If you’ve even glanced at an IT-related blog recently you’ll have come across Microsoft’s newest technology, ‘WVD’ and the litany of opinions, predictions and revelations being disseminated across the web by industry professionals and all types of marginal onlookers and fringe hobbyists; some hailing it as the revolutionary new face of computing whilst others sounding opinions that read like the synopsis to George Orwell’s 1984. From whichever perspective you arrive, enthusiasm, confusion and impatience are abound in equal measure. Whilst no-one really knows how companies will react to WVD, the reality is likely to be a somewhat more measured middle ground, but undeniably it does mark a mainstream shift towards centralised and publicly-hosted desktop computing.
So, what exactly is WVD and why is it important to Microsoft?
Microsoft, under Satya Nadella’s leadership, has morphed into a fundamentally service-driven company. The complexity that IT systems are inherently reliant upon is abstracted from the customer’s field of view, and decision-making is based on how well services address business requirements within their budget constraints.
The Surface series of devices have added a layer of gloss to Microsoft’s brand that has re-established its products as innovative and desirable. In a large part wrestling the mantle away from Apple, and have clearly (and quite successfully) been wrestling Apple’s mantle as the main innovators in the endpoint hardware field. Inarguably though, Microsoft’s strategy is almost based around its public cloud offering, Azure. The technology layer is becoming less relevant and the service is moving progressively further away from users’ desks, and IT engineers who have spent their careers mastering that art.
Windows Virtual Desktop is the next and potentially largest piece of the puzzle, and whilst the technology conceptually is nothing new (DaaS has been around for years), Microsoft are weaponising their oldest asset in ways that either directly competes with or fundamentally changes the way in which its eco-system of partners (both vendor and reseller) interact with them.
Ok, so what is WVD?
WVD is the acronym for Windows Virtual Desktop, and its purpose is to deliver the Windows experience as a service rather than a product. This means that regardless of device, be it Mac, Android, Linux, or anything in between, users are able to access the same Windows workspace running in Microsoft’s Azure Cloud from any location. What we’re talking about here is essentially DaaS – Desktop-as-a-Service, which as a concept has been around for ages – desktops are hosted by managed service providers and customers connect remotely.
There are several massive differences to Microsoft’s WVD offering that make it vastly different from any offering from any other vendor:
- Windows 7 support will be continued on WVD only, forcing vast numbers of enterprises with applications dependent on Windows 7 to adopt.
- A single Windows 10 virtual machine can be used to allow multiple users to connect to a single virtual machine. Multi-user Windows 10 could be described as the holy grail for cost-effective server-based computing, but until now has been disallowed by Microsoft’s licensing programme.
- Microsoft is not charging for the service – any organisation with a valid enterprise subscription for Windows will be able to use WVD desktops without incurring any additional fees, save for the resources consumed by Azure in hosting and delivering the desktop.
Why is it important?
The enterprise computing landscape is comprised largely of Citrix and VMware customers who consume VDI and shared desktops through each platform’s signature desktop and applications solution. The advent of WVD provides immediate and obvious cost and usability arguments that organisations won’t be able to ignore.
What does this mean for Citrix and VMware’s Desktop products?
No-one knows what the reaction will be from customers or vendors. The fact that Citrix has been cited as a development partner for WVD from the outset, suggests that Microsoft recognise their shortcomings in delivering economies of this scale, and Citrix are lightyears ahead when it comes to desktop brokering and management. Whether or not Microsoft want to draw a curtain behind the back-end or not, it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.
So what do I do as a reseller?
This is obviously an impossible question to answer. The world is still coming to terms with WVD, and MSPs whose reputations lean more towards daring innovation would be better candidates for thrusting WVD out into real-world scenarios.
Undoubtedly there will be possibilities for WVD across the channel, and it’s now the job of us guys in the trenches to figure out exactly where these lie.
Ultimately a service-driven model removes limitations from a technical perspective, and should, therefore, provide resellers with greater scope to answer questions relating to how services could be utilised to provide better experiences for their customers.