The Latest

28 July 2021: During Inspire, Microsoft unveiled Windows 365, which it positions as a Cloud desktop service. IBRS views Windows 365 as an evolution of existing virtual desktop solutions. 

In addition, Windows Virtual Desktop services have been rebranded as Azure Desktop Services. With this rebranding, Microsoft also introduced a number of enhancements, including closer integration with Azure Active Directory (AAD) and Endpoint-Manager, with the ability to deploy applications across both physical devices and Cloud-based desktops based on roles. 

Windows 365 is built on top of Azure Virtual Desktop service. The difference between Windows 365 and Azure Desktop Services is that Windows 365 has more automated, easier deployment and administration options. It is well suited to organisations with minimal VDI specialisation and more akin to a ‘fully managed virtual desktop environment’.  

In contrast, Azure Desktop Services is better suited to larger organisations that have a need for a high level of customisation. It is more akin to a virtualised Citrix farm.

Why it’s Important.

In 2019, Microsoft quietly changed the licensing conditions for running virtual servers in the Cloud, which hindered VMware’s ability to migrate VDI (among other services) to hyper-scale Cloud services. Since then, IBRS has had reports of efforts to migrate VDI into the Cloud stifled by rights, with Microsoft partners steering organisations to an ‘all-in Azure’ approach.

The introduction of Windows 365 and the rebranding of Azure Virtual Desktop certainly fits a strategy of selecting alternative virtual desktop environments less compelling. 

This is not to say that Microsoft’s VDI capabilities are not solid offerings. Windows 365 certainly addresses a problem in the Australian market, where fully managed VDI has suffered greatly from vendors under-scoping the resources needed to run a client's environment in order to come in at the lowest possible cost. Autoscaling in the Windows 365 environment largely eliminates this issue. The level of automation is also impressive, as is an application cook

Who’s impacted

  • CIO
  • Development team leads
  • Business analysts

What’s Next?

Windows 365 is a viable option for specific use VDI cases, and it may be considered against traditional fully managed desktop vendor solutions. However, it may not be cost-effective at scale. Solutions from AWS, VMWare and Google should also be examined, though it is important to consider the total cost of operation of this type of VDI, not just the licensing / service costs. Be sure to factor in human resources for administration, application compatibility testing and packaging (which are significant hidden costs and often overlooked, as well as help desk and support.

In addition, if staying within the Microsoft stack, Azure Desktop Services can provide a more flexible and scalable solution. Again, be sure to factor in the total cost of operation.

Overlooked by many discussions of Cloud VDI is the rise of Cloud application virtualisation services from the likes of Cameyo. Rather than presenting an entire desktop, these services only stream a configured application, either in a manner that makes it appear as a native application or within a web browser. Such an approach is significantly lower cost than traditional VDI. When considering a new virtual environment for your workers, both VDI and Virtual Application Delivery (VAD) options should be considered.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Should You Outsource Your Virtual Desktop Infrastructure?
  2. When to Consider Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
  3. VDI trends for 2021–2025
  4. End-user computing managed services: 3 initial things to consider for the RFP
  5. SNAPSHOT: Workforce Transformation beyond Mobility and Digital Workspaces
  6. IBRS Compass: Beyond the Desktop: Creating a Digital Workspace Strategy for Business Transformation