Last updated on October 7th, 2022
It is the era of digital transformation & adoption of cloud-based technology, one cannot keep themselves from using it. However, for businesses, other considerations such as cost and security come into play while adopting a particular technology.
We at Ace Cloud Hosting approached Tom Hickling, who is a Specialist in Cloud solutions. Based in Greater Bristol Area, United Kingdom, he works as a Windows Virtual Desktop Global Black Belt at Microsoft Corp. We asked him a few questions regarding virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) & Cloud Hosted virtual desktops to provide our readers with a broader view of this emerging capability in the existing End User Computing space.
He has varied experience in cloud technology, from working as a consultant in some of the world’s largest enterprises to being a director and working with some of Microsoft’s largest customers architecting and deploying Windows Virtual Desktop.
He also works within the EUC community and is a thought leader in virtual desktops in the cloud. His top skills include- Cloud Computing IaaS, Architecture & Windows Virtual Desktop & he has various certifications to his name.
Here’s what he has to say:
1. What are the benefits of a Windows Virtual Desktop?
So the benefits of Windows Virtual Desktop are pretty extensive and fall into two main areas. Benefits from WVD itself but perhaps, more importantly, Azure as a platform upon which WVD runs.
So the WVD benefits are, the WVD control plane or management plane is provided as a service to customers. The control plane manages the end-users seamless global connectivity into their desktop and the centralized deployment and orchestration that IT requires. This is a PaaS service in that the customer does not have to deploy anything, patch it, or support it.
It is an evergreen service that they consume. It has no cost, it is a service that customers are entitled to through a license they already own. Hence, they can achieve cost savings by using this PaaS service.
It also means that customers do not need to do the management, feeding, and watering, troubleshooting, break-fix, patching, etc., of their management service. This allows IT to concentrate on what is far more important to the business, focus on delivering more value to the company, typically ensuring customers have the best user experience when consuming their applications and data.
WVD also enables a new feature called Windows 10 Multi-session, which allows the capability to have multiple users logged into the same Windows 10 Enterprise VM simultaneously. This has never been possible before and has only been enabled in Windows Server with the RDS role.
This means customers can have the full Windows 10 user experience they expect and are used to, combined with the scale that has only been possible with RDS. Windows 10 Multi-session is a feature of WVD, and it is not an SKU of Windows that can be installed anywhere besides WVD.
The other benefit is that all VM’s in WVD is charged at the “Base compute rate,” this is the price of the VM minus the Windows license fee, which can be around 50% compared to the full Windows rate. This is because the license that enables customers to use WVD includes Windows licenses. This means that WVD is a very cost-effective place to run Virtual Desktop VM’s.
The other area where there is massive benefit is that it is Azure, a global hyper-scale cloud that is continually evolving, that is, the underlying platform upon which WVD runs. This means that many of the features, capabilities, and services natively in Azure or from an extensive list of partners can be used in or applied to WVD. This has never been possible before.
For example, Azure has a deployment engine that takes only a few minutes to deploy VM, but it can deploy at scale to any Azure region around the planet. There is an autoscaling service to grow and shrink your infrastructure based upon user load. We also have an IoT service that could in the future be used to understand user locations and make autoscaling/power management decisions on the VM’s so that the VM’s are powered on just in time for the user’s need saving further costs.
Azure provides the scalability, resiliency, availability, and recoverability of much of this as a service directly to customers. They don’t have to add these sometimes massively complex architectures and infrastructure deployments. We also have a massive partner ecosystem that adds value on top of WVD, which often releases new capabilities into the Azure marketplace that customers can find and add to their WVD environment.
The important point here is that it is Azure that is making a significant difference here and is delivering many of the computing benefits that the cloud has brought in general to computing but now to the virtual desktop use case.
2. Ideal Use Cases for Hosted Virtual Desktop?
There are many use cases for a cloud-hosted virtual desktop, especially for organizations with specific security and regulatory requirements—for example, government or industry requirements where Azure has achieved the largest number of security certifications.
Flexible workforce, i.e., those organizations that might have seasonal workers and need to burst for a short duration, would typically have to buy hardware for this period, which is then not used afterward.
Remote workers are particularly relevant today as massive numbers of workers are now working from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic. WVD is consumed over the Internet, so the end-user can be anywhere in the world and connect through our global remote access entry service, and then their connection is traversed across the Microsoft backbone, which is the planet’s second-largest network.
Finally, specialized workloads. The perfect example is graphics designers, but there are many others. We have families of VM’s optimized for specific workloads. We have a family called the N series that have GPU cards in the hosts. These can be provisioned in minutes to be provided to a graphics designer. We only charge per second that the VM is powered off. So the customer has avoided a large monetary outlay at the beginning, which they pay for whether the VM is used or not.
However, there is no large outlay to start in Azure, and then it is all consumption-based pricing. If this VM was only used for 6 hours and then powered off, we no longer charge for the compute cost.
In reality, WVD is suitable for the vast majority of use cases. We are running VM’s for users to connect. These are running Windows 7, 10, 2012, 2016, or 2019 to deliver the OS that users might require. The only use case that is not suitable is offline usage.
3. What are your thoughts on cybersecurity when it comes to VDI/DaaS providers?
Security is a massive requirement when using anything in the cloud, now including virtual desktops. Microsoft spends over 1 Billion dollars every year on security, and the results of that are surfaced back in our products.
We have several cloud services where we gather billions of data points daily. This enables us to understand security attacks and how attackers behave. We then can use that inside our products. One of which is the capability of detecting suspicious logins to the platform.
For example, if you logged in to Azure from London but then logged in from Japan a couple of hours later, our service detects that as impossible travel and alerts the customer or can restrict access. We manage this deluge of security information and glean patterns using machine learning algorithms.
We also have teams trying to attack Azure itself to find weaknesses and test our internal detection systems. The net results of all these activities are often presented back to users with actionable recommendations. Our collective stance on security is changing, and so should VDI type admins, rather than viewing security as a service that sits at the boundary managed by a different security team, we should always consider ourselves breached and that nothing internally is trusted.
Security needs to be applied at every level, from the boundary and internal services at every point, importantly including identity, which has become the central point of the security control plane.
4. How should one go about selecting a DaaS vendor?
The virtual desktop service’s future is clearly in the cloud, so look for vendors that have either a presence in the cloud or operate a cloud. This enables them to develop and release their products at a much faster cadence than has ever been possible beforehand.
Look for vendors with the most extensive cloud reach, i.e. multiple regions geographically dispersed in areas where you may have large groups of users. Look for vendors that understand the virtual desktop use case, this is not just about having virtual machines available, but rather understanding the complexity within enterprises around the many thousands of applications that they typically must manage for their business users.
Look for vendors that are actively developing products and capabilities that solve problems in the end-user computing space. Also, look for a vendor with a committed roadmap to deliver new capabilities & also provide the future vision of what end-user computing will look like in the distant future. You want to be pleased and surprised in equal measure, maybe even a bit scared at what the future might look like but confident in the vendor’s vision and capability to deliver on that.
Seeing today’s work scenario from home protocol & agile atmosphere adapted by companies, we can see more demand for virtual desktop hosting & Desktop as a Service (DaaS) & we will surely see a rise in its market. Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) platforms will play an essential role in defining the market. More people will realize the benefits & uses it comes into without spending a lot of money.
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