Windows Virtual Desktop is Microsoft 365's new virtualised modern desktop platform set to make it easier for organisations to leverage the full benefits of Azure, Office & Windows in a single package.
First announced at Microsoft Ignite 2018 and fully backed by the continuously expanding Azure platform, Windows Virtual Desktop is Microsoft's new virtualised/remote Windows service going forward. If you're interested in better remote desktop virtualisation solutions, our team wraps up what's new and what's next with the service so far.
What is Windows Virtual Desktop?
Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) is a new cloud-based service that enables businesses to deliver a full virtualised multi-user Windows and Office experience to any device in minutes using Azure, and replaces the RemoteApp service which you may remember Microsoft announcing (and cancelling) last year.
WVD can virtualise either Windows 7 and Windows 10 operating system to a work device, in addition to Office 365 ProPlus applications and other third-party apps, and run them all remotely in Azure virtual machines (VMs).
WVD can also virtualise a full desktop session, or virtualise individual Microsoft Store and line-of-business applications. In addition, the service supports Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), granting each remote user their own single-user VM. For those unfamiliar, VDI is a virtualisation technology that hosts a desktop operating system (OS) on a centralised server in a data center - in Window Virtual Desktop's case, it's in the Microsoft Cloud.
WVD supports both persistent and non-persistent VMs for both Windows 7 and Windows 10. These remote desktop sessions support multiple users logged into the same Windows 7, Windows 10 or Windows Server VM.
Business benefits of Windows Virtual Desktop
WVD is entirely hosted on Microsoft Azure and uses the extensive scalability of Microsoft Cloud to offer significant advantages to those who use it, including:
- Built-in compliance and security: Microsoft 365's deep security and management capabilities are built-in natively - including conditional access (CA), data loss prevention, and integrated management, giving users a secure and simple solution for management and security of all core business apps and data.
- Deploy and scale virtual desktop or apps to a device: You can deliver staff either the full virtual desktop experience or specific applications with WVD, and when you deliver virtual apps to Windows 10 endpoints, they are integrated seamlessly. Azure's scalability also makes it possible to deploy either in minutes.
- Free Windows 7 Extended Security Updates: if you use Windows 7 virtual machines and want to take advantage of the Extended Security Updates (ESU) program and its three years of additional fixes, Windows Virtual Desktop and its cloud-based services gives you a pathway to redeem the ESU for free. If you want to use the ESU for Windows 7 machines on-premises, there is a big fee to pay per-machine, which increases YOY.
- Fully managed service: Microsoft Azure's scalability means you can deploy Windows virtual machines faster and easier, with Azure's compute, diagnostics, networking and storage capabilities at your disposal - and with all of these things managed by Microsoft, there's no need to configure, install, host or manage any of it.
- Optimised for Office 365 ProPlus use: Microsoft Office is one of the most virtualised Software as a Service applications used by businesses today, and Microsoft have confirmed Office 365 ProPlus and all of its capabilities will specifically be optimised for multi-user virtual use with WVD.
While the service has yet to launch, Microsoft is set to announce more technical details and the official date of preview availability in the near future, so keep this post bookmarked for further updates.
Why is Windows Virtual Desktop a game-changer?
Windows Virtual Desktop makes up for several current shortcomings in Windows virtualisation.
While it's true concurrent multi-user desktop sessions have previously been possible with Windows Server, key features of Windows 10 (Edge, Cortana, Microsoft Store) have always been inaccessible on the Server edition.
Remote desktop virtualisation on Windows Server is also often prone to incompatibilities with business critical applications that otherwise run fine on regular Windows 10, causing unnecessary downtime or instability. Coupled with updates that only come every three years as opposed to every six months, the user experience is inferior.
With WVD offering Windows 10 as the multi-user host, it solves these previous problems with a better service.
If your business is also yet to move to the cloud, the free ESU for Windows 7 VMs created with WVD help you transition to both Windows 10 and Azure with greater flexibility and significantly less cost than alternative options.
Windows Virtual Desktop business scenarios and use cases
Windows Virtual Desktop is best for businesses that require a virtualised desktop experience to meet stringent compliance regulations. If you work in healthcare of finance, the in-built security management capabilities of Microsoft 365 ensures sensitive data accessed on virtualised desktops are properly managed and secure.
WVD also benefits organisations that need seek better mobility or want to move towards a truly digital modern workplace. Desktop virtualisation makes it easy and fast to provision access to core apps and data. Because you can deliver specific virtual applications, you have greater control over which workers have access to which apps.
Take note that outside of Windows Virtual Desktop, there is no way to license Windows 10 for Virtual Desktops. If you want to provision remote desktops on on-premises hardware, you have to sign up for WVD once it's released.
How to get Windows Virtual Desktop
Windows Virtual Desktop is set to release in public preview later this year and will be available to organisations with Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education licenses.
You can provision WVD on the full range of Azure VMs presently available and will be able to sign up by setting up or using an existing Azure subscription - and you only pay for compute and storage consumption. Any additional costs are reserved for storage and the virtual machines themselves, which is part of your Azure subscription.
If your organisation already uses Microsoft Azure for compute commitments, you will also be able to take advantage of them with your WVD remote operations. For example, if your company leverages Azure Virtual Machine Reserved Instances (RI), you can combine the two for lower total costs on processor core count, GPUs and storage.
Windows Virtual Desktop: Next steps
While Windows Virtual Desktop is not yet available, our team have plenty of resources for your business to utilise if you're planning ahead for a more modern digital workplace - either via the cloud or other Windows services.
- Modern device deployment with Windows AutoPilot: Learn more about Windows AutoPilot and how it can streamline new Windows 10 device deployment and management in your organisation in preparation for WVD.
- What is Extended Security Updates?: The ESU can provide your business a cost-effective, easy way to both the cloud and Windows 10 if you utilise Windows Virtual Desktop - find out more about the offer in our guide.
- Contact our team: As a Microsoft Gold Partner, our experts can help you navigate the journey towards modern desktop, modern digital workplace and Microsoft Azure with a highly customised business strategy.