Microsoft Launching New 'Windows 365' VDI Service Next Month

Microsoft on Wednesday announced a new virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) service for business users called "Windows 365," enabling remote access to Windows 10 or Windows 11 desktops and applications.

Windows 11, Microsoft's newest client operating system, was introduced as a preview release last month. It's expected to see commercial release "later this year."

Windows 365 is designed for use by organizations, rather than individuals. Two editions are planned, Business and Enterprise. The nuances between the two editions weren't described, though.

Microsoft is planning the "general availability" release of Windows 365 on Aug. 2, 2021 "to organizations of all sizes." The general availability term means it's considered a commercial release and ready for production use.

Windows 365 is said to add support for "the Cloud PC," which is a kind of Microsoft marketing label. Per that conception, a Cloud PC lets business users access their desktops and applications, while also keeping their settings intact, "regardless of location or device," according to the announcement by Wangui McKelvey, general manager for Microsoft 365.

Cloud PC had been the rumored name for this new VDI service, but Microsoft seems to be sticking with Windows 365 instead.

Windows 365 vs. Azure Virtual Desktop
Microsoft already has an Azure Virtual Desktop VDI service (formerly called "Windows Virtual Desktop"). However, Azure Virtual Desktop has been somewhat slow with its feature rollouts, and it's thought to be somewhat complex to deploy and maintain.

Windows 365 aims to be a more a more simplified VDI service offering than the Azure Virtual Desktop service. Microsoft is still recommending Azure Virtual Desktop for customers that are familiar with VDI and that require "greater customization and flexibility."

The difference between the Windows Virtual Desktop service and the coming Windows 365 service was characterized as follows:

Windows 365 is built on Azure Virtual Desktop, but it simplifies the virtualization experience -- handling all the details for you. You can scale processing power and monitor the performance of the Cloud PC to make sure your users are getting the best experience. We've also built analytics into the service to look at connection health across network to make sure your Cloud PC users can reach everything they need on your network to be productive.

Windows 365 will have notable cross-platform, performance and security capabilities. They include:

  • The ability to run Windows on any device, be it iPad-, Linux- or macOS-based machines
  • A consistent user experience across those devices, even when devices get switched
  • "Instant-on" system boot
  • Personal customizations, which get streamed to the desktop for apps, data, settings and tools
  • Management and device onboarding support using Microsoft Endpoint Manager, requiring "no virtualization experience"
  • Diagnostic measurements via a new "Watchdog service"
  • A "zero trust" architecture, including cloud storage of data (not device storage), multifactor authentication to verify log-ins via the Azure Active Directory service, the ability to use conditional access policies, least-privilege access, cloud-specific security baselines, plus data encryption during transit and storage.

It's possible to provision a group of Cloud PCs using Microsoft Endpoint Manager in "minutes -- including defining which version of Windows, assigning specific users or groups, and more," according to an announcement by Microsoft Corporate Vice Presidents Jared Spataro and Alysa Taylor.

Spataro and Taylor added that "for small to medium sized businesses, there are simple to use tools for helping citizen admins choose and configure their own cloud environments."

Windows 365 is also being floated as a home for so-called "collaborative apps," which enable interactions with remote coworkers on the fly. Microsoft is also marketing Windows 365 as a so-called "hybrid work" solution, supporting work-from-home scenarios.

Microsoft's somewhat extreme test case in that regard is its pilot of Windows 365 with the government of Nunavut in Northeastern Canada, as described in this announcement. The government, supporting 39,000 dispersed residents, uses low-bandwidth satellite service for Internet connections. A "traditional" VDI implementation was considered "unsustainable" given the low bandwidth and IT staffing requirements, and so the government switched to Windows 365.  

Windows 365 Partner Support
Partner support will be continuing with Windows 365. Independent software venders can develop Windows 365 apps via Microsoft's APIs.

Windows 365 solutions are already getting built by independent software vendor partners. The announcement listed "Nerdio, UKG, Service Now and Net App" as examples.

Microsoft also sees a role for original equipment manufacturer partners with Windows 365. They will "gain an opportunity to integrate Windows 365 into their broad portfolio of services" for the secure hardware devices that they produce.

Windows 365 is a simplified VDI service, but partners will still be needed to provide systems integration support. Managed service provider partners also will be involved with Windows 365.

Added Windows 365 services will be offered by partners such as "Accenture/Avanade, Atos, Crayon, Content and Cloud, Convergent, CoreTex, DXC, Gluck + Kanya, Insight and Netrix," the announcement indicated.

Microsoft also indicated that partners such as "Iconic IT LLC, MachineLogic LLC and Nitec Solutions" will be involved with Windows 365 for small and midsize business support.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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