The last few weeks have made many of us start evaluating alternatives to some of the technologies that we have relied upon for years or even decades, with a much higher number of employees working remotely until local authorities give the all clear. One of the things that I’ve been hearing from people across multiple locations is that the existing internet and VPN infrastructure they have in place is bursting at the seams, and not all have the option of increasing their internet speeds to scale up. For those of you with on-premises Remote Desktop Services it might be time to start evaluating how Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) might be able assist. I’ll cover a couple of different scenarios, but first it’s worth discussing some of the basics of WVD first.
WVD provides options for running virtual desktops on a variety of Windows client and server versions, including a multi-session Windows 10 option, Windows 7 with Extended Security Updates, and various Windows Server versions. WVD provides the deployment and management capabilities on top of Azure virtual machines. There are several options to meet the desktop operating system licensing requirements, but if you are an SMB it’s important to note that Microsoft 365 Business qualifies, which is important to call out because often the WVD conversation will include mentions of Office 365 ProPlus and Windows 10 Enterprise, but rest assured, SMB customers aren’t being excluded. If you are going to run on Windows 2012 R2 or later, you will need RDS CALs with Software Assurance.
If you are licensed appropriately and already synchronising Active Directory to Azure Active Directory using AAD Connect, and have an Azure subscription with a virtual network that can reach Active Directory Domain Services, or potentially Azure Active Directory Domain Services, you are ready to get started.
Microsoft Mechanics has a series of three videos that walk you through the process of getting started, if you haven’t watched them yet I highly recommend watching them to see what's involved.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of what WVD is, it’s time to focus on two of the scenarios where it might be able to help you out right now, bandwidth relief and additional capacity. If you have started using cloud services like Office 365 and other SaaS apps, hosting the virtualized desktop environments in the cloud means that there’s not just less RDP traffic across your corporate internet connection, but we are also reducing the traffic generated for on-premises desktop to cloud service and back.
Depending on the apps that are in use and the size of the files that are traversing the corporate internet connection, this could bring instant relief for a congested connection. There’s a secondary benefit that comes with this – the potential for lower latency if users are connecting straight to WVD via their internet connection rather than being tunneled back onto the network.
The second scenario is dealing with dramatic increases in demand, especially at a time when trying to purchase additional server infrastructure for on-premises deployments may not be smooth sailing. You could easily spin up a WVD pilot to test the solution while provide some short-term relief. Once the workforce returns to normal patterns, you could still keep a minimal sized instance of WVD running if you decide that you aren’t ready to fully commit to it, and if course there’s the option to remove it when the need is over, one of the big benefits of deploying a cloud workload.
I know that some organisations will still have the requirements to route traffic back through existing on-premises security and compliance solutions before that traffic is routed through to cloud services, in which case the first scenario isn’t really going to a good option, but if you already let users connect directly to cloud services when they are remote, both scenarios could be beneficial.
Right now many of us are putting out fires on a daily basis as we adapt to a dramatic change in the workforce we support, but we need to learn from what’s happening and make sure any freshly identified issues in our current environments have plans in place to resolve them in the future. The uncertainty we are facing around when things will go back to normal means we can’t just wait until everyone is back in the office, and understanding if WVD might be able to help your environment is something I’m hoping your now thinking about.