Azure Virtual Desktop Adds Windows 11 Preview Option

The Azure Virtual Desktop service now offers the choice of using the Windows 11 operating system at the preview stage, per a Thursday Microsoft announcement.

Azure Virtual Desktop is a 2-year-old virtual desktop infrastructure service that originally launched as "Windows Virtual Desktop." It lets organizations remotely access true Windows 10 and Windows 7 desktops, as well as applications, which are hosted in virtual machines (VMs) on Microsoft Azure datacenters. 

Users of Azure Virtual Desktop have had access to either Windows 10 multisession or Windows 7 single-session desktops. Now, there's a Windows 11 multisession option at preview.

New Windows 11 Preview Released
Windows 11 is still at the preview stage, with general release expected sometime this year.

Microsoft this week released preview build 2000.160 of Windows 11 to its Dev and Beta channel Windows Insider Program testers. This release includes an ISO option, which can be used for "clean installs" of the new operating system.

Additionally, Microsoft released a new Clock app for Windows 11, adding to other so-called "OS-included" apps, such as a new Snipping Tool, an updated Calculator, and updated Mail and Calendar. The Clock app has a new Focus Sessions feature that includes a timer for accomplishing goals, a music-break tool that connects to the Spotify music streaming service, plus access to the Microsoft To Do app for creating task lists.

Microsoft is looking at displaying system-update time estimates in Windows 11 to better inform users. However, that effort is just emerging for PCs with solid-state drives. Microsoft is still ironing out "a few more bugs" to make this notification system also work with PCs that have hard disk drives.

Azure Virtual Desktop Windows 11 Preview Options
The addition of Windows 11 as a preview in the Azure Virtual Desktop service comes about by selecting a Windows 11 image from the Azure Marketplace. Three images were described in Microsoft's announcement as being available, namely:

  • Windows 11 Enterprise (Preview) 
  • Windows 11 Enterprise multi-session (Preview) 
  • Windows 11 Enterprise multi-session + Microsoft 365 Apps (Preview) 

Reader comments in Microsoft's announcement were all saying that the Windows 11 images weren't available. Possibly, there are regional limitations right now.

Running Windows 11 multisession with Azure Virtual Desktop is conceived as an infrastructure cost-saving measure, as multiple OS instances run in a single virtual machine. Microsoft's new Windows 365 desktop-as-a-service offering notably abandoned that approach, though. With Windows 365, there is just one desktop per single virtual machine, which potentially increases costs.

GPU Support
Windows 11 is notable for having a user interface with rounded corners for its screen objects. To get such graphics effects and more, Azure Virtual Desktop service users may have to choose a higher-level graphics processing unit (GPU) option for the virtual machines.

For instance, the announcement stated that "some higher-end graphics effects, such as transparencies, animations, and rounded corners, may require using Azure Virtual Desktop with an Azure VM with the right GPU support," the announcement indicated.

The announcement didn't specify the exact Azure Virtual Desktop GPU support that would be needed for Windows 11, though.

Trusted Launch Support
It's possible to use Microsoft's Trusted Launch virtual machine protections, currently at preview, with the Windows 11 preview on Azure Virtual Desktop. Trusted Launch "guards against boot kits, rootkits, and kernel-level malware," Microsoft explained in this document.

"You can use Trusted Launch (available in preview) to enable TPM 2.0 and secure boot as part of the VM configuration to take full advantage of the security capabilities in Windows 11," the announcement indicated regarding the Azure Virtual Desktop service.

Trusted Launch also apparently is coming to the Windows 365 service, as well, according to this announcement on Windows 365 security.

Windows 365 and Universal Print Support
Microsoft also indicated last week that Windows 365 is getting support for Universal Print, a cloud-based printer management service for Microsoft 365 subscribers. Universal Print dispenses with having to set up print servers and manage print drivers, although it incurs monthly costs for organizations.

About the Author

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


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