Microsoft Releases Windows 365, Its New Desktop-as-a-Service Solution

Windows 365 is now available for use by organizations in production environments, Microsoft announced on Monday.

First announced at the Inspire partner conference last month, Windows 365 is described by Microsoft as a more simplified offering than Azure Virtual Desktop, another desktop-as-a-service product. Azure Virtual Desktop will still be available, however, for organizations with greater customization needs.

Windows 365 comes in two editions, Business and Enterprise, with prices further delineated by the amount of cores, RAM and storage available to each "Cloud PC." Microsoft labels these specific Cloud PC capabilities under broad terms, such as "Basic," "Standard" and "Premium."

The breakdown into Basic, Standard and Premium offerings can be seen in this Windows 365 product comparison page.

Windows 365 and Cloud PCs
In essence, Windows 365 is the desktop-as-a-service part, hosted by Microsoft from its datacenters, while the Cloud PC is a virtual machine hosted on that Windows 365 service.

With Windows 365, end users access the desktop and apps remotely, using any type of device. Here's how Microsoft's overview document described a Cloud PC:

A Cloud PC is a highly available, optimized, and scalable virtual machine providing end users with a rich Windows desktop experience. It's hosted in the Windows 365 service and is accessible from anywhere, on any endpoint.

Microsoft is claiming that any device with a connection that can stream movies would be adequate for being a Cloud PC device. Android, Linux, macOS and Windows devices can be used with the service.

Windows 365 Editions
The Windows 365 Business edition and the Windows 365 Enterprise edition products are very different things.

The Business edition is intended for smaller organizations and it mostly cuts out the IT management role. "Windows 365 Business is intended for customers who want to deploy Cloud PCs for 300 seats or fewer across the organization," Microsoft explained in an FAQ document.

The Enterprise edition has no limit on the amount of end users. It's for organizations that want greater flexibility and scalability. The Enterprise edition is based on Microsoft Endpoint Manager for device provisioning and management tasks and requires having E5-type licensing in place, according to the FAQ:

Windows 365 Enterprise requires that each user be licensed with a Windows 10 Pro subscription, Microsoft Endpoint Manager, and Azure Active Directory P1, which is included in Microsoft 365 F3, Microsoft 365 E3, Microsoft 365 E5, Microsoft 365 A3, Microsoft 365 A5, Microsoft 365 Business Premium, and Microsoft 365 Education Student Use Benefit subscriptions.

Enterprise users have the ability to resize the capabilities of their Cloud PCs, but they can't downgrade them.

It's not possible to switch from the Windows 365 Business edition to the Windows 365 Enterprise edition, according to the FAQ.

Windows 365 Pricing
Windows 365 pricing is based on a per-user per-month fixed cost, but the price also depends on the core, RAM and storage options selected for the Cloud PCs used. In a nutshell, those costs can range from $20 per user per month to $162 per user per month, as described at this Windows 365 pricing page.

Organizations can cancel the Windows 365 service, but they'll lose data unless it gets backed up. They'll have 90 days to do so, per this Microsoft document.

Prices are on the lower end for organizations taking advantage of the Windows Hybrid Benefit program to use Windows 365. Windows Hybrid Benefit is a discount program (up to "16 percent") for organizations that already have Windows 10 Pro licensing under Windows 365 Business subscriptions.

Enterprise edition users will additionally pay for Azure traffic costs based on Azure bandwidth pricing. This traffic consists of "data moving in and out of Azure data centers, as well as data moving between Azure data centers," the pricing page explained.

Business edition users also will pay for Azure traffic, but just for outbound data, on a per-user per-month basis. Microsoft also described having volume limits on this outbound data for Business edition users.

The volume limits for Business edition users are based on Cloud PC specs. They range from 12GB per user per month (for lower-tier specs) to 70GB per user per month (for upper-tier specs). Examples of outbound data for Business edition users is "saving a file for the Cloud PC to an external location" plus "data transfer outside of Microsoft cloud services," per the FAQ.

Microsoft is enlisting partner support with Windows 365, including App Assure for application compatibility support for organizations with more than 150 Microsoft 365 subscriptions.

Independent software vendors have already built solutions around Windows 365, including Nerdio, UKG, ServiceNow and NetApp, according to a Microsoft Tech Community post by Scott Manchester, partner director of program management for Windows 365.

Manchester had earlier explained setting up Windows 365 in this video. There's also a new Microsoft Mechanics video on setting up Windows 365 with Christiaan Brinkhoff, principal program manager for Windows 365. Brinkhoff also described Windows 365 product setup differences in his posts about the Business and Enterprise editions.

Microsoft's general landing page for Windows 365 documents can be found at this link.

Perhaps the best description of Windows 365 comes from Microsoft's partner Nerdio, which makes management solutions for Microsoft's desktop-as-a-service solutions. Nerdio's document comparing Windows 365 with Azure Virtual Desktop is a very good resource. Also, Windows 365 explanations by Nerdio's Founder and CEO Vadim Vladimirskiy can be found in this RCP interview.

On Aug. 5, Vladimirskiy and Manchester will talk about Windows 365 in a free online presentation (sign-up here).


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