In a previous blog (April 2019) , while Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) was still in Beta, I explored its features and debated the importance of this move by Microsoft into the world of virtual desktop infrastructure. Computacenter has been working with Microsoft and tracking the development of WVD through Public Preview and General Release.
In this blog I will explain:
- Why you should be interested in it?
- What it means to other vendors?
- How can you know if WVD is right for you?
Why should you be interested in WVD?
From the initial excitement of virtualising desktops, born from the success in the server world, VDI has remained at 10-20% of the desktop estate of large organisations. From the premise of everyone should have one, we now focus on specific use cases where the benefits stack up. With WVD, Microsoft are focusing on three scenarios:
- Replace/migrate on-premises virtual desktop deployment
At some point you’re going to need to refresh your existing virtual desktop infrastructure which will be both timely and costly. With many companies boasting a ‘cloud first’ strategy and an ongoing modernisation of application portfolios, migrating those workloads must be considered.
- New Windows virtualisation
The experience of using and managing virtual desktops has become significantly easier in the last few years, whilst the challenges of effectively maintaining physical desktops is arguably becoming harder. Whether it’s a tactical workload like third party access or something more strategic the ability to pilot and develop on a cloud platform removes a lot of initial investment.
- Windows 7 end of support
There will be organisations out there whose Windows 10 plans are being hampered by problematic Windows 7 applications. Migrating those workloads to Azure will give you the extended support needed, and so time, to allow that final remediation to take place. From a compliance point of view, it’s certainly a better place to be.
Single versus multi-cloud strategies
The main alternative to desktop virtualisation is giving people a laptop but let’s assume you’ve addressed that and your use cases for virtualisation are defined. If there is a limitation of WVD then it is its dependence on Azure. If that is an issue it’s worth remembering though that WVD is in fact two separate constructs; “broker” and “licensing entitlement”.
As a licensing entitlement you can choose to use Citrix, VMware, or a number of System Integrators offering turn-key DaaS solutions as the broker to those Azure desktops. The advantage, of those, being the ability to run workloads not just in Azure but on-premises and on other public-clouds from a single management plane. This could expand the number of users that could be included within scope. It also means that, perhaps, public cloud becomes your disaster recovery site of choice. Offering constantly refreshed hardware at a fraction of the cost while not powered on.
You also need to consider where your desktops reside based on the applications they need to access. With so many legacy applications hamstrung by latency sensitivity the proximity of the application and the desktop could be paramount to the user experience and, so, success of the project.
Assessing if WVD is right for your organisation
Whether you are new to desktop virtualisation or looking to transform an existing deployment, Computacenter would recommend the following approach
- Understand your business requirements and the needs of your users
Ensure you are clear on what WVD can deliver that physical machines can’t and match that to the needs of the business now and in the foreseeable future. Define your user workstyles at a conceptual level and use end user analytics to collect the empirical data that will help you understand which users are a good fit for WVD
- Use proof of concepts and early user pilots to gain confidence and understanding
One of the most powerful aspects of public cloud is how fast you can be up and running. Test the scenarios you’ve identified and the applications that are in scope to confirm the user experience. Target users to pilot the environment and gain real-world feedback. Positive experiences will help gain momentum in the next phase
- Build the business case and plan the deployment
Align identified business metrics to the capabilities of WVD. Baseline those metrics and be clear on how you can measure and so show improvement on them. Consider how ongoing application strategies may impact when people can be deployed and where their desktops should be placed.
Microsoft embracing desktop virtualisation is fascinating, and the long-term benefits for everyone must be a positive. Citrix and VMware have been talking about the benefits of public cloud for VDI for a long time, but few large-scale deployments have moved fully to it. Many on premises VDI deployments were not deployed optimally, I think it’s fair to say, and if you were to do it again you’d probably do it differently. Public cloud forces you to re-visit those decisions both from an operational and a cost point of view. Re-visiting desktop virtualisation also forces you to look at the use cases you are supporting and re-evaluate them. Are you supporting how your users and the business wants to work or making them work in a certain way due to the technologies you’ve implemented?
