Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) is a service designed to allow users remote access to machines running Windows 10 and Windows 7. WVD runs on the Azure cloud and provides support for Microsoft as well as third-party software.
As of early 2019, WVD is in public preview, and is expected to go live in the second half of 2019. It is a highly anticipated entrant into the emerging public cloud-based Desktop as a Service (DaaS) segment. Its largest competitor will be Amazon Workspaces, which runs on Amazon's AWS public cloud.
Microsoft promises some significant advantages in using Windows Virtual Desktop, especially when running Microsoft software. Although the service hasn't fully launched yet, there are already a number of Microsoft Managed Service Providers (MSPs) who have announced their intent to provide software extensibility to the WVD ecosystem. These partners include Citrix, VMWare, CloudJumper, ThinPrint, FSLogix, Liquidware, Nerdio, Lakeside Software, People Tech Group, and more. Certainly, should the service gain traction, we can expect many more companies to sign on as partners through the Azure marketplace.
Microsoft touts two major benefits of running WVD as opposed to services from serious competitors like Amazon, Citrix, Remote Workstations, or VMWare. There is some overlap between competitors offering Remote Desktop services and partners of Microsoft.
Firstly, organizations using Windows 10 will be able to provide multi-session Windows 10 for their users. This is a strong step up in usability from the existing solution of using Remote Desktop Services on machines running Windows Server. Cost-wise, this also provides immense benefits at scale when compared to having a 1-to-1 ratio of users and remote virtual machines.
Secondly, for organizations still running Windows 7, security updates for Windows 7 will be available for a further three years following its scheduled 2020 deprecation date. These updates will be free and have not been announced for legacy users of Windows 7 not on WVD.
VMWare has already announced a partnership with Microsoft in which VMWare will seamless support WVD and extend its capabilities. Part of this deal is an agreement for Office 365 software to be able to be managed natively in VMWare’s Workspace One platform. Additionally, in a partnership called Azure VMWare solutions, VMWare workloads will be supported on Microsoft Azure
Citrix has announced their intent to provide an integrated software platform built on top of WVD. Their aim is to provide a fully managed software ecosystem while leveraging the Azure-based WVD platform. Citrix will be selling WVD integrated with Citrix Workspace, Citrix Virtual Apps, and Citrix HDX. They are promoting Azure as their "preferred public cloud".
As WVD progresses and battles Amazon’s Workspaces solution in the Remote Desktop or DaaS market, expect further announcements from SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS companies such as CloudJumper or Remote Workstations in the latter half of 2019 and early 2020.
Prior to the release of WVD, it was referred to as RDmi or Remote Desktop modern infrastructure. In 2017, it entered a private Technical Preview period before being rebranded as Windows Virtual Desktop and being offered in a Public Preview. A full launch is expected to be announced in July, 2019 at the Microsoft Inspire event.
In terms of functionality, WVD is partially a successor to Azure RemoteApp, a service deprecated in 2017. At the time, Microsoft indicated they would be moving to partner with Citrix to offer remote virtualization services. The primary difference between RemoteApp and WVD is that RemoteApp, as the name implies, offered virtualization of Windows Apps, as opposed to the entire operating system environment.
Microsoft’s decision to move forward with WVD has triggered quick responses from competitors, partners, and partial competitors in the remote desktop virtualization market.
The amount of fanfare and industry movement around Microsoft’s Windows Virtual Desktop is impressive. This is rightly so, as the service offers impressive benefits for Windows-using organizations and those using Azure. Azure’s cloud infrastructure is also one of the best in the world and allows great compatibility with Microsoft’s software partners.
The caveat is that WVD has yet to fully launch and the announced partnerships with software vendors and MSPs (Managed Service Providers) have yet to be fully tested.
With Microsoft’s industry presence, however, expect WVD’s progress in the market to be swift and impactful.