Initially announced last September, Microsoft’s Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) service has now entered public preview.
The service brings together single-user Windows 7 virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and multi-user Windows 10 and Windows Server remote desktop services (RDS) and is hosted on any of Azure’s virtual machine tiers. Microsoft is pricing WVD aggressively by charging only for the virtual machine costs; the license requirements for the Windows 7- and Windows 10-based services will be fulfilled by Microsoft 365 F1/E3/E, Windows 10 Enterprise E3/E5, and Windows VDA subscriptions. The Windows Server-based services are similarly fulfilled by existing RDS client access licenses. This means that for many Microsoft customers, there will be no additional licensing cost for provisioning desktop computing in the cloud. The virtual machine costs can be further reduced by using Reserved Instances that commit to purchasing certain amounts of VM time in return for lower pricing.
As another big sweetener, Windows 7 users will receive all three years of Extended Security Updates (ESU) at no extra cost; this is in contrast to on-premises deployments that will cost either $ 25/$ 50/$ 100 for the three years of ESU availability or $ 50/$ 100/$ 200, depending on the precise Windows license being used.
The virtual desktops will also provide particular benefits for Office 365 users. In November last year, Microsoft bought a company called FSLogix that develops software to streamline application provisioning in virtualized environments. Outlook (with its offline data store) and OneDrive (with its synchronized file system) represent particular challenges for virtual desktops, as both applications store large amounts of data on the client machine that they expect to persist across VM reboots and redeployments. FSLogix’s software allows these things to be stored on separate disk images that are seamlessly grafted onto the deployed virtual machine. WVD will use this software for clients running Office 365.
Microsoft has also been working with Samsung to make Galaxy phones paired with the Dex Pad into Windows Thin clients.
The preview is available in the US East 2 and US Central Azure regions; for General Availability, it will be available in every region.