Desktops are here for the future

Cloud computing

Remote access to Windows applications from the home office, while on the move or as a centrally provided platform for remote locations - this has long been part of everyday life in German companies. With the increasing use of SaaS applications from the cloud, not least through Office 365, this type of application delivery has recently become less important. The pressure to act due to a supposedly foreseeable end of support for Office 365 ProPlus on Windows servers with Remote Desktop Services has meanwhile subsided.

However, it is becoming more and more popular that a centrally hosted remote desktop solution on Azure not only offers advantages in terms of administration, but can also compete with locally provided RDS environments in terms of costs. With the Windows Virtual Desktop Services now available in Microsoft Azure, Microsoft is bringing a worthy successor for desktop and application virtualization. But what is special about this new remote solution?

Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) makes it possible to combine all apps and desktops of the various operating systems in a single, easy-to-understand interface. For admins, this means an enormous reduction in the workload of administration. But WVD doesn't stop there.

Windows Virtual Desktop with Office 365 ProPlus Support

For companies that take advantage of the remote provision of applications, Window Virtual Desktop will basically be inevitable in the future, because it will be the only system that will support the virtualization of Office 365 ProPlus even after 2025. The operation of Office 365 ProPlus is now also supported on Windows Server 2016 and 2019 - but the end is foreseeable.

In the future, Microsoft will increasingly rely on Windows Server without its own user interface. This is useful and necessary, as an administration interface does not necessarily have to run on the server itself. With the Microsoft Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT), administration can be carried out from any workstation. With the future elimination of a Windows shell, Remote Desktop Services (RDS) under Windows Server will also come to an end. Therefore, companies are required to deal with Windows Virtual Desktop in any case.

Professional user management is also already integrated here. This means that Office 365 ProPlus, like other applications such as Teams and OneDrive for Business, can run on a multiuser system. The special thing about this is that this multiuser system is based on Windows 10, which - in contrast to Windows Server - is optimized from the outset to display applications for the end user. This also ensures planning security for IT managers and administrators with regard to their current Citrix or remote desktop services platforms.

Virtual machines from the cloud

The Windows Virtual Desktop Service is obtained and executed from the cloud. For companies, this has advantages in terms of scalability and clearly calculable costs - changing company requirements, whether up or down, can be quickly and easily adjusted. In addition, you only pay for the actual consumption of computer resources. Purchasing your own hardware is a thing of the past.

In addition, the Azure Active Directory (AD), which Office 365 customers already use, plays a central role because it is a central requirement of WVD. This makes sense for several reasons. Authentication can be handled directly in Azure AD. In addition, the administration of the users remains in a central place. The WVD management is also docked in Azure AD, with which the virtual machines as well as the provision and migration of new and old apps can be quickly managed.

Not to be forgotten here is the use of Microsoft's FSlogix components. FSlogix, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2018, offers extensive options for managing applications and access in WVD environments:

  • Profile Container (outsourcing of user profiles in VHDX files in the network),

  • App Attach (transferring applications to VHDX files with transparent integration into the local operating system) and

  • App masking (access control for applications).

FSlogix is ​​included in Windows 10 Enterprise, Office 365 Business and other Microsoft products at no additional cost.

Windows Virtual Desktop - Win10 is multisession capable

The WVD Edition of Windows 10 is the first Windows client operating system that is completely multi-session capable. Users no longer have to accept a break when it comes to differentiating between a local client and server operating system. In addition, various restrictions that result from the operation of a server operating system for the end user are no longer applicable.

The Windows Server operating systems were not originally intended for displaying a large number of foreground applications, but for the efficient execution of background applications. The response behavior in classic RDS environments is logically different than in a multisession variant of the workstation operating system from Microsoft. Admins are able to summarize resources for several sessions, to reduce the number of virtual computers and thus also the effort.

In addition, users can access the WVD with any device. Mouse operation is even supported when accessing an Apple iPad.

Windows Desktop as a Service meets Citrix

Citrix has positioned itself accordingly as the largest ValueAdd provider for Remote Desktop Services and offers additional services for Windows Virtual Desktop. The cloud services previously offered by Citrix were initially accepted only hesitantly, as the price model and the associated advantages compared to traditional use did not provide sufficient added value for the majority of customers. Originally it therefore looked as if Citrix was not planning any extensions or its own protocol attachment for Windows Virtual Desktop for the time being.

Read more about Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD):

However, this has changed: In addition to the transparent and equal integration with Citrix Workspace together with its own cloud and on-premises solutions or classic cloud services, Citrix offers an extension of Windows Virtual Desktop to include the Citrix HDX protocol. This achieves a similarly efficient administration and access as with classic Citrix app and desktop virtualization solutions). As a result, WVD can be managed with the same means as XenApp / XenDesktop, which makes work a lot easier, especially for hybrid environments with local RDS solutions. The additional component Citrix XenApp / XenDesktop is no longer technically necessary, but still offers added value. (ba / fm)