IT Pros Describe Azure Virtual Desktop Practices and Gripes in New Study

Use of the Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) service is poised for growth, according to a recently published industry study that surveyed IT pros.

The study, "Azure Virtual Desktop Adoptions Trends," indicated that 58 percent of respondents said that they have AVD deployment plans to be carried out over the next two years. Just 26 percent of the participating respondents, though, had already deployed AVD.

The report surveyed more than 500 IT pros between February 2022 and April 2022 on multiple aspects of using Microsoft's AVD service. The report was compiled and produced by Iselin, N.J.-based eG Innovations, a provider of application performance monitoring solutions and AVD TechFest, a conference organizer based in the Netherlands.

The report's findings are summarized in this eG Innovations blog post, which includes a download link to the full report. Most of the IT pros surveyed for the study were based in North America (36 percent), followed by Asia (26 percent) and Europe (19 percent).

The AVD deployments covered in the survey weren't large, with 73 percent of respondents indicating they had less than 1,000 users. The study's authors surmised that "AVD is probably appealing and accessible to organizations which traditionally are considered too small to adopt on-premises Citrix/VMware VDI."

AVD Pain Points
The biggest "challenge" associated with AVD deployments was the end user experience (22 percent) and the cost of using cloud services (22 percent). Security concerns came in third at 16 percent. The study's authors considered the security concerns to be "relatively low," suggesting that IT pros have confidence in the AVD service. Just 12 percent said that the effort to migrate to AVD was too high.

Slow application performance topped the list of AVD performance complaints at 47 percent, followed by slow logons (40 percent), video call problems (31 percent), USB device support (31 percent) and keystroke latency (28 percent). The report's authors opined that "latency, logon, multimedia playback and other issues may be caused by infrastructure tiers, not the digital workspace itself" and recommended end-to-end monitoring for such issues.

There was also lots of IT grumbling reflected in the survey about monitoring AVD. The report found 48 percent saying that there needs to be an "end-to-end monitoring of AVD, including session hosts, control plane, [and] Azure AD." IT pros also said they wanted one console to monitor Citrix, VMware and AVD (43 percent).

AVD Implementations and Tools
As befits a survey of IT pros, the study posed lots of questions about AVD tools and cloud costs.

Most of the respondents (52 percent) used Microsoft's native Azure stack for AVD services, but 34 percent used Citrix VDAs on Azure "with Citrix brokering and HDX as the communication protocol." There were 14 percent that used AVD with VMware Horizon. Users of the Citrix and VMware solutions tended to have more AVD end users, the study found.

AVD monitoring was mostly done using the Azure Log Analytics plus Azure Monitor combination (54 percent). There were 46 percent that indicated they used either Citrix or VMware tools for AVD monitoring.

The use of Microsoft's Azure Monitor tool, while prominent among the survey respondents, came with lots of "challenges." It was considered to be expensive (30 percent) and monitoring costs were hard to estimate (30 percent). The respondents didn't like having to manually configure alerts (26 percent) and they disliked the lack of prebuilt dashboards (21 percent). They also complained about having to write Kusto queries to get reports (19 percent).

Windows File Server was the most popular AVD storage option used, at 49 percent per the respondents. There were 32 percent that used Azure Files for storage and 13 percent said they used Azure NetApp Files.

The most popular AVD virtual machine deployment used by the respondents was the "4 vCPU, 16GB RAM" option, followed by the "8 vCPU, 16GB RAM" option. Surprisingly, most of the respondents indicated that they were using laptops (72 percent) and PCs (60 percent), rather than thin clients (39 percent) with the AVD service.

Graphic Processing Units (GPUs) for acceleration and improved rendering was used by 61 percent, which the study authors considered high. "We suspect that organizations have some VMs that are GPU enabled, but not all," they explained.

The IT pros surveyed mostly used (38 percent) the Microsoft Virtual Desktop Optimization Tool to build AVD images. Other notable tools used included Citrix Optimizer (19 percent) and VMware OSOT (18 percent).

The profile management tool used overwhelmingly by the respondents was Microsoft's FSLogix, which comes with AVD subscriptions.

The report offered an extensive picture of the authentication methods used with the AVD service, namely:

  • 50 percent used Active Directory plus Azure Connector
  • 18 percent used Azure Active Directory Domain Services
  • 14 percent used Azure VM Domain Controllers
  • 11 percent didn't know
  • 7 percent used Azure AD joined VMs

The report's authors shared their view that the top option listed above -- that is, the use of Active Directory plus Azure Connector -- requires the monitoring of components "to optimize user logon times." They also noted that organizations typically may use Azure Active Directory Domain Services to support "legacy applications in the cloud that can't use modern authentication methods."

The respondents mostly relied on GitHub (31 percent) for automation and scripting solutions. Other technologies used included JSON scripts (22 percent), Terraform (20 percent), WVD Admin (18 percent) and Nerdio (17 percent), among others. The Microsoft-favored Project Bicep, used with Azure Resource Manager templates, was not used much (three percent) by the respondents.

Not Just AVD
The respondents used other remote desktop solutions besides AVD. For instance, 43 percent said they also used Microsoft RDS (Remote Desktop Services), 31 percent used Citrix Cloud, 31 percent used Citrix Virtual Apps, 30 percent used VMware Horizon and 21 percent used Amazon Workspaces.

AVD is Microsoft's virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) service that lets organizations access desktops and apps remotely from Microsoft's servers. It launched more than two years ago, and was rebranded from the "Windows Virtual Desktop" name. There's also a newer Windows 365 desktop-as-a-service offering that Microsoft commercially launched last year, but it wasn't described in this study.

About the Author

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


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