Desktop virtualisation offers capabilities that physical desktops cannot. Public cloud offers benefits that are hard to achieve on premises. Neither will bring success though if the right users and workloads aren’t identified.
Let Computacenter help you decide if WVD can benefit your organisation.
World waits to see what it means.
Microsoft have almost always done virtual desktops, well, published desktops at any rate. So, why, since its announcement at last year’s Microsoft Ignite Conference, has Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) generated such interest? Last week, it was finally released as a public beta, so now we can validate whether WVD is aimed at small and medium businesses or can really compete in the Enterprise space.
Cloud desktop adoption is growing as organisations move more applications out of their datacentres and increase their consumption of SaaS, thus reducing the need to site resources locally. The attraction of the ability to deliver a disaster recovery platform without investing in ageing hardware is a compelling one. Similarly, the ability to deliver any virtualised desktop platform without paying for compute upfront removes a barrier to adoption. So far, VMware and Citrix’s Cloud desktop offerings have tried to remain platform agnostic, so can Microsoft make a success of an offering that limits you to only Azure? Here at four features that may convince you.
If you’re a Microsoft 365 E3/E5, Windows E3/E5 or M365 Business/F1 you are already licensed for it. You will, of course, still need to pay for your Azure VMs and any supporting solutions, but it removes the need for the additional cost of desktop virtualisation licensing.
- Windows 7 support
It should come as no surprise to any of you that Windows 7 goes EOL in January 2020. If you haven’t migrated all your desktops to Windows 10 and wish to remain supported, you are going to have to pay for that extended support unless you migrate those Windows 7 desktops to Azure. With WVD you will continue to receive security patches for the full three-year term, if needed, at no cost.
- Windows 10 multi-user support
Windows 10 multi-user is a feature of Azure, rather than WVD specifically, and will come with native Office 365 support. The expectation is that providing a session-based desktop on a client OS will give greater application compatibility, better GPU integration, and an improved user experience than you get with on a server OS. It also gives you an alternative solution for when support for Office 365 is dropped from Windows Server 2019.
- Office 365 support optimisation
Through Microsoft’s acquisition of FSLogix, WVD offers support for Office 365 in non-persistent desktops through their layering technology. This means you can deliver your desktops in the most cost-effective way while maintaining user experience and performance.
So, this is great, WVD will replace the need for additional licensing from Citrix and VMware? Well, don’t forget Microsoft has always delivered basic services in this area and other vendors have enhanced that functionality for people that needed it. So, is WVD any different? At present, Citrix can sell WVD (there’s a whole other discussion here…) and intend to offer Citrix DaaS as an enhancement but what that means isn’t clear. VMware have yet to make any announcement but continue to develop their own Azure offering to rival Horizon Cloud on AWS.
The Microsoft of today is all about agility. WVD is only at the public beta stage, over the coming weeks and months, we’ll see the product rapidly mature I’m sure. But, and it’s a big but, do you want to put everything into Azure? Every customer I talk to has a multi-cloud strategy. Even those that have gone heavily into Azure are transforming their applications to microservices and containers to simplify their portability. Perhaps Microsoft will look to use Azure Stack to extend their functionality to on-prem. They are unlikely, however, to ever allow you to run workloads in other Clouds. In the past Microsoft had little incentive to make massive investments in RDS because every Citrix or VMware license pulled through a Windows one. Now though, those investments are going to drive Azure consumption. Citrix and VMware both have mature virtualisation solutions that offer flexibility as well as wider desktop portfolios, but will it be enough to fight of this new competition?
If you are looking at a tactical desktop virtualisation project and/or you have decided that Azure is the platform for you, WVD needs to be considered. Let’s not forget that this solution hasn’t even been released yet, but Computacenter are certainly investing time to understand what it means for us and what it will mean for our customers.