Microsoft makes Windows Virtual Desktop generally available globally

Microsoft is rolling out its Azure-based Windows Virtual Desktop service and readying some new capabilities around Teams support and MSIX App Attach which could make it even more useful.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor
Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft is making Windows Virtual Desktop generally on September 30 and is rolling out the new service globally on Day 1. The company also is offering more details about some of the additional new features it is readying for its Azure-based virtualization service.

Microsoft officially unveiled Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) in September 2018. It made WVD available in public preview in March 2019. According to Microsoft, thousands of customers have kicked the WVD tires during preview. Now the service is ready for prime-time, and the WVD client app is available, as of today, for Windows, Android, Mac, iOS, and HTML 5.

WVD is a new service that provides Windows 10 virtualization, along with multi-session Windows 10 capabilities and support for Windows Server RDS desktop and apps. WVD will allow users to virtualize Windows 7 and 10, Office 365 ProPlus apps and other third-party applications by running them remotely in Azure virtual machines. 

Microsoft also will provide to WVD users the ability to virtualize their Windows 7 desktops -- with free Extended Security Update support through January 2023. That means customers who license and purchase WVD will continue to get security updates for Windows 7 after Microsoft officially ends support (and security updates for the product) after January 14, 2020, for no additional cost.

"VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) is one of the top ten workloads on-premises," said Brad Anderson, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft 365. "Companies want to move this to the cloud. And WVD is really the only way to run real Windows 10 clients, multiuser, in the public cloud."

Microsoft is making WVD available directly, as well as through its Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) and various partners, such as Citrix and VMware. At its Ignite conference in early November, Microsoft will be talking up storage solutions from partners that are tailored for WVD, officials said. 

"WVD will be one of the biggest accelerators of Azure growth for the partner ecosystem we have seen in a very long time. It's a milestone release from Microsoft that will have a wide-reaching impact for years to come," predicted Joseph Landes, Chief Revenue Officer for IT management and automation vendor Nerdio.   

Also at Ignite this fall, Microsoft plans to talk up some of the next-generation capabilities for WVD. Microsoft plans to make available in preview "shortly" support for its Teams group-chat product that will reduce latency issues. The WVD-support preview technology, which makes use of WebRTC, will be built directly into Teams, officials said.

Microsoft also will be sharing more information on the "App Attach" technology it is designing for WVD. Officials first discussed the MSIX App Attach at Build 2018. App Attach enables MSIX-packaged applications to be stored outside a virtual machine so that each application can attach itself when users need it. It's a step beyond traditional app layering and app streaming, according to Microsoft execs, and is a key piece of Microsoft's strategy to separate user data, apps and the underlying operating system.

Microsoft is planning to add support for MSIX App Attach to Windows 10 20H1, and officials said that Insider testers should be getting a preview of the technology as part of a new Windows 10 test build soon. I think App Attach -- if it works as promised and if third-party developers buy-in -- could play a big part in how Windows will evolve to become more of a platform for hosting virtualized apps.

Microsoft's WVD documentation is here. The WVD product page is here, and pricing explanation, here.

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