Asure) has been extended to Windows 10 Enterprise Multi-Session. This was actually announced prior to the WVD GA launch.
  • On December 2, 2019 WVD became part of the ExpressRoute Microsoft Network. Check out the accompanying FAQs.
  • On December 11, 2019, the WVD team at Microsoft added the option to assign users a dedicated (persistent) WVD machine. Note that this assignment type is configured at Hostpool level using PowerShell.
  • The next day, on December 12, they launched the WVD mobile app for iOS.
  • Four new regions (WVD service locations) were announced December 20. These are: Asia Pacific, Australia, India, and Brazil.
  • On January 10, Windows Virtual Desktop officially became ISO 27001, 27018, and 27701 certified.
  • On January 28. The first official Linux client for WVD was announced at IGEL Disrupt in Nashville.
  • On February 7, they launched the WVD VM scaling tool, based on Azure Automation.
  • Relevant to WVD, on February 21, the public preview of Azure Files with Active Directory authentication was announced. If you’d like to learn more on how to enable/configure it, have a look at this page.
  • The latest and greatest version of their Windows Virtual Desktop client can be found and downloaded here.
  • On March 5, Microsoft announced the general availability of the new AMD EPYC NVv4 series VM’s on Azure.
  • Throughout 2019, a ton of documentation and videos were added to Microsoft Azure Windows Virtual Desktop docs pages. Go here and have a look at the various tutorials, How-to’s, concepts, and more.

There is a roadmap (you’ve seen it come by once or twice already) specifically aimed at WVD (and most of the other Azure services). You can find and view it here. It will highlight what is actively being worked on as well as all of their latest releases. Very handy. 

Final thoughts

A big list with some interesting developments, with many more on the way. Of course, much of the above-mentioned content is still (very) relevant today, so use it to your advantage.

One of the things I like best about WVD is the sudden worldwide interest in virtual desktops and desktop and application remoting.

Hundreds of companies, perhaps thousands even, are suddenly looking at these delivery models as if it’s something completely new. Hard to believe for a lot of you readers out there, I’m sure, but still—it’s happening. They’ve never heard of it or seen these types of technologies in action or were aware, so kudos to the Microsoft marketing team(s) and various evangelist globally.

While this is excellent news for Microsoft, it also opens doors for others, this way we all benefit.

Happy WVD-ing!

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