When Microsoft announced the cloud-based Windows Virtual Desktop as a service on Microsoft Azure nearly three years ago, it provided enterprise customers with a desktop and app virtualization capability for any Windows 10 workload. Then the pandemic happened and shifted work to remote locations throughout the world. The service proved its worth in that environment and the company has now decided to rebrand it as Azure Virtual Desktop.
For IT pros and administrators, from a practical standpoint, this name change will prevent any potential confusion with the existing Virtual Desktop feature in Windows 10 client which allows users to have multiple “desktops” on their device for managing open applications and software. The two services are completely unrelated to each other.
The newly rebranded Azure Virtual Desktop service also received enhanced capabilities alongside the name change. These updates aim to improve the onboarding of Azure Virtual Desktop users in an organization, managing service deployment to end users and enhancing security. These features are in various stages of preview availability, as noted below.
Enhanced Support for Azure Active Directory
Azure Active Directory (AAD) enables organizations to customize security controls and manage individual user access to business-critical apps, company and customer data. This enhancement will allow administrators to bring their Azure Virtual Desktop virtual machines into their tenant’s AAD. This will include the ability to auto-enroll these virtual machines, ultimately streamlining the entire process of onboarding users into Azure Virtual Desktop.
This will be coming to public preview soon according to Microsoft.
Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM) Support
Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM) enables administrators to manage the various policies necessary to control physical endpoint devices in an organization. In addition, it also provides a method for deploying applications and updates to those physical hardware devices. This new feature, which is already in preview, lets admin push out updates, apps, and group policy for Azure Virtual Desktop devices in the MEM admin center.
This feature is already available.
Azure Virtual Desktop Onboarding Experience
Another feature coming to preview soon, a new Microsoft Azure portal experience that streamlines putting Azure Virtual Desktop virtual machines into service across an organization.
The process includes verifying organization-wide system requirements for the virtual devices, begining an automated deployment to multiple users, and applying best practices for the implementation of using these virtual machines.
Kam VedBrat, partner group program manager for Azure Virtual Desktop, shared Microsoft’s reasoning behind the name changes and the service updates.
“Going forward, organizations will need to support an evolving set of remote and hybrid work scenarios,” VedBrat said. “A modern VDI platform needs to be secure, scalable and easy to manage, while delivering a seamless, high-performance experience to end users.”
Azure Virtual Desktop As-A-Service
Some organizations already use Azure Virtual Desktop to deliver apps to their users and those are typically covered under licensing currently purchased by the company. However, according to Microsoft’s VedBrat, customers have expressed an interest in obtaining that same application delivery via Azure Virtual Desktop “as-a-service”.
This request has resulted in a monthly per-user pricing for the service, effective as of January 1, 2022 – $5.50 per user per month for Apps as a service and $10 per user per month for Apps and Desktop as a service.