Desktop-as-a-Service solutions are currently very much in trend. Providers in this market are experiencing strong demand. With the current corona crisis, I expect that demand will continue to grow in the future. After all, DaaS solutions such as Windows Virtual Desktop are particularly suitable for organizations with remote employees. I’ve already written in detail about the whole range of advantages of a DaaS solution compared to traditional desktop deployment and VDI solutions in an earlier blog article. Today I’d like to take a closer look at Microsoft’s desktop-as-a-service offering known as Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD). WVD is a Platform-as-a-Service offering that has been in public preview since March 2019 and became generally available in September 2019. Recently Microsoft announced a spring update for 2020 which promises some improvements and simplifications.
Here are the points I would like to consider in this article:
- Technical features and advantages of WVD
- Licensing requirements and pricing
- Management of WVD
Features and benefits of Windows Virtual Desktop
Windows Virtual Desktop is a desktop and application virtualization service based on Microsoft Azure. WVD provides native client support for Mac, iOS and Android as well as HTML 5 support, making it accessible with any modern browser. Because it is a Platform-as-a-Service solution, Microsoft manages Web Access, gateways, diagnostic tools, load balancers and broker for you. This eliminates a lot of the complexity that desktop virtualization usually brings with it.
A special feature of WVD is the multi-session capable version of the Windows 10 Enterprise operating system. This allows several users to connect to the same host at the same time, which has two advantages. Firstly, it is cost-effective because not every user needs a separate virtual machine and secondly, the Windows 10 Enterprise multi-session operating system supports modern desktop applications. In combination with containerized user profiles by FSLogix, which are dynamically attached to the computing environment at the time of login, the user experience of the Microsoft DaaS solution is great.
When a user connects to WVD, the use of Azure Active Directory (AAD) enables the use of additional security controls such as Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) or Conditional Access Control.
One thing that WVD currently lacks is a user-friendly management interface for admins. However, this is scheduled for release in spring 2020. In this video from the Microsoft Ignite 2019, you can take a look at the upcoming interface starting at minute 14:09.
The number of available Azure regions has been increasing steadily since the official launch of WVD. For a current overview please click here.
License requirements and pricing of WVD
The cost of Windows Virtual Desktop is made up of two components:
1. license costs for Windows
- The following licenses qualify for the use of WVD:
- Microsoft 365 E3/E5
- Microsoft 365 A3/A5/Special offers for pupils and students
- Microsoft 365 F1
- Microsoft 365 Business
- Windows 10 Enterprise E3/E5
- Windows 10 Education A3/A5
- Windows 10 VDA per user
For many companies that already have Microsoft 365 licenses, WVD can, therefore, be used without additional licenses. If no licenses are available yet, the cheapest way to get started is with Windows 10 Enterprise E3 licenses, which are available for only a few euros per license per month.
2. costs for the Azure infrastructure to run your WVD environment
Depending on how your WVD deployment is designed and the requirements you set for your environment, the costs will vary. The most important factors influencing the costs are:
- The required series and number of virtual machines
- The type of desktop assignment (1-to-1 assignment vs. multiple users per VM)
- The booking option of your instance types (e.g. reserved for 1 or 3 years)
- The required memory and network resources
- The IT security needs of your company
The Azure Cost Calculator helps you to estimate the costs of your deployment. My rough estimate for an average deployment is 25 – 40 Euro per user per month.
Management of Windows Virtual Desktop
As already mentioned, an admin portal for the setup and management of WVD in Azure will be available soon. At the moment you still have to use PowerShell or rely on partner solutions. In the future, however, you will be able to manage the following items directly from the Azure Portal:
- Host pools (e.g. add, remove or restart virtual machines)
- Application Groups (e.g. create and publish Desktop App Groups and Remote App Groups)
- Users (e.g. add and assign desktops/applications)
Conclusion on Windows Virtual Desktop
WVD is a DaaS offering from Microsoft that is in great demand. WVD addresses many of the challenges of desktop virtualization very effectively and has some groundbreaking features. Also, Microsoft makes it easy for organizations to make a technology shift:
- Licensing is very simple
- many aspects of the solution are managed by Microsoft in the background
- extensive security features are already part of the solution
- the pricing is transparent
Please let us know if you need assistance with the introduction and operation of Windows Virtual Desktop.