Last week at Microsoft Ignite, Microsoft announced Windows Virtual Desktop or WVD shortened. Microsoft was working on a multi-user version of Windows 10 for some time. Among community members, the rumours about how and what, were swirling. I don’t think that many expected Microsoft to step into the multi-user business like they did last week. This blog is intended to give an overview of what WVD is and show where 3rd party solutions fit in. It is intended to be as complete as possible. If you think something is out of order or should be added, please let me know.
WVD – What is it?
WVD or Windows Virtual Desktop is a multi-user version of Microsoft Windows 10 that is only available on Microsoft Azure. I can’t put it more simple than that. WVD is founded on the foundation or architecture of RDmi, which was announced just a year ago. WVD will offer Windows 10 desktops with or without a GPU. Microsoft WVD is integrated with Microsoft365, interested with Microsoft365 is all about, here is the link – Microsoft365.
The image below shows how it was told at MSIgnite.. interesting that Server 2019 is legacy, right?
With WVD Microsoft enters the Multi-user space, for the first time as a managed party. They now will get customers running multi-user workloads on their Azure platform which they are managing. A totally different ball game, one they never really played before.
With WVD you will have access to a multi-user desktop environment with Cortana, Edge, Windows store and so on. The real Windows 10 experience. That is a major difference from the Windows 10 experience on Server 2016 offered today from several other vendors.
What about multi-cloud?
WVD is not available for any other cloud offering out there, it is only available for Microsoft Azure. I see some tweeps talking about this and wondering why. I see this in the light of pushing workloads to Azure and cutting of market growth in this segment for AWS. AWS has been offering a desktop-like server environment for a while with success and you could run dedicated Windows 10 on AWS if you brought your own licenses.
With limiting WVD to Microsoft Azure only Microsoft cuts of this offering for AWS. Of course also for Google but they were not actively pushing this market just yet. It is a bold step but not one that really surprises me, it is a way to promote Azure and it is a powerful offering to do this.
What about on-premises or Azure Stack?
I spoke to many Microsoft reps at Microsoft Ignite and they all gave the same answer, there are no plans to offer WVD on-premises. There are plans, however, to move this to Azure stack in due time. If they’d move this to on-premises they’d compete with server RDSH. They told me that they want to keep Server RDSH running for on-premises environments for now.
You might remember a discussion we had in March this year about Server 2019 and the missing RDSH role – Windows Server 2019 with no RDSH and Windows 10 Multi-user and even RDmi, where do we go? – At that time we thought RDSH was being moved to Multi-user windows 10. The Multi-user windows 10 ISO is even out there. Some may say the rumours were wrong but I dispute that. There is information out there that this was intentional and around that time they started developing WVD which changed their plan. It’s something for the history books and Wikipedia.
What about licensing?
Microsoft WVD is available for any customer with a Windows 10 / Microsoft 365 E3/E5 subscription. It will also be available for customers with an F1 subscription soon. Today the Microsoft365 F1 subscription allows only local operating systems so this will be a change or addition.
Will it be available also outside these subscriptions? I asked the question several times last week but never got a definitive answer on that. It might or might not be. If it is offered outside these subscriptions VDA licenses would suddenly be an issue again.
So one could say Microsoft is giving away access to multi-user Windows 10 on Azure. As we all know there is nothing free expect the sun, wind and rain. To get free access you need the mentioned subscriptions and when you do you get the entitlement to use Windows 10 on Azure.
If, however, you want to run a server OS within this same offering, it will require RDS CALS. This is important to realize.
Is compute and storage included?
Compute and storage is not included in the entitlement, customers will have to pay for compute and storage. what customers get is the right to use WVD, Microsoft Windows 10 Virtual desktop on Azure. That is the whole deal. Anything beyond that is extra and will cost extra.
Is there more to this, what about Office365?
There is more to this, Microsoft also realized that they would need to add Office365 in the deal to make it seriously interesting.
Office365 ProPlus will not be supported on Windows Server 2019, it will only be supported on Windows Server 2016 (until 2025), Windows Server 2012R2 (until 2020) and Windows Virtual Desktop.
Microsoft added Windows 7 in the deal as well, Windows 7 is almost end of life. Through this deal, you will have the ability to run Windows 7 and receive ESU (Extended Security Updates) until 2023. This Windows 7 deal is a device based license deal and prices will go up each year. You have three more years to get rid of older apps running on Windows 7.
From an architectural point of view
So if we take a look at what they created we see they will allow access through a gateway over port 443. The desktop will communicate with a broker like any other solution out there. The security failure in Azure where 3389 had to be open to access a desktop is fixed with this offering. A user profile file server is offered as part of the deal, WVD relies on Azure AD for authorization and authentication. The WVD offering will offer basic load balancing.
