Microsoft has released Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) while reminding users that Windows 7 is inching ever closer to the end of support.
Unless, that is, they sign up to run their Windows 7 desktops in Microsoft's cloudy data centres for Extended Security Updates (ESU) until January 2023.
WVD hit preview in March this year, later than planned. However, according to Scott Manchester, Principal Engineering Lead for Windows Virtual Desktop, more than 20,000 people signed up – or tried to jump through the Active Directory and Azure hoops in order to make the service work.
Corporate veep Brad Anderson told us that the number of concurrent users in the preview was measured in the thousands. Manchester added that more than 10,000 enterprise customers had managed to deploy the public preview.
As a reminder, the company recently boasted that Windows 10 adoption had hit the 900 million device mark.
WVD is aimed squarely at the enterprises. As for the service being offered to consumers as part of a possible Microsoft 365 Home, Anderson told us bluntly: "There's no plan right now."
However, Manchester added the company is pondering how to bring the technology to Microsoft's on-premises cloud, Azure Stack, and told us the Windows giant is "actively in discussion with customers regarding the viability of that solution".
When asked what had changed between the public preview and today's general availability, the answer was the shocking discovery (for Microsoft at least) that there is indeed a world outside of the US. The original plan, according to Manchester, was that "it would be a regional service, and then we would support the US. And then we would roll out to other regions over time."
However, it quickly became clear that customers were keen to be more local, hence the worldwide unveiling. After all, being able to locate one's Windows desktop near to one's data will inevitably makes things snappier. And regulators are likely to be less troublesome regarding the location of VMs.
While Microsoft was keen to bang on about the Windows 10 multi-session capability, a technology that permits resource sharing, many admins will be eyeing that three-year extension for Windows 7 support (assuming you've got the right licence).
Naturally, Anderson would much rather users made the jump to Windows 10 and is keen to highlight the company's Desktop App Assure programme, which has "seen close to 500,000 apps that have been brought to us by customers" and "less than 400 that have actually had compatibility issues".
Although if you have that particular bit of hardware that needs a particular driver from a particular manufacturer that has long since ended support, you could well be out of luck.
Of course, once on Windows 10 and running in WVD, Manchester told us the company wants users to stay on a "supported version" of the operating system, with a gallery of images to assist. Although, as with most virtualization services, users can also customise the image to their needs before uploading to storage.
The gang has also tweaked the architecture to allow MSIX-packaged apps to be dynamically attached to a virtual machine rather than being installed permanently. The thinking is that doing so should decrease the storage needs as well as making management and updates easier.
As for the competition, the official noises from the Citrix and VMware camps are positive. Citrix's Virtual Apps and Desktops service can be hosted on WVD with the company making support available from today. VMware will follow with a preview of its Horizon Cloud extending WVD by the end of the year.
It is hard not to imagine some nervousness in existing virtual desktop vendors, bearing in mind the Microsoft of yore's habit of steamrolling those who thought themselves one of the team. However, Anderson was quick to insist that nothing has really changed: "For the last 20 years, what we've done is we shipped in Windows Server a virtualization solution and Citrix and VMware have built on top of that.
"So in the same way that we shipped, you know, a core-based solution in Windows, Windows Virtual Desktop is equivalent."
So don't worry, guys. Nadella and co aren't about to come looking for your lunch. Not yet, at any rate. ®