Windows Virtual Desktop is generally available today. Here are 8 things to keep in mind

Will it live up to the hype? Time to wait and see!

Well, it’s finally here. After a year as the most talked about topic in desktop virtualization, VDI, and DaaS, Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop is generally available.

Here’s Microsoft’s blog post.

So, what do you think? Will it live up to the hype? Are you over the hype?

In a way, going GA is a bit anticlimactic because it’s just the beginning. It will be six or 12 or 24 months before we truly know WVD’s effect on the industry.

Anyway, today is a good time to review some important points about WVD.

  1. You still need to have a good reason to use a remote desktop or app. There are plenty of good reasons, and for years we’ve believed that many Windows apps will eventually end up virtualized in a data center or cloud. But, I don’t think we’re going to get to a world where a plurality of desktops are VDI or DaaS. In fact, modern management means that remote PCs and laptops are getting easier to manage. While many customers adopted VDI for the benefits of centralized management, there will be less of a need for this in the future. On the other hand, as remoting gets easier and cheaper, it means that previously marginal use cases will now pencil out. Remote apps could keep spreading and help enable Macs and Chromebooks.
  2. Remember that Windows Virtual Desktop really is two different things. People seem to gloss over this in conversations (and in marketing materials), and it gets confusing! First, WVD includes the license entitlements to run various versions of Windows in Azure, including multi-session Windows 10 in Azure, as well as use Windows 7 with three years of extended support. Second, it’s a modern, cloud-native remote desktop broker. This is why I actually liked the term Remote Desktop modern infrastructure; though apparently Microsoft is trying to get away from name.
  3. Once you think of WVD as either the OS entitlements or the broker, then it gets a lot easier to evaluate your options. Some customers will be fine with the pure WVD brokering components. Third-party vendors will augment or replace various components; or ignore the broker entirely and continue to offer their own. It’s similar to the pure RDS versus third-party decisions that customers have been making for years, except now everything is updated for the cloud.
  4. Citrix and VMware are both pretty much just interested in the OS entitlement side of WVD, not the broker side. They’ll bring their own brokers, clients, protocols, and various other tools to the party. The main difference between Citrix and VMware is that Citrix is reselling Microsoft licenses and Azure capacity, and offering a one-stop DaaS solution, Citrix Managed Desktops. Citrix is also marketing heavily around the WVD support. With VMware, customers will have to pay for the Azure usage on their own.
  5. Even if Citrix and VMware customers aren’t using the WVD broker, Microsoft still wins when customers are using the WVD OS entitlements, because that means that they’re consuming Azure compute hours. As we know, growing Azure usage is one of the top goals at Microsoft. And last year at Ignite, Microsoft said that remote desktop workloads account for 10% of Azure compute hours. So, for those that have been wondering for years how much Microsoft cares about desktop virtualization, the answer is that they clearly care a lot, because as long as it’s on Azure, they can make a lot of money on it.
  6. There are still a lot of important questions to ask about any DaaS offering, such as whether WVD will be available everywhere Azure is, among other questions. Microsoft did announce that Windows Virtual Desktop is available in all "major" geographies.
  7. In particular, customers will have to look at client support. Because WVD handles authentication different from traditional RDS, all of the clients must be updated. Recently, we’ve seen signs that they’re working on this. There’s no official word on thin clients, yet, but they did announce on Monday that there was support for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and HTML5.
  8. Microsoft acquired FSLogix to help deal with Outlook, OneDrive, and desktop search in virtual desktops. But what might be more interesting is App Attach. I’ll quote from the Friday Notebook for May 10, 2019: “At Build, we also got a sneak peak of a new technology, codenamed App Attach (starting at 38:30 in this video). App Attach allows you to take .MSIX apps hosted on a file server, and then instantly attach them to machines, using the same tech that FSLogix uses for profiles—the apps are mounted like VHDs, and data is read via block-level transfers.” This could get very interesting, especially combined with modern management. Microsoft did release a new video on App Attach, showing how it works. 

This post was updated from its original version.

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