Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) vs. traditional RDS or VDIAlex Fields
I want to talk about Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) as the successor to on-prem deployments of Remote Desktop Services (RDS), and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).
Many small and mid-sized businesses are already familiar with using Remote Desktop or similar (e.g. Citrix, VMware View, etc.). Usually this type of service was enabled to provide “remote access” to apps hosted on local server infrastructure.
Like VPN, I would argue that Remote Desktop, VDI, WVD, and all similar variations on this idea are becoming legacy solutions to a legacy problem.
But before we go there…
Dismantling the VDI myth
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure was supposed to be a magic bullet a few years back. You know—cheaper and easier to run and maintain, giving endless uninterrupted productivity and magical benefits to your end-users.
The theory was that you could shed costs, save deployment time, standardize the application experience and cut end user devices out of the picture entirely. Everything of importance would live in a central datacenter somewhere on secure servers behind a firewall. You could then pick up whatever device you want to connect to the remote desktop experience. Who cares if those endpoints are in your inventory, kept up to date, protected, or whatever? Who cares if they are riddled with infections even?
Of course, this was all bogus.
For the companies that took the bait and went down this path, however, they soon found out that none of the promises of VDI turned out to be true. To maintain proper security, it turns out, you absolutely have to worry about the endpoints—even dumb terminals. So now you’re managing endpoints AND virtual desktops. Congratulations.
But wouldn’t thin clients at least be cheaper than full desktops? Sure—but all of that savings was quickly consumed in infrastructure and labor, which was required to build out more complex virtual server environments and then maintain them moving forward.
In the end, VDI did not help to shed any costs at all, and in fact these systems were often even more expensive to implement and more complicated to support. Not to mention, it is rare to see a VDI deployment that was designed correctly in the beginning–which leads to performance and overall stability issues down the road.
In summary, every company I have ever rescued from VDI and put back onto a regular workstation-class laptop or desktop system has thanked me, “This is sooo much better—sooo much… snappier! I didn’t even realize how bad it was…”—This is a regular comment I would hear as we restored order to former chaos, simply by putting people back on a good workstation-class desktop or laptop computer.
Where Windows Virtual Desktop can be a hero
That having been said, when you are tied to traditional Windows-based applications that need to be centrally managed and delivered remotely, presenting a Remote Desktop or Remote App is arguably still the best thing we’ve got (certainly better than VPN), and WVD promises to make that delivery much quicker and easier for us, and with a good end user experience to boot.
As we have learned, in the SMB especially, nobody can really afford to do VDI correctly. To make it a great end-user experience requires some really bad-ass hardware and highly specialized engineering on the back-end. Most IT generalists attempt to implement it on typical server hardware, and that’s more than likely just not going to cut it.
Assuming you get the right hardware then you also need to implement it properly, with various server roles and infrastructure pieces all dialed in just right: firewalls, virtual hosts, brokers, gateways, certificates, and so forth.
WVD, which presents a Remote Desktop experience on Windows 10, is an attractive solution because all of that complex stuff is handled for you. It should (in theory) democratize what has historically only been accessible to Enterprise organizations with a big budget. So for that, I thank Microsoft.
Other benefits of WVD over traditional deployments include:
- Do not have to manage perimeter security (handled by MSFT)
- Presents a real Windows 10 desktop (not Windows Server)–can do individual or multi-session desktops
- Access from any device, even via web browsers
- Optimized experience for Office 365 apps
- Access to data in Office 365 = super fast!
- And more
But you know what? In the SMB market, I still rarely recommend implementing a remote desktop or VDI-like solution–whether using WVD on Azure or any other such system.
Why? Stay tuned for my next post to hear the punchline.