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Windows 365, Azure Virtual Desktop Starting To Add Windows 11 Support

Support for Windows 11 in Microsoft's desktop-as-a-service offerings -- specifically Windows 365 Enterprise and Azure Virtual Desktop -- is now available in preview, Microsoft said this week.

One reason why Windows 11 is stuck at the preview stage for those services is that both desktop-as-a-service implementations require using Generation 2 virtual machines to support Trusted Launch security protections. Currently, Trusted Launch is still at the preview stage.

Here's how it was characterized in an Azure Virtual Desktop document on Trusted Launch, dated Feb. 26:

Trusted launch is currently in public preview. This preview version is provided without a service level agreement, and it's not recommended for production workloads. Certain features might not be supported or might have constrained capabilities.

The preview status of Windows 11 for Microsoft's desktop-as-a-service offerings was noted by Jim Gaynor, an analyst with independent consultancy Directions on Microsoft, in a recent Twitter post:

Call Windows 11 in W365 and AVD "Generally Available" all you like -- it still relies on an Azure Gen 2 VM feature (trusted launch) that is in public preview, has no SLA, and is not recommended for production use.

Microsoft did actually declare that Windows 11 is generally available on Azure Virtual Desktop in this Oct. 5 announcement, while also noting that Trusted Launch is at preview.

Trusted Launch essentially is Microsoft's name for various security protections, such as Secure Boot, virtual Trusted Platform Module and virtualization-based security, for Azure Generation 2 virtual machines. These protections against so-called bootkit and rootkit malware are analogous to security measures available in Windows 11 PCs and Windows 10 Secured-core PCs.

Windows 365 Enterprise Support
Microsoft's announcement on Windows 365 Enterprise support for Windows 11 doesn't call it a preview. Windows 11 is simply described as being available for that service.

"Windows 365 Enterprise supports Windows 11 for all newly provisioned Cloud PCs in available regions beginning October 5, 2021," the announcement stated.

The announcement does mention, though, that Windows 365 Enterprise users must convert to using Generation 2 virtual machines in order to use Windows 11, which is described in this document.

One caveat to Windows 11 preview users with Windows 365 Enterprise is that the Cloud PC size that's used needs to support Windows 11's minimum requirements. Support is enabled on "Cloud PCs with 2vCPU/4GB and higher," the announcement indicated.

Organizations can install a preconfigured image obtained from the Microsoft Endpoint Manager Admin Center portal or they can customize it, as long as it's a Gen 2 image. It's also possible to do an in-place upgrade to Windows 11 with the service.

The Windows 11 preview support is just for Windows 365 Enterprise. Windows 11 support for Windows 365 Business will be coming soon.

"In the coming weeks, we will release full Windows 11 support for Windows 365 Business, our service for small and midsized businesses, along with a new admin and management experience that enables the selection of Windows 10 or 11," the announcement indicated.

Azure Virtual Desktop Support
The Windows 11 preview for the Azure Virtual Desktop service is available from the Azure Marketplace in the following image versions:

  • Windows 11 Enterprise (Preview) 
  • Windows 11 Enterprise multi-session (Preview) 
  • Windows 11 Enterprise multi-session + Microsoft 365 Apps (Preview) 

The multisession option lets organizations potentially reduce costs by "running multiple users on a single Azure virtual machine," the announcement explained. In contrast, Windows 365 is a one-to-one service (one virtual machine to one client).

The Windows 11 user experience using Azure Virtual Desktop is said to be identical to a local PC Windows 11 experience. Organizations wanting some of Windows 11's graphics effects, such as rounded corners, will need to select the right GPU support in the images used, the announcement indicated. The exact GPU support to select wasn't described, though.

About the Author

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

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