Because of the integration with Azure, conditional access, with the policies coming with it, are available as well.
Deployment is done Azure-style so no new deployment method or anything like that.
Desktops, pools, apps and users
A desktop pool is called a Host pool, a host pool is located under the Tenant. The Tenant is read-only for the customer. Within the host pool there are;
- App Pools
- Session Hosts
App Pools will host the application you publish for the users, this could well be a published desktop as well. Session hosts are the VM’s running with user sessions on them.
Pooled, personal, persistent?
One thing I asked around for a lot is whether they will also offer single-user-non-persistent VDI desktop pools. The multi-user offering was all they talked about. The non-persistent single user option is also interesting I would say. No one could answer that one and they kept referring to persistent pools which are less interesting I think. So I think, from my four-day quest, they will not offer a single-user-non-persistent offering day 1. who knows what their day2 offering will be.
Managing the WVD environment is performed either with PowerShell or the Azure management console. Availability of features in the Azure management console is rather limited. PowerShell scripts are available to perform management tasks. As you see below, several PowerShell commands are available.
There will be four different roles available;
Depending on the role they can Create, Read, Update, Delete or Authorize. The first four are to act on the RDS role, create it, delete it etc.. the last one, Authorize, is to Assign RDS roles. It will work with scopes and so on, more to come in the next months on this.
Functionality and gaps
Now that we’ve seen what it is and how it is set up, let’s take a look at functionality.
WVD will offer basic Windows 10 functionality to end user, business users or employees. it will offer;
- HTML5 or RDP client-based access to a published desktop or app
- Profile management with User Profile Disk
- OneDrive and Outlook cache optimization (added last-minute)
- Access to Office365ProPlus
That is what it offers, a basic Windows 10 environment, multi-user or persistent, with optimization to run Outlook and Onedrive. It is accessible with an RDP client or through an HTML5 browser. I asked if they would develop a new client or that the client would get updated with features. The RDP client will not get updated for this and no major improvements are expected to enhance the client.
As the offering of WVD is a basic Windows 10 offering running in Azure, there are some gaps. Gaps are filled by leveraging partners. The gaps I identify in this offering are;
- Limited profile management solution
- No application management
- Protocol not designed for this kind of workload
- No resource management (CPU/MEM)
- Endpoint analysis only available with including of Intune
- Limited a printing solution
Partners have been selected to help offer solutions to fill these gaps. Of course, some customers will not require a partner and will work with the Microsoft offered solution alone. Those customers are the same ones that now work with Amazons AWS workspaces, they can do with a simple desktop and don’t require the Enterprise layer on top. The downside with that is that inevitably they will have more management to get applications installed, save user settings, manage workloads and so on. There is a solution for everyone, I’m not to judge if one needs more or less advanced products. I never ran into a customer that could do with just Windows but that is just me.
On the slides at Microsoft Ignite partners were announced, All partners picked for their specific solution. The partners on the slide are listed in the screenshot below. With the gaps mentioned, it is not hard to guess why these partners were chosen.
How things will work out in the future is unknown right now, Microsoft is still working hard to work out the details. They added the support for OneDrive and Outlook cache and search last minute. This shows they also are looking on how to build this solution. Partners, like Citrix (yes I work for Citrix) work closely together with Microsoft to integrate and align. On the Citrix blogs, more information about how Citrix integrates with WVD will be added in due time, this blog is not intended for that. here is the Citrix announcement for those who missed it, Citrix will offer their new DaaS solution algined with Microsoft WVD – Citrix DaaS announcement.
To mention a few partners, FSlogix could be used for profile management and Outlook/OneDrive cache. Liquidware could also help in those areas as well as application management and user environment management. Citrix, of course, offers the whole Enterprise stack from user environment management to application management, protocol, endpoint analysis and so on. Printing is handled with ThinPrint and/or Citrix. Lakeside will offer real-time insight into the Windows environment, something Liquidware and Citrix can do as well to some point. These are a few partners with some solutions to show how they elevate the offering from Microsoft.
I hope I covered most of it, all would be preferable but impossible I think. It is an interesting move by Microsoft, one that has kept people talking and thinking for the last week. Two next conferences on my list are VMworld Europe and AWS Re-invent in Vegas, I’ll be on focusing on the reaction on this offering. I will not say if this is good or bad, this is a move in an attempt to win market share with a cloud solution. Everyone makes moves to grow, I’m interested to see how this builds out. What a time to be alive, with so many things happing in IT.
I will get in touch with the partners mentioned and ask for their statement on where they think they fill the gap, that will be added shortly. For the rest, have a good weekend and see you in Barcelona or Vegas.
Would you find any inconsistency/errors in the article, please let me know… I’ll be more than happy to correct them.