Microsoft Ignite 2020

Microsoft Ignite 2020 – Windows Virtual Desktop

With Microsoft Ignite 2020 now over, it has felt very short but with a large amount of content being presented. I am in the process of trying to review all the big and small announcements and will do this over a couple of blogs in the next few days. The first being Modern Desktop, this will cover Windows Virtual Desktop.

Windows Virtual Desktop

Since its launch Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) has been an area which I have always been keeping a close eye on. This is mainly due to being a huge advocate for Citrix and the application abstraction model, which constantly comes in to play with any OS deployments. With issues usually relating to application packaging, especially those pesky legacy apps, where they require certain pre-requisites to be able to work. The other area which is also a big concern at the moment is the ability to work from Anywhere, with the principle of Any Device/Anywhere.

Now over the years Citrix and VMware Horizon have dominated these arenas, with enterprise grade virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions, but where Microsoft have changed the market is by adding the capability for Shared Windows 10 devices within Azure. Windows Virtual Desktop has grown as a product since its launch almost 12 months ago and the latest changes show it continues to grow and compete with some of the high end functionality offered by the likes of VMware and Citrix.

With the most recent changes around simplifying the deployment process and the addition of Microsoft Teams Audio and Video Support, its great to see a raft of new changes coming through for Windows Virtual Desktop. With the following updates announced at Ignite:

Simplified Management

Microsoft Endpoint Management (MEM) Integration

By adding MEM integration to Windows Virtual Desktop, this now allows you manage your Windows Virtual Desktop virtual machines in the same way as physical devices. This gives the opportunity to simply the management process and centralise the view across both Physical and Virtual Devices (Single Pane of Glass). The integration is already available for Windows 10 Enterprise Devices, but will be coming soon to Public Preview. The initial focus will be on device level policies, but I can guarantee that the vision is to control all policies (device and user) through MEM.

Windows Virtual Desktop machines in Microsoft EndPoint Management - announced at Microsoft Ignite 2020

MSIX app attach in Azure portal

This is another simplification for management of Windows Virtual Desktop devices, previously the ability to attach MSIX app packages to a user session, required you to use PowerShell. The change will see the ability to perform this action through the Azure Portal and Azure Resource Manager. This will reduce the custom scripts and gives the ability to use application groups in just a couple of clicks.

Windows Virtual Desktop MSIX App Attach in Microsoft Azure Portal - announced at Microsoft Ignite 2020

Proactive Monitoring

Azure Monitor workbook

An area which both Citrix and VMWare have excelled in recent years has been around the monitoring of their environments , giving admins the ability to proactively monitor their estate with ease. Unfortunately proactive monitoring within Windows Virtual Desktop has not been great so far and it was far from great in the world of Remote Desktop Services (RDS). With this update the Azure Monitor workbook aims to provide you the information you need debug and troubleshoot issues, these will be provided through monitoring telemetry and visualisations. The areas which tackle that narrow the gap between Windows Virtual Desktop and Citrix/VMware are the ability to:

  • Create proactive alerts, so issues can be picked up prior to them impacting end users.
  • Drill down to a specific user session to see if there are any issues
  • Get details on connection and host level performance
  • Visualise the usage across host pools and an ensure sure you are optimising for cost and performance.

Improved Security

Screen capture protection

This for me is very small and most people won’t use it but it will enable a feature which can be achieved in Citrix very easily. With information protection being one of the largest areas of concern for most companies, there is only so much you can do around screen scraping. With the option to disable the ability to screen capture for remote apps and desktops, this provides an ability for companies with sensitive information to prevent this.

Direct RDP to session host

By offering the ability at host pool level to establish a direct peer-to-peer UDP connection to the session host rather than over the internal Windows Virtual Desktop gateways. This helps eliminates intermediate hops and provides a more efficient connection over a trusted network. The ability to provide a secure optimised experience with lesser connection latency and better performance. Although not a big change, this will benefit customers with ExpressRoute to their Office locations.

Other Updates

As well as these main updates, there were a number of updates which snuck into the Windows Virtual Desktop Roadmap.

Enable deallocated VMs to start automatically when a user connects.

This update is a real game changer for me, as this aligns more to the Citrix and VMWare solutions. By being able to automatically start a VM when a user connects, this enables whole pools of desktops to be shutdown fully outside of working hours. This provides the ability to reduce down one of the major cost elements of the Windows Virtual Desktop solution.

Migration tool for non-ARM to ARM objects

And finally this update, just enables those early adopters of the GA release of Windows Virtual Desktop, to finally migrate their non-ARM Windows Virtual Desktop objects to ARM Windows Virtual Desktop  objects in a simplistic manner. Just a really nice to have, as I know there are a couple of 3rd party methods to do this, but this will hopefully ensure that everyone can move to ARM.

Conclusion

Although Microsoft Ignite 2020 is over, I think the announcements from this years were actually very worthwhile and some true value add capabilities being added into the Windows Virtual Desktop Solution.

For more stuff from Microsoft Ignite 2020 – Click Here

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