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Microsoft Adds Azure Portal, Teams Client Support to Windows Virtual Desktop

Microsoft this week announced the general availability of two new capabilities in its Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) service.

WVD, which supports remotely accessing desktops and apps from Microsoft Azure datacenters, now has Azure Portal integration, as well as Audio/Video (A/V) Redirect support for Microsoft Teams client sessions. WVD was commercially released by Microsoft back in September, though some parts of it seemed to have lagged. This week's announcement plugged a couple of those holes.

Azure Portal Integration
In April, Microsoft had issued a preview of Windows Virtual Desktop integration with Azure Resource Manager (ARM), where WVD "objects" become manageable. Given that ARM integration, if a WVD ARM resource provider gets registered with the Azure Portal, then it becomes possible to use the Azure Portal to manage the WVD service.

With this week's announcement, Microsoft is declaring that capability -- that is, Azure Portal management of WVD -- can be used in production environments. The capability is enabled, in part, through a so-called "spring update" release of the WVD service.

The Azure Portal can be used to create WVD host pools, as well as to "deploy and manage" apps and virtual desktops. Organizations can still use the classic deployment and management techniques for WVD (such as PowerShell), but Microsoft sees benefits to using the Azure Portal graphical user interface, with its connections to various Azure services. Migration details for classic tool users will get delivered at some point, Microsoft's announcement promised.

Azure Portal users can leverage the Azure Role-Based Access Control service to segment IT WVD management responsibilities. They can also use the Azure Portal to publish WVD resources to Azure Active Directory groups. Azure Portal users also gain access to Azure Log Analytics data when overseeing the WVD service.

A/V Redirect for Microsoft Teams
Microsoft had initially described A/V Redirect for Microsoft Teams back in September as a way to get a better conferencing experiences using Teams clients when using the WVD service. In essence, A/V Redirect for Microsoft Teams bypasses the coding and decoding processes associated with sending audio and video to virtual machines used with Microsoft's virtual desktop infrastructure service, which can generate a lagging kind of experience for end users.

The latency associated with a Teams videoconference sessions over the WVD service was demonstrated in this Microsoft Mechanics video. The demo starts about seven minutes in.

Instead, A/V Redirect for Microsoft Teams performs direct client-to-client communications using the Web Real-Time Communications standard, known as "WebRTC." WebRTC is an open source technology used for streamed audio and video communications.

With the general availability release of A/V Redirect for Microsoft Teams, such latency issues will go away for WVD users, Microsoft's announcement heavily suggested. Here's how Microsoft put it:

Many of you use Microsoft Teams to collaborate with your colleagues. Traditionally, virtual desktops have not been ideal for audio and video conferencing due to latency issues. That changes with the new A/V redirect feature in Windows Virtual Desktop. 

Microsoft's documentation on the A/V Redirect feature, though, possibly is missing or not updated yet at press time. Microsoft's announcement included a link pointing to a "Media optimization feature for Teams" feature that was described as still being at preview stage. Media optimization for Teams has a description that seems similar to the A/V Redirect feature.

About the Author

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

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