Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) has been around for a while, but the addition of Windows 365 to Microsoft’s solutions has caused a lot of questions. Namely, what’s the difference between the two? And when would I choose one over the other?
Last week I broke down some use cases and examples for Windows 365, so of course in this post I’ll do the same for Azure Virtual Desktop.
- What AVD is good for
- What it’s not so good for
- Use case scenarios in which you’d choose AVD over Windows 365
What is AVD Good For?
A great benefit is being able to publish out traditional line-of-business applications (not web-based) to users in a way that feels like part of their existing desktop. It provides a great end-user experience – they don’t have to log into a desktop, open applications and then log into another full desktop with another set of applications. Remote application publishing is probably my favourite part of AVD.
Another benefit is multi-user scenarios. So this is about where you can get better depth and scale of an environment, rather than having an individual user type to one individual back-end server for example. You would have 10 people on that single compute block, so you’re sharing the resources.
But it does mean if you have a scenario where you’ve either got very light working users or they don’t need the full capacity of a dedicated desktop, you can get a lot more users on. You can get a lot more bang for your buck!
And thirdly there’s seasonality. So, you can have your architecture and (these numbers are made-up to demonstrate my point) say you have four servers running with 400 users, and we have to bring in an extra 300 staff members. You can slide a bar and then within minutes (or as people start to log on to the environment) it will automatically provision more in the background and distribute the load across, so you might end up with 7, 12 or 200 servers, depending on what you set your scales at.
What’s it Not So Good For?
Simplicity. There is an overhead of learning and understanding for AVD because there is Azure architecture in the back end. You need to know about virtual networks, understand about network security groups, think about how you’ll secure that environment. You also have to understand the variable charge based on when it’s on and when it’s off.
There’s also the management overhead of building the images, so you have to acquire the skills required to build that. Obviously if you put the effort in to learn it then you have all the extra benefits around scalability – for example you can turn it off when it’s not in use, so if your business hours are 9am-5pm, only have it turned on 9am-5pm and therefore only pay for it during those hours.
You do need to review the cost/benefits depending on your needs. It has the capability of doing one-to-one, so a single user on a single virtual machine. Windows 365 is better in this instance in terms of costs, however, within Azure you have things like extra graphics processing, so as an example you could add in NVIDIA graphics cards for things like AutoCAD etc., whereas you can’t currently do that with Windows 365. So, depending on your requirements, you may choose AVD over Windows 365.
Basically, it doesn’t have many downsides apart from the complexity of managing the environment.
Use Case Scenarios for AVD
Reducing Device Costs
There’s a few good use case scenarios, for example in call centres where you have a very limited number of business applications with lots of users accessing them, and you want a very standardised approach. Instead of giving your staff expensive PCs, go down the thin client route and just give your users a centralised desktop. That way you can give them lightweight devices and a centralised, controlled standard from AVD.
High Performance Requirements
Like Windows 365, it can be really good for high performance computing requirements. If you have people that do lots of architectural design in things like AutoCAD, or heavy computational statistical analysis of data for example, you could give them each a £5-6k laptop with high spec graphics and all the rest of it that can go out of date fairly quickly. Or instead, you could provide them with a standard desktop where they use all their normal programs like Word or Excel, and then a very high-powered AVD environment with the fancy NVIDIA graphics cards or loads of gigs of RAM.
Be under no illusion, there are costs, but again you can use it in a right-sized environment where it’s turned on only when they need, and only charged for when in use. It can also be scaled as high as they need for whatever project. This could be preferable over relying on the constraints of an expensive physical device that can break or go out of date very quickly.
External third-party workers
AVD is also good for external third parties, so if somebody’s coming in and doing some consultancy or a bit of ad hoc work, you can quickly give them access your secure environments and they won’t be able to move documents away to their own device. You can very quickly just add a user to a group and give them access to an environment from any device securely.
Support and repair
Similarly with laptop break fix scenarios, if you have users on the other side of the world, and their laptop breaks, you can drop them into AVD. They can then log on and access their core applications and documents from another device while they wait for their laptop to be fixed.
You can use Windows 365 for this too, but you have to buy a license for the month which could cost £34 for a small spec PC. It will also take a minimum of about 30 minutes for the service desk to provision that desktop for them, whereas with Azure Virtual Desktop you can get them up and running immediately, and switch it off as soon as their device is fixed – which could be after a day or so. Plus you might find that there’s zero additional costs if the environment already has the capacity within it.
So there’s a quick overview of some benefits, disadvantages and use case scenarios for Azure Virtual Desktop – if you missed my previous blog on Windows 365, check it out here.
Want to see AVD and Windows 365 in more detail?
I’ve got a couple of demos out there if you’d like to see them in action:
- Windows 365 Demo – End User Experience
- Windows 365 Demo – Configuration
- Azure Virtual Desktop – Personal Device User Demo
If you’re interested in comparing them in more detail, I go through more use case scenarios for Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop in my webinar: Choosing the Right Windows Solutions