hamburger icon close icon
VDI on Azure

Azure Windows Virtual Desktop: How to Setup, Deploy, and Manage a Cloud-Based VDI

Azure Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) enables you to remotely deploy and manage virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). This is a cloud-based resource hosted on the Azure cloud. As with most Azure offerings, VDI on Azure is Microsoft-native, and integrates seamlessly with other Microsoft offerings, like Microsoft 365 ProPlus.

When using Azure Windows Virtual Desktop, you gain extended flexibility and availability. These capabilities are enabled by a variety of features, including kiosk users, task workers, knowledge workers, and power users.

In this post, we’ll provide an overview of Azure Windows Virtual Desktop components, use cases, and architecture. We will also explain how to set up, deploy, and manage a Windows virtual desktop environment in Azure. Finally, you’ll discover how Azure NetApp Files can help you improve cloud storage efficiency and availability.

In this article, you will learn:

What Is Azure Windows Virtual Desktop?

Azure Windows Virtual Desktop is a service that enables you to deploy virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) that you can manage with Remote Desktop Session Host. It is designed to provide users with a complete Windows desktop from any type of device, independent of device hardware.

The service provides:

  • Easy integration with Microsoft products, including Office 365 ProPlus
  • Flexibility for multi-user Windows 10 and the ability to scale as needed
  • Security through Microsoft 365 and free extended security updates for the Windows 7 version

Who Should Use Virtual Desktops?

For many users, virtual desktops can provide flexibility and availability that is not otherwise available. Some examples of use cases that can most benefit from virtual desktops:

  • Kiosk users—enables IT to deploy desktops that are available to non-secure networks without giving up security. WVD allows desktops to be accessed by users without requiring credentials to be shared locally.
  • Task workers—separation from workstation hardware enables desktops to be quickly rebooted following failure. This helps minimize delays in user response time due to downtime.
  • Knowledge workers—remote desktops enable users to work from any location while accessing the same resources as on-premises. This promotes remote productivity and provides freedom for users who need to travel for work.
  • Power users—grants flexibility for hardware and software requirements. Users can access a standardized remote desktop on any system, regardless of OS or other compatibility constraints.

Understanding Azure Windows Virtual Desktop Architecture

When deploying Windows Virtual Desktop, the architecture required is different than a traditional desktop distribution. Below are brief descriptions of the components used to enable VDI through this service.

  • Tenants—the interface used to manage Windows Virtual Desktop environments. Each tenant is associated with its intended users through Azure Active Directory (AD). These tenants are then used to create host pools for running workloads.
  • Host pools—session hosts registered to Windows Virtual Desktop. Hosts can be either personal or pooled depending on how many users you want to allow to connect. If you are using pooled hosts, you should ensure that all contained Azure virtual machines (VMs) use the same VM image.
  • App groups—logical groupings of applications within a session host. These can be set up as either RemoteApps or as Desktops. RemoteApps only provide access to a given app while Desktops provide access to an entire desktop. You are only allowed to create one Desktop group but can create multiple RemoteApp groups.
  • End users—individual users assigned to app groups and host pools. These users are represented by credentials that users can use to connect to Virtual Desktop clients.
  • Tenant groups—contain host pools, app groups, and users for multiple tenants. This is only needed if you are managing multiple tenants at once. For example, if you are a hosting partner or cloud service provider (CSP).

How to Set Up Your Windows Virtual Desktop Environment in Azure

Below is a high-level guide for setting up a Windows Virtual Desktop Environment in Azure. For more detailed instructions about the setup process, see the Azure documentation.

  1. Prepare prerequisites and tenants

Before you can create a tenant, you need to set up a tenant ID in Azure AD and create a global administrator account within that ID. Next, you need to assign a TenantCreator application role.

This role enables you to create your tenant or tenants via the PowerShell module.

During this step, you should also prepare any networking, storage, or security services needed within your VDI once created.

  1. Deploy host pools and app groups

Once you’ve created your tenant, you are ready to provision host pools, configure app groups, and assign your users. Host pools are created through Azure Marketplace. During creation, you need to configure your VMs and assign the VM image you want to use.

If you want to create custom App Groups, rather than using the full desktop, you should do this now. You can set these up and assign users through PowerShell. If you want to use the default desktop group you can just assign users.

  1. Optimize profiles and resources

After your components are created and configured, your users should be able to sign in to the virtual desktops you have created. At this point, you should focus on optimizing your configurations to ensure that users have access to appropriate resources and performance.

For example, you can assign users separate virtual disks that can be attached to and accessed by any desktop they connect to. You can also define scaling options to ensure that hosts are always able to provide sufficient availability to desktops.

Managing Windows Virtual Desktop Deployments in Azure

Azure VDI deployments provide two powerful utilities: PowerShell and FSLogix.

PowerShell is the default method for managing Windows Virtual Desktop and is probably the most familiar for many IT teams. With PowerShell you can manage authentication, user roles, and modify host pools and app groups. You can also combine your PowerShell module with Azure AD and Azure Resource Manager modules to enable scripting of management tasks.

FSLogix is a set of tools you can use to simplify, enable, and enhance virtual desktops. It includes the following components:

  • FSLogix Profile Container—enables you to create hosts in Azure Blob Storage rather than on VMs. This redirects users to a network location and can reduce sign-in times. It also enables IT to set up redundancy with Cloud Cache for greater availability.
  • FSLogix Office Container—enables you to redirect Office workloads for greater flexibility and consistency.
  • FSLogix Application Masking—enables you to manage access to applications and peripherals. You can manage this access by user or IP address.
  • FSLogix Java Version Control—enables you to specify the version of Java to be used by specific applications and URLs.

NetApp Virtual Desktop Service for Azure

If you need a virtual desktop solution on Microsoft Azure, NetApp provides the Virtual Desktop Service (VDS), a global control plane for virtual desktop management that functions as an extension of the cloud. Virtual Desktop Service addresses the challenges and inefficiencies facing most organizations when managing legacy virtual desktop solutions, including:

  • High costs involved in manually configuring individual workspaces
  • Lack of agility when provisioning resources and applying policy changes across large numbers of workspaces
  • Complexity of managing the VDI stack across users, applications and devices
  • Difficult to scale workloads across a multicloud environment to accommodate growth in virtual desktop users

NetApp VDS solves these challenges by automatically provisioning, deploying, managing, and optimizing virtual desktops in any cloud environment. It extends your cloud capabilities by delivering a global control plane to manage virtual desktops through all phases of the desktop lifecycle.

Virtual Desktop Service supports Remote Desktop Services (RDS) on major public cloud environments including Microsoft Azure, as well as on-premise environments, with native support for Microsoft's Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) solution.

In addition, NetApp’s intelligent Global File Cache creates a software fabric that caches “active data” sets in distributed offices globally. As a result, business users are guaranteed transparent data access and optimal performance on a global scale.

Global File Cache deploys transparently on a Microsoft Windows Server instance, meaning that enterprises can consolidate local storage and embed services like Microsoft Active Directory, DNS/DHCP, DNS, DFS Namespaces, and SCCM software distribution in their unified IT infrastructure.

Learn more about NetApp Virtual Desktop Service

Cloud Data Services