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Microsoft Opens Up About Windows Virtual Desktop

Amid signs that the release of Windows Virtual Desktop is imminent, Microsoft is setting aside some time next week to answer questions about the emerging service.

According to an announcement, an "ask Microsoft anything" session will take place on Aug. 28, from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. PST via this Microsoft Tech Community page. Microsoft's "product managers and engineers" will respond to questions from the public within that timeframe.

Windows Virtual Desktop is a new virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) service from Microsoft, providing remote access to applications housed on Azure datacenter infrastructure. It's different from Microsoft's current Remote Desktop Services VDI offering because a true Windows 10 (multisession) or Windows 7 (single session) desktop operating system gets used. In contrast, Remote Desktop Services uses the Windows Server OS, which results in a somewhat different end user experience when accessing applications.

The Windows Virtual Desktop service has been available as a public preview since March. However, the service recently was declared "feature complete" by Scott Manchester, group manager for Windows Virtual Desktop and Remote Desktop Services, in an Aug. 12 Twitter post. The post was noted by veteran Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley and others.

Microsoft previously indicated that Windows Virtual Desktop would get commercially released in the second half of this year. Its release is apparently close, but access still will be limited by the service's requirements. For instance, organizations will need to be located close to the Azure regions where it's offered for the service to work optimally.

Microsoft had described what it will take for IT pros to set up Windows Virtual Desktop back in June. They'll need to tie their local Active Directory environments to Azure Active Directory using Active Directory Domain Services, for instance. There are regional hosting requirements to optimally use the service, with Microsoft suggesting having a round-trip time latency from the organization's network to the Azure region of no more than 150 milliseconds.

Notably, there's an option to use essentially a new Windows 10 product, called "Windows 10 Enterprise Multisession," which lets organizations host multiple users from a single Azure virtual machine. Windows 7 can be used, too, with the service, but organizations can only support one user from one virtual machine in that case. However, Microsoft is promising to deliver free Extended Security Updates for Windows 7 with the Windows Virtual Desktop service, which will permit organizations to run Windows 7 until January 2023. It's an exception to the typical Windows 7 product lifecycle, in which the end of support will occur in January 2020.

In a perhaps unusual approach to its product releases, Microsoft already described back in March some of the licensing aspects of the Windows Virtual Desktop service. For instance, it'll be possible for organizations to use existing Microsoft 365 F1, E3 and E5 per-user licenses with the service at no additional cost, although organizations have to pay for the associated Azure virtual machine storage and compute costs.

Other nuances about the Windows Virtual Desktop service were described back in April by Nerdio in a Q&A. Nerdio is a Microsoft partner that provides support for managed service providers. 

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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