On June 7th, 2021, Microsoft announced Azure Virtual Desktop, or "AVD". If you want to know the technical details behind the marketing, understand whether this a new product or rebranding of the existing WVD, what Microsoft’s vision is for AVD, and what’s new in virtual desktops in Azure, then read on.
Is Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) a new product?
No. AVD is Microsoft’s attempt to re-align Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) branding with their vision of the future of virtual desktops. Replacing “Windows” with “Azure” in the product name serves to clarify at least a couple of things:
Azure Virtual Desktop is likely to not remain exclusive to Windows, whereas Windows Virtual Desktop certainly implied that. This means that other desktop OS support (e.g. Linux) could possibly be introduced in AVD in the future.
Azure Virtual Desktop is all about Azure. For those of you wondering if the Windows 10 multi-session OS would at some point become available for on-premises or other cloud deployments, I’d say that this is an indication that it won’t.
Microsoft’s vision is for AVD to be a very flexible Azure-based VDI platform for any use case.
What are some of the new features that Microsoft announced together with rebranding WVD as AVD?
There are several important features that Microsoft has been working on for some time based on customer feedback. Some of these were publicly announced on June 7th when Windows Virtual Desktop was renamed to Azure Virtual Desktop. Let’s explore each one.
Azure AD Join
This capability is something that WVD users have been asking for since the day it launched back in late 2019. Currently, AVD requires session host VMs to be joined to an existing Active Directory Domain Services domain. This can be an existing AD domain controller or Azure AD DS PaaS service. This one requirement adds significant complexity to AVD deployments. You need a vNet that can route to a domain controller, correctly configured DNS, AD credentials to join the domain, etc. The AD pre-requisite is also making SSO more challenging requiring users to type in their password twice – once for their Azure AD password to subscribe to AVD feed and then again for their AD password to log into a session host.
Azure AD joined session hosts will not only eliminate the additional complexity of requiring AD but will unlock new features such as single sign-on (SSO), easier integration with Microsoft Endpoint Manager, and new security capabilities from streamlined management of session host VMs via Azure AD. Users who still need to rely on Active Directory will continue to be able to use it and can transition to easier-to-manage Azure AD joined hosts over time.