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Windows Virtual Desktop Service Will Offer Windows 10 VDI Connections for Orgs

Microsoft on Monday announced a coming preview of Windows Virtual Desktop, a new service that will deliver virtual Windows desktops and apps to end users from Microsoft Azure infrastructure.

The announcement by Julia White, corporate vice president for Azure, and Brad Anderson, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, was light on details. However, it indicated that Microsoft is working to deliver a public preview of the Windows Virtual Desktop service that "will be available later this year."

Essentially, Windows Virtual Desktop appears to be a traditional virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) offering for multiple users. It bundles Windows 10 or Windows 7 desktops, plus Office 365 ProPlus applications (Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Word, Access, Project, Publisher and Visio applications). Those desktops and applications get remotely accessed by end users as services from Azure datacenters.

Windows Virtual Desktop will also work with "Microsoft Store and existing Windows line-of-business apps," Microsoft's announcement added.

Microsoft's use of Windows 10 from Azure datacenters for VDI via the Windows Virtual Desktop service represents a major shift for the company. Previously, organizations were restricted from using Azure datacenters for VDI. Cloud services providers, in contrast, could offer VDI services from Azure using Remote Desktop Services, but only when using Windows Server as the host, which likely did not afford the same desktop experience as using the Windows client operating system. Microsoft gave service providers those use rights concerning the use of Windows Server almost four years ago.

What's different this time is that Windows 10 and Windows 7 client operating systems are being used for the VDI connections.

Perks for Orgs
Organizations using Windows Virtual Desktop won't have to "host, install, configure and manage" Windows desktops and applications. Microsoft 365 security features are included in the service, such as conditional access and data loss prevention. Organizations also will have the option to "scale" the service to meet needs.

Organizations will be able to "choose between providing your users the entire desktop experience or delivering only specific apps" with the new service, the announcement noted. That detail suggests that organizations can decide on what gets virtualized and what runs on-premises.

The Windows Virtual Desktop service is aimed at Windows 10 Enterprise and Education edition users, but there appears to be some accommodation for Windows 7 users, too (nothing was mentioned regarding Windows 8.1 users). For instance, the announcement described the Windows Virtual Desktop service as "the only service to provide Windows 7 virtual desktop with free Extended Security Updates, giving you more options to support legacy apps while you transition to Windows 10."

The Extended Security Updates program was announced earlier this month. It lets users of the Windows 7 Service Pack 1 Professional and Enterprise editions continue to get security updates for as long as three years past Windows 7's January 2020 end-of-life date. Microsoft hasn't offered specific details about the program's costs, but it's known that the price of Extended Security Updates will increase every year, making it a potentially expensive program.

Microsoft will require organizations to have an Azure subscription to use the Windows Virtual Desktop service. Additionally, they'll need to pay for the Azure virtual machine compute and storage costs associated with using the service.

Partner Support
Microsoft also will be opening its Windows Virtual Desktop service to partners to build extensions and customizations, and Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) partners also will be able to offer the Windows Virtual Desktop service to their customers. Software developers with applications in the Azure Marketplace also can support the Windows Virtual Desktop service. In that respect, Microsoft is already collaborating with "Citrix, CloudJumper, FSLogix, Lakeside Software, Liquidware, People Tech Group and ThinPrint" on app support, according to the announcement.

Microsoft's entry into the VDI space apparently doesn't mean the loss of Citrix as a close VDI partner. The announcement suggested that the two companies will be collaborating on the Windows Virtual Desktop service.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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