Microsoft unveils simpler, easier Windows Virtual Desktop: You no longer need to be a VDI expert to make this work

Also: what does the Windows giant have in common with the Boomtown Rats? Neither seems keen on Mondays


Microsoft is having a crack at simplifying Windows Virtual Desktop while rolling out support for more operating systems.

The Register spoke to corporate veep for Microsoft 365, Brad Anderson, and director of product marketing for the platform, Melissa Grant, about the updates.

As demonstrated by its recent quarterly figures, Microsoft has been able reap the rewards of its investment in the cloud with the likes of Teams now enjoying more than 75 million daily active users. Usage of Windows Virtual Desktop also tripled during the quarter.

And it is to Windows Virtual Desktop, built on the occasionally wobbly Azure, that Microsoft turned its attention today with a fresh set of administration tools, built into the Azure Portal rather than the scattergun approach taken with getting the thing up and running in the past.

"The previous experience," Anderson admitted, "was very much almost a developer experience. It was not a simple experience for someone who was not an expert in VDI [Virtual Desktop Infrastructure] to walk through."

In the first three to four weeks of the crisis, there was no way for us to predict how much demand was going to pop on Monday morning...

As such, Microsoft has opted to conceal the greasy nuts and bolts of the process behind a shiny new interface aimed at making the technology easier for administrators to deploy. We're sure rival virtual app and desktop slinger, Citrix, which has pinned its hopes on "extending the value" of Microsoft's WVD via its own management tools is beyond delighted.

Also updated on the WVD front is autoscaling, as Anderson modestly noted: "The beauty of WVD is you have this, you know, essentially unlimited capacity globally in Azure."

Anderson's remarks will be of great comfort to those punters that found Azure effectively full to bursting in March. As recently as last week, Microsoft was holding its hands up to capacity constraints in some regions as it struggled to deal with surging demand for products like Teams.

The Microsoft 365 veep admitted the company had initially struggled to predict the surge in demand and told us that "in the first three to four weeks of the crisis, there was no way for us to predict how much demand was going to pop on Monday morning."

"And it would come by waves," he added, "Monday morning in Europe, then Monday morning the US..."

The telemetry has, however, given the gang some insights. Grant explained that as well as the surge, Microsoft watched as devices dropped offline as US schools started closing, "and now we're starting to see new devices come back online as people are utilising home PCs," or been handed out tablets or laptops.

Other updates rolling out today include the ability to pick and choose where metadata should be stored (although Anderson cautioned that service metadata could only be distributed over the US and Europe, with other regions "coming soon".) Support for mandating of MFA is also now possible as is integration with Azure role-based access control.

Coming in the next month will be AV Redirect, aimed at improving the currently iffy experience of attempting a video call with Teams on the WVD platform.

More intriguing is the arrival of a WVD SDK to encourage the creation of Linux-based thin clients for the platform, to augment the existing Windows, Android, Mac, iOS and HTML 5 clients. ®

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