Since the announcement of Windows 365 at the Microsoft Inspire conference on 14th July, there has been lots of activity and discussion among our customers and Microsoft partners as further details of the service are revealed.
One key question that I have seen is ‘What’s the difference between Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop and how do I know which one to use when?’
The answer is both simple and complex: Simply put, Windows 365 (W365) is optimised for simplicity and Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) is optimised for flexibility:
The simplicity of Windows 365
- Environmental set-up is quick and simple
- New devices are provisioned directly from within Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM)
- Devices can be easily decommissioned
- There is scope to build further automation through Microsoft Graph calls or pre-built integration with tools such as ServiceNow or Nerdio
- Devices can be provisioned and managed exactly like your Modern physical devices, using a vanilla Windows image that Microsoft provides and managing security, configuration and application deployment and management through MEM. If you wish, you can maintain one or more of your own images with applications pre-installed
- The user self-service model will develop as roadmap updates are delivered
- Pricing is a predictable per-user-per-month model
But Cloud PCs are all dedicated, personalised devices for each user. Naturally, you will pay for this dedicated compute and storage.
But if your use case requires a dedicated virtual device and is simple enough to be supported by the available Cloud PC SKU specifications, then W365 is a great choice.
The SKUs available at launch should satisfy the needs of all but the most specialised of users*.
The flexibility of Azure Advanced Desktop
- Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, with AVD you can deliver pooled desktops to users, which share the underlying compute power, assuming that the concurrency of usage will be much lower than the actual number of users
- AVD has many sizes and specifications of virtual machine available – from the general purpose to the GPU-optimised to high-performance compute machines. If you have users with very specialised uses, then this is where to find a virtual desktop to suit their needs
- With AVD, you have the choice of using Windows 10 or Windows Server multi-session devices, so if you have a specialist line of business application which needs to run on a Windows Server desktop then AVD will support this specialist need
- It is possible to simply stream an individual app rather than a full desktop with AVD, delivering a great hybrid experience for users who need access to an app that needs to run in a centralised, or server environment, but benefit from local usage of other applications on their device. We hope to see this feature in W365 in the future though
- With AVD, you are charged for the Azure resources that you consume, which means that pricing is variable. This can be both good and bad and certainly requires close monitoring and management
- As an IT admin, you have much more control over how your AVD environment is configured and managed, allowing you to cater for more advanced or flexible scenarios.
But with AVD, there is a complexity to the set-up and management of the platform which takes time and money and requires specialist skills.
Many organisations simply won’t be able to justify this investment because they only require a virtual desktop for a small number of users, or for a short time. Or they just don’t want the risk of being reliant upon expert individuals.
The variability of the cost of AVD can also be an issue for some organisations where financial predictability is key.
So in summary, here is what to chose when: