Microsoft brings its cloudy virtual desktops on-prem to AzureStack HCI

Just in time to cash in on VMware and Citrix uncertainty

Microsoft has announced that its Azure Virtual Desktop offering is available on-prem.

The descent from the clouds for Redmond's desktop virtualization (VDI) service is made possible by the formal release of version 23H2 of Azure Stack HCI, Microsoft's hyperconverged offering that brings a subset of Azure to your bit barn – usually running on clusters comprising a handful of servers.

VDI was one of the applications that first generated interest in HCI, and remains a popular use case for the hyperconverged approach to on-prem compute. Microsoft has aimed its down-to-Earth cloudy desktops at those with data residency requirements, latency-sensitive workloads, or with data proximity requirements. Redmond also fancies you might run it on the edge – probably remote and branch offices rather than kit stored under telco towers.

The need for remote desktops to run in remote offices is something of a backdown from the software behemoth's cloud-first approach to most workloads, and past suggestions that cloud desktops don't need to be benchmarked because they just work.

The reality is that VDI needs fine tuning to run well on-prem, and users have come to expect desktops to work – without interruptions or glitches. The Register's hands-on experiences with cloudy desktops have seldom avoided annoying pauses or hangs, and that's not going to cut it for many clients.

Bringing Azure Virtual Desktop on-prem is therefore sensible, both to satisfy clients and to ensure Microsoft's VDI has a hybrid cloud capability – because its rivals in the field have had that for years.

Those rivals are VMware and Citrix. The former, however, has put its VDI portfolio up for sale – the kind of uncertainty that gets users thinking about alternatives.

Citrix has also given its customers reasons to contemplate their future by killing its perpetual licenses and marching users to subscriptions. While Citrix has historically been very close to Microsoft, that relationship was forged before Redmond started to make its own investments in VDI and desktop-as-a-service. With Microsoft VDI now available on-prem and in Microsoft's cloud, users now have plenty of reasons to rethink their Citrix-on-Azure commitments.

Other additions to AzureStack HCI 23H2 include support for Linux and Windows containers, command line tweaks that make deployment of Kubernetes clusters consistent with the cloudy Azure experience, the ability to deploy the platform from the cloud, and a preview of tools that migrate Hyper-V VMs to Azure Stack HCI. ®

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