Windows Virtual Desktop: solution at the service of Smart Working

Windows Virtual Desktop is Microsoft’s cloud-based solution that allows companies to support Smart Working quickly and securely; this solution provides users a real workstation, allowing access to company data and applications in absolute safety. With Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD), it is also possible to configure a scalable and flexible environment meeting the needs and requests of users.

One of the most important features is Windows 10 multisession mode; with this feature it is possible to have a Desktop environment with all the multiple connection potentials once available only in the Server environment.

Through Windows Virtual Desktop it is also possible:

  • Virtualize Microsoft 365 Apps for Enterprise (Office 365 ProPlus) and optimize it for running in virtual multisession scenarios;
  • Provide Windows 7-based Virtual Desktop systems with Extended Security Updates (ESU);
  • Virtualize applications;
  • Manage all virtual environments and applications through a single administration interface;

Use cases

Windows Virtual Desktop is a flexible solution that allows you to adapt to various business needs; for example, IT professionals can use it as a tool to increase productivity, developers can take advantage of it as a dedicated design environment but, above all, it can be used by end-users as a remote work tool in Smart Working mode. We report below a series of scenarios for using the solution:

  • Provide a safe workstation that includes all the collaboration tools necessary for the work activity;
  • Provide a high performance system that can be used for heavy workloads in a graphic environment;
  • Reduce and optimize costs related to the purchase and maintenance of on-premise infrastructure for an RDS environment;
  • Provide an application developed on Windows 10 and incompatible in a server environment;
  • Manage, without major impact, the end of support for Windows 7 and the progressive migration to Windows 10;
  • Use legacy Windows 7-based applications securely;
  • Use applications written for the Windows environment also from iOS, Android and macOS devices;
  • Provide a secure system by taking advantage of all the new features introduced such as: MFA, Windows Hello for Business, etc.

Requirements

In order to activate the Windows Virtual Desktop solution, you must have the following requirements:

  • an Azure Active Directory instance;
  • Windows Server Active Directory instance in sync with Azure Active Directory using one of the following methods:
    • Azure AD Connect (Hybrid)
    • Azure AD Domain Services (Hybrid or Cloud-only)
  • an Azure subscription containing a virtual network that allows communication with the Windows Server Active Directory infrastructure;

About licensing, you can access the Windows Virtual Desktop environment Windows 7 or Windows 10 (single or multi-session) if you have one of the following licenses (per user):

  • Microsoft 365 E3-E5
  • Microsoft 365 A3-A5-Student Use Benefits
  • Microsoft 365 F1
  • Microsoft 365 Business Premium
  • Windows 10 Enterprise E3-E5
  • Windows 10 Education A3-A5
  • Windows 10 VDA per user

For Server environment, however, it is necessary to have the appropriate RDS Client Access License (CAL) per-user or per-device with an active Software Assurance (SA).

Architecture

Figure 1 – Windows Virtual Desktop architecture overview

As shown in Figure 1, the Windows Virtual Desktop infrastructure is made up of 3 main sections:

  • Client
    Access to the Windows Virtual Desktop infrastructure can take place from various platforms; Microsoft provides a client for Windows and the respective applications for other platforms (MacOs, iOS, Android).
    It’s also possible to access the environment through a special web interface based on HTML 5.0 (at this link, you can find supported browsers).
  • Windows Virtual Desktop
    This section exposes all the classic roles of a highly available RDS infrastructure such as RDS Gateway, RDS Broker, etc… These components are not visible as the are provided in Software as a Service (SaaS) mode; this means that the service provider (in this case Microsoft) manages hardware and software and, with the appropriate service contract, guarantees the availability, security of applications/data and scalability.
  • Azure VMs & Services
    The last layer of the Windows Virtual Desktop infrastructure consists of the Virtual Machines that will provide to the user as their own workstation.
Figure 2 – WVD services

Going a little more into the detail of the infrastructure, Windows Virtual Desktop is made up of the following components:

Tenant

Main interface for managing the WVD environment. Each tenant must refer to the Azure Active Directory environment containing the users who will have to access the Virtual Desktop systems. Within this container, it is possible to create one or more Host Pools.

Host Pool

Collection of virtual machines on Azure that register in the environment as Session Host when the Windows Virtual Desktop agent is running.

All Session Hosts are generated from the same image (from Marketplace or custom) in order to provide the same User Experience to the end user.

A host pool can be defined in two ways:

  • Personal: each single session is associated with a single user;
  • Pooled: all Session Hosts accept connections from authorized users;

It is also possible to define the load balancing method on the various session hosts; also in this case it is possible to define two modes:

  • Breadth-first: this method (set by default) first queries the hosts and then selects the Session Host with the fewest sessions;
  • Depth-first: new users are assigned to the first available host once the previous one has exceeded the maximum number of sessions;

Application Group

Group of applications installed on the various session hosts; an application group can be defined in 2 types:

  • RemoteApp: the user accesses the single published application through the WVD environment;
  • Desktop: the user accesses the virtual workstation directly;

User Experience

Through the appropriate client (available here) or through the following link, you can allow your users to access Windows Virtual Desktop resources.

auto_awesomeForse cercavi: Una volta effettuato l’accesso con le proprie credenziali, ogni utente sarà in grado di visualizzare il rispettivo Host Pool sulla base delle permission assegnate.volume_up163 / 5000

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Once logged in with their credentials, each user will be able to view the respective Host Pool based on the permissions assigned.

Another important feature present in the Windows Virtual Desktop solution is the roaming of user profiles on a dedicated share; thanks to the acquisition by Microsoft of FSLogix, it is possible to store the profile (and possibly other additional folders) within a Virtual Hard Disk (VHD or VHDx) present on a share; the user profile will be immediately available and will appear on the system just like a native user profile.

Here are some peculiarities of the FSLogix solutions applied to the Windows Virtual Desktop environment:

  • High-performance environment: solves the historical problem of OST management (starting Microsoft Outlook is faster regardless of the VM on which the user is certified as the profile is contained in a separate VHD that is connected to each session).
  • OneDrive for Business support: without the use of FSLogix’s Profile Container, OneDrive for business is not supported in RDSH or VDI environments; furthermore, in this context, on-demand files are always available once downloaded and 1 TB of storage per user is provided within the Office 365 plans.
  • Additional Folders: Allows the inclusion of additional folders within the Remote Profile.

FSLogix Profile Container supports the following solutions as a repository for user profiles:

  • Azure Files (recommended);
  • Azure NetApp Files (high performance but more expensive);
  • Storage Spaces Direct;
  • Virtual Machine with File Share role;

References

Here are some useful references to the official Microsoft documentation:

Conclusions

Windows Virtual Desktop is Microsoft’s DaaS (Desktop as a Service) solution aimed at providing an optimal work environment for smart-working, thus allowing users to continue to communicate, collaborate and ensure business continuity.

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