Microsoft rebrands WVD as 'Azure Virtual Desktop'; adds new app-streaming pricing option

Microsoft is broadening the charter of its Windows Desktop Virtualization service and simultaneously changing the name of this Azure-based service to 'Azure Virtual Desktop.'

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Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft is rebranding its Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) service as "Azure Virtual Desktop." At the same time, the company is introducing a new ISV/per-user pricing option and taking the wraps off a bunch of new manageability and security features coming soon.

WVD, an Azure-based service, enables users to virtualize their Windows desktop, Office apps, and other third-party applications by running them remotely in Azure virtual machines. Microsoft officially unveiled Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) in September 2018 and made it generally available a year later. 

On June 7, Microsoft officials unveiled the new, now-AVD-branded capabilities that Microsoft is readying to "establish broader outlines for the product," in the words of Kam VedBrat, General Manager of AVD.

The biggest of these coming features is a new pricing option for application streaming. Microsoft is enabling customers and ISVs to use AVD to stream desktops and applications to users outside their own organizations. This will enable both IT departments and ISVs to use AVD as the underlying infrastructure for delivering apps as a service. 

During a promotion period, which runs from July 14 to Dec. 31, 2021, customers and ISVs can get this monthly-per-user option for no additional charge, though they still do need to continue to pay for the underlying Azure services upon which AVD relies. Starting Jan. 1, 2022, this option will cost $5.50 per user per month for apps and $10 per user per month for apps plus desktop. Again, this fee is for user-access rights only, meaning customers will need to continue to pay for the Azure compute, storage, and other services that power their apps.

(For users who are part of a customer's or ISV's own organization, Microsoft is advising organizations to continue to use AVD via existing Windows license entitlements they have via Microsoft 365 E3 or Windows E3 and higher.)

Update: One Microsoft partner was upbeat about the new pricing option.

"We have been working with many ISVs who are trying to solve both the technical architecture and pricing model issues of moving to Azure Virtual Desktop. With the new ISV fixed per-user pricing, it will be much easier for them to design their solutions on top of AVD," said Joseph Landes, Chief Revenue Officer of IT management and automation vendor Nerdio.  

Microsoft also will be adding a number of new features to AVD in the coming months. Among them:

Enhanced Azure Active Directory support: Coming "soon" in public preview, this feature will allow customers to join their AVD virtual machines directly to Azure Active Directory and connect to the virtual machine from any device with basic credentials and without the need for an additional domain controller. At some point in the future, Microsoft is planning to add support for single sign-on and additional credential types like FIDO2 and Azure Files, officials said.

Support for managing Windows 10 Enterprise multisession VMs with Microsoft EndPoint Manager: This capability is available now. In addition, by automatically enrolling AVD virtual machines with Microsoft EndPoint Manager. 

Quickstart deployment support: Coming soon in public preview. This capability will enable customers to set up and kick off an AVD session in minutes from the Azure Portal.

Today's WVD/AVD announcements are not related to the expected launch of Microsoft's Cloud PC, its Azure and WVD-based virtualization service that is codenamed "Deschutes." Cloud PC is in private testing at this point and could launch later this summer, my sources say. Microsoft plans to sell Cloud PC as a managed Microsoft 365 experience at a flat per-user price. This is an important difference from WVD/AVD pricing, which revolves around Azure consumption.