Azure Virtual Desktop: The flexible cloud VDI platform for the hybrid workplace

Posted on June 7, 2021

Partner Group Program Manager

When we launched Windows Virtual Desktop nearly two years ago, no one predicted a global pandemic would force millions of workers to leave the office and work from home. Organizations around the world migrated important apps and data to the cloud to gain business resilience and agility. And to support the new remote workforce, many of you turned to Windows Virtual Desktop to give remote users a secure, easy to manage, productive personal computing experience with Windows 10 from the cloud. It has been humbling to work alongside you as you pivoted your operations to meet new challenges—from supporting frontline healthcare workers at NHS to engineers at Petrofac to educators and students—hear from some of the top UK universities on their experience with Azure Virtual Desktop. 

Going forward, organizations will need to support an evolving set of remote and hybrid work scenarios. To help our customers and partners meet these new hybrid work demands, we are expanding our vision to become a flexible cloud VDI platform for nearly any use case—accessible from virtually anywhere. A modern VDI platform needs to be secure, scalable, and easy to manage, while delivering a seamless, high-performance experience to end users. It should also empower organizations with the flexibility to customize and build solutions with its core technology.

To support this broader vision and the changing needs of our customers, today we are announcing new capabilities, new pricing for app streaming, and changing the name of the Windows Virtual Desktop service to Azure Virtual Desktop.

New platform capabilities for security and management

We are continually adding new capabilities to the core Azure Virtual Desktop platform. Today we are also pleased to announce the public preview of new features that will help you onboard and better manage your Azure Virtual Desktop deployment.

  • Enhanced support for Azure Active Directory (coming soon in public preview): Azure Active Directory is a critical service used by organizations around the world to manage user access to important apps and data and maintain strong security controls. We are pleased to announce that you’ll soon be able to join your Azure Virtual Desktop virtual machines directly to Azure Active Directory (AAD) and connect to the virtual machines from any device with basic credentials. You’ll also be able to automatically enroll the virtual machines with Microsoft Endpoint Manager. For certain scenarios, this will help eliminate the need for a domain controller, help reduce cost, and streamline your deployment. While this is a major milestone, it’s just the beginning of the journey towards full integration with Azure Active Directory. We will continue adding new capabilities such as support for single sign-on, additional credential types like FIDO2, and Azure Files for cloud users.

Create a host pool for Azure Active Directory

  • Manage Windows 10 Enterprise multi-session virtual machines with Microsoft Endpoint Manager (available now in preview): Microsoft Endpoint Manager allows you to manage policies and distribute applications across devices. You can now enroll Windows 10 Enterprise multi-session Azure Virtual Desktop virtual machines in Microsoft Endpoint Manager and manage them in the Microsoft Endpoint Manager admin center the same way as shared physical devices. This simplifies management and provides a centralized view across both physical devices and virtual desktops. Read the Windows 10 Enterprise multi-session documentation to learn more.

Windows 10 Enterprise multi-session VMs in the MEM admin center

  • Deploy in minutes with new onboarding experience (coming soon in preview): We are pleased to offer a streamlined onboarding experience for Azure Virtual Desktop in the Azure portal. This new experience will validate requirements, kick off an automated deployment, and will also implement best practices. With only a few clicks, you can set up a full Azure Virtual Desktop environment in your Azure subscription.

Create a Quickstart application

New pricing options for remote app streaming

Many organizations are using Azure Virtual Desktop to stream apps to their own employees who are covered by existing license entitlements. But many organizations also want to use Azure Virtual Desktop to deliver applications “as-a-service” to customers and business partners as well.

Today we are pleased to announce a monthly per-user access pricing option for organizations to use Azure Virtual Desktop to deliver apps from the cloud to external users. For example, this would enable software vendors to deliver their app as a SaaS solution that can be accessed by their customers. In addition to the monthly user price for Azure Virtual Desktop, organizations also pay for Azure infrastructure services based on usage.

Here's what one ISV had to say about the new pricing option:

“Sage is trusted by millions of customers worldwide to deliver innovative business solutions to manage finances, operations and people. Streaming applications with Azure Virtual Desktop makes it easy to streamline user access to our solutions on the Azure cloud for a great online customer experience.” James Westlake, Director of Product Management, Sage.

Try it during our promotional period

The new per-user access pricing option will be effective on January 1, 2022. To help organizations get started now, we are pleased to offer a special promotion with no charge to access Azure Virtual Desktop for streaming first-party or third-party applications to external users. This promotion is effective from July 14, 2021, to December 31, 2021.

Pricing for monthly user access rights effective on January 1, 2022, will be:
•    $5.50 per user per month (Apps)
•    $10 per user per month (Apps + Desktops)

This promotion only applies to external user access rights. Organizations would continue to pay for the underlying Azure infrastructure. Organizations should continue to use existing Windows license entitlements, such as Microsoft 365 E3 or Windows E3 and higher, for app streaming to their employees. Visit our web page for more details.

Expanding partner ecosystem

As a cloud VDI platform, we work closely with our partners and empower them to build solutions that meet your needs. For example, Citrix and VMware provide desktop and app virtualization solutions that leverage the Azure Virtual Desktop platform capabilities, such as Windows 10 Enterprise multi-session, and allow you to maximize your existing investments and use the tools and solutions with which you are already familiar. We are also proud of our ecosystem of hundreds of partners who build custom solutions and provide technical consulting to help you deploy with confidence. Visit Azure Marketplace for more information on partner solutions, and the Advanced Specialization page for certified deployment partners.

Getting started

My team and I look forward to partnering with you to take full advantage of our flexible VDI platform in the cloud and unlock new end-user computing possibilities. We appreciate your ongoing support and welcome your feedback. Join us in our Tech Community to connect with my team and other customers and partners to share your feedback and suggestions. To learn more about these announcements, please sign up for our upcoming webinar.