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WVD – The Bloom Is Off The Rose – Part 2

February 10, 2021 - Windows Virtual Desktop
WVD - The Bloom Is Off the Rose

Please read the first article in this blog series if you have not already.

Microsoft KNOWS That Compute and Other IaaS Costs in Azure Are Too Damn High Compared to Running RDS On-Premises Or Via an MSP Partner

Why am I asserting this? Let’s look at some of their actions right before and after the introduction of WVD:

They created a promotion whereby you could pay the “Linux cost” for VMs running the WVD hosts, and have continued that promotion.

As of January 2021, they’re now running a loss leader promotion on D and B-series VMs where they’ll further lower compute charges, but only for 90 days.

They purchased FSLogix 2 years ago, which I speculate was driven by the fact they knew that attempting to place roaming user profiles or UPDs on Azure Files would be unbearably slow unless they had FSLogix’s tech to help out. Their own docs state that if you migrate from RDS to WVD you have to convert profiles over to FSLogix.

And leveraging Azure Files with FSLogix is not an instant cure either. You may have to step up to Azure Files Premium because, as many of you have learned by now, the entry level tier of just about any Azure IaaS component is STINGY on IOPS. See James Kindon’s great article for more details on this. You want healthy IOPS in Azure, that will rival on-premises virtualized hardware? You’re going to pay, and pay mightily, for that privilege.

Their WVD cost calculator loves to default to 220 hours as the typical number of hours a user will work per given month (approximately 40 working hours per user a week) to “gild the lilly” in perceived cost savings. Unfortunately, as everybody knows, you can’t just beam user sessions between RDS or WVD hosts when you need to start powering down VMs to save money in Azure. You have to run scaling scripts (which my customers tell me are fraught with issues), place users in drain mode, wait until all user sessions drop off, and then shut down the VM. That adds extra hours you are paying for, in excess of the 220.

In the modern workplace, users don’t work a steady 9-5 job. They’re giving companies 8, 10, even 12 hours a day, and those hours are not contiguous. If you get aggressive with idle logoff policies, users may lose work and their workflow will be interrupted, lessening their productivity. Sure, you can try to optimize these scaling routines further by contracting with third party vendors that do this in Azure, but that just adds to the total cost, as you pay the third party for that privilege. Plus you still have to get the user sessions off the box before you shut a VM down – you can’t beam them elsewhere.

WVD Licensing Rules Suck Right Now

In RDS, licensing is fairly straightforward. You obtain licensing for the Windows Server operating system, using Microsoft’s rules for virtualization rights- depending on the number of processors and cores in the processors, and whether you purchase Enterprise or Standard. Next you purchase RDS CALs (Client Access Licenses) for each user OR device that will be making an RDP connection into the environment. If you love spending money, you can then pay Citrix or other vendors additional per-user costs on top of that.

If you are an MSP and want to run RDS, you can buy the Windows Server OS licensing AND the RDS licensing on a month-to-month basis, using Microsoft’s SPLA program. This is great for MSPs offering desktops/apps as a service, and their clients who don’t have the capital to make a CapEx investment in their own hardware. Everybody pays month-to-month, which is more expensive over time then a CapEx upfront buy, but it’s manageable and a win-win for both parties.

Microsoft has turned the above on its head with Windows Virtual Desktop. As of this article, the ONLY operating system hosted in Windows Virtual Desktop that supports a monthly licensing option for access rights is Windows 10 multisession (or legacy Windows 7 if you really want to run that). Basically, you need one of a few flavors of Microsoft 365 subscriptions or Windows 10 subscriptions (but not the base, least expensive levels) to get your WVD access license to connect to Win 10/Win 7 in Azure.

But wait, there’s another catch – you cannot use a non-Windows device (e.g. Macbook, IPad, Chromebook, etc) to access Windows 10 multisession unless you have a Microsoft 365 E3/E5/F3/Business/ A3/A5/Student Use Benefits license. That means buying a less expensive Windows 10 subscription without Microsoft 365 is a non-starter if your users have non-Windows devices.

The REALLY crappy thing for Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) who host their applications over RDS or RemoteApp, is the complete absence of any sort of SPLA program to allow them to purchase or resell monthly access licenses for their clients, to access Windows Server VMs hosted in Azure. Currently, they or their client must purchase full, perpetual CALs up front, in order to run workloads on Windows Server VMs. Why is this so bad?

It effectively freezes out most of those MSPs and ISVs from using WVD as a platform for hosting desktops or applications. Why?

Please stay tuned for additional posts in this blog series, there are many more and they are coming soon….

Andy Milford is the CEO and Founder of RDPSoft, and is a Microsoft MVP in the Enterprise Mobility / Remote Desktop Services area. Prior to starting RDPSoft, Andy was the CEO and Founder of Dorian Software, a log management company acquired by Ipswitch in late 2009. He loves creating easy-to-use yet powerful software solutions for SMBs and emerging enterprise companies.

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