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This blog was co-authored by Tim Rohde, Azure Platform Engineer, N4Stack.

So, let’s talk Windows Virtual Desktop or WVD as the cool kids call it. A direct replacement and competitor to Citrix and other VDI applications, it encompasses the Azure backbone and scaling capabilities whilst delivering a desktop fit for a multitude of users. Let’s investigate what myself and Tim discovered and recommend whilst deploying, automating and configuring Windows Virtual Desktop.

 

Deployments?

Let’s start with the nice and easy, clicky clicky deployment or in Lehman’s terms, the manual deployment. This is good for getting that quick and straight forward deployment out, go into the Azure Portal search for Host Pool and click create and run through… easy as pie. 

Don’t forget though, for this to work you’ll need some form of Active Directory connection, whether that’s Azure Native AD or a hybrid deployment.

 

Recommended deployment 

Use Azure DevOps, get a tasty pipeline created, couple that with some Terraform scripts and not only will you have a one click Windows Virtual Desktop deployment, but if you need to add more hosts or remove some, just a simple change of variables and Terraform will cleverly check it’s state file, feel like it’s having déjà vu and remove or add resources for the extra session hosts.

 

An example of a DevOps Pipeline. Source: MediaGlasses.

 

What about managing costs?

The clever boffins at Microsoft have quite handily created some scaling scripts which allows us to set when session hosts power on and off, as well as how many session hosts should be kept on out of hours (which can also be configured). 

Don’t get me wrong, once you start getting into bigger Windows Virtual Desktop deployments, the costs will start to rack up and will need to be reviewed regularly to ensure you are not overspending, however, compare the costs between buying or upgrading laptops for each employee to spinning up session hosts for a group of users, you will find it to be quite comparable. 

Not only comparable, but after the usual 3-year cycle, the hosts will run as they were brand new! 

There are other methods to save costs, one of which is to use B-Series or Burstable VM’s which, when left on constantly, during down times, accrue credits to be used at peak periods.

 

Profile management? 

Ever heard of FSLogix? Me neither, until we started to deploy Windows Virtual Desktop. You install it on the session hosts, point it to an Azure Storage account or NetApp Share using some reg keys. There you have it; you have decoupled your user’s windows profiles. So, no matter if you trash the session hosts or redeploy the environment, your users will not know! 

 

A diagram of the Windows Virtual Desktop Architecture. Source: Microsoft.

 

Imaging?

In conjunction with FSLogix, why not go the whole hog and decouple your applications too. Make the Gold image as clean as possible and bolt on your apps. Use Packer to build your image and get anything used across the board baked in and then App Attach to bolt those apps. In preview, Azure’s Image Builder, this uses Packer, however, can patch existing images and allows you to scale images globally. Just like Packer, it can be used to with existing pipelines such as DevOps. 

Back(ups) in my day, you would have to back up the whole Virtual Machine, not now, save money, back up the profiles and the application VHDs! 

 

What to expect from Windows Virtual Desktop

A strong and robust system that is truly scalable. Not only that but couple it with Node4’s current Microsoft 365 offering and it will bring together the security of the cloud as well the benefits of cloud computing and a solution built for the future. 

So, wherever you are in your Microsoft 365 adoption journey, we can take you further along it, so you get more value, as well as improved security and user experience. 

 

Joe Parr

Joe Parr

Azure Platform Engineer

Joe has been in IT for 8 years now, falling into an IT apprenticeship after being turned down from a Mechanics course.

He has worked up the ranks through first line, systems administrator and managing the internal infrastructure of a business but is now pursuing his ambition of working with cloud computing.

Get to know more about Joe here.

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