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VDI on Azure

The Complete Guide to VDI on Azure

What Is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) on Azure?

VDI on Azure is the use of Azure resources and services to create an infrastructure for the remote delivery of desktops. It is based on Azure’s Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) service, which you can manage with Remote Desktop Session Host. The service is designed to enable you to deliver Windows desktops to your users on nearly any client device.

The Windows Virtual Desktop service offers:

  • Support for multi-user deployments with Windows 10
  • Integration with Microsoft solutions, such as Office 365
  • Extended support for Windows 7 including security via Microsoft 365

This is part of an extensive series of guides about https IaaS.

In this article, you will learn:

Understanding Azure Windows Virtual Desktop Architecture

The Windows Virtual Desktop architecture operates slightly differently than on-premises VDI deployments in that you aren’t responsible for managing hypervisors. Below is a breakdown of the components involved.

  • Host pools—groups of hosts or VMs that you use to deliver desktops to users. Assigned users can connect to any host in a pool.
  • Tenant—an interface you can use to manage your WVD environment. It enables you to define host pools and app groups, assign users, and create service connections. Each tenant is a group of one or more host pools.
  • Tenant groups—used when you have multiple tenants for your deployment, as in the case of cloud service providers or hosting partners. These groups enable you to organize host pools, users, and app groups by tenant.
  • App groups—groups of applications in a session host. These are used to provide access to specific apps to users or desktops.
  • End users—the users that you are delivering desktops or apps to. Each user is assigned to a host pool and defined in Active Directory.

Related content: read our guide to Windows desktop virtualization.


Licensing Windows Virtual Desktop on Azure

When deploying virtual desktops in Azure you have several options to choose from for your OS, to ensure application compatibility. The following licenses are available through WVD.

Windows 7 and Windows 10

To use Windows 7 or 10 on WVD, you need to either purchase a license through Azure or you can transfer existing licenses that include access to virtual desktops. Application suites that include this access are:

  • Microsoft 365 E3, E5, or F1
  • Microsoft 365 Business
  • Microsoft A3, A5, or Student Use Benefit

If you want to use individual licenses rather than suite licenses, the following provide access:

  • Windows 10 Enterprise E3 or E5
  • Windows 10 Education A3 or A5
  • Windows Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) E3 or E5

Keep in mind, if you want to use Office applications with your desktops, you may need additional licenses. All of the suites mentioned include this licensing but the individual licenses don’t. To use these applications in the latter case, you need to obtain an Office 365 subscription, an Office Standard with network usage rights license, or an Office Professional license.

Additionally, Windows Enterprise Upgrade licenses obtained through Volume License programs are not eligible since WVD is based on shared not dedicated hardware.

Windows Server

If you want to use Windows Server as your OS you do not need individual Windows Desktop licenses. Instead, you need a license for your Windows Server, and optionally Office, environments. You also need licenses for Remote Desktop Services (RDS).

To get the Windows Server license you can either select a pay as you go option through Azure or you can use Azure Hybrid Benefits to transfer your existing license.

To get the RDS licenses you can:

  • Use existing user or device RDS Client Access Licenses (CALs)
  • Obtain licenses per user through your cloud service provider

To use Office applications you need to obtain an Office 365 subscription, an Office Standard with network usage rights license, or an Office Professional license.


To use Linux with WVD you need to use the available software development kit (SDK). This enables you to build a standalone WVD client or to enable support through a client application. This SDK is compatible with many Linux distributions; primarily those based on Ubuntu 18.04 or later.

Managing Windows Virtual Desktop Deployments in Azure

After your Azure virtual desktops are deployed, you can use two main utilities to manage them — FSLogix and PowerShell.

FSLogix is a set of tools that enable you to manage, provision, and configure virtual desktops. Included in this set are the following components:

  • FSLogix Profile Container—enables you to host desktops in file storage or Blob Storage instead of VM. You can also use this tool to create redundancy via Cloud Cache, increasing availability.
  • FSLogix Office Container—enables you to host Office workloads and redirect users to ensure consistency and flexibility.
  • FSLogix Application Masking—enables you to manage application and peripheral access rights by IP address or user ID.
  • FSLogix Java Version Control—enables you to define which version of Java URLs or applications use.

Related content: read our guide to FSlogix profile containers.

PowerShell is the default utility for managing WVD and several other Azure resources. You can use this utility to manage host pools, app groups, user roles, and authentication. You can also combine PowerShell with Azure Active Directory or Azure Resource Manager. This combination enables you to script management tasks.


VDI Deployment Best Practices

As you are planning or reviewing your deployment, consider the following best practices. These practices can ensure that desktops are secure, productivity is supported, and management is smooth.

Understanding End User Requirements

To configure your deployment effectively, you need to first understand which applications end users need, what dependencies applications have, and what resources are needed including both VM and storage resources. Performance requirements are also important to consider. For example, users performing graphics rendering require more powerful desktops than those only accessing email or web applications.

You should also pay attention to requirements in terms of peripherals. This includes monitor support, printers, audio, and USB support.

Make VDI Environments Highly Available

Availability is critical when it comes to VDI deployments. If your users cannot access desktops or connected resources reliably it doesn’t matter how performant or how much easier it is to manage desktops. Additionally, because all desktops rely on the same host infrastructure, if one goes down it’s more likely that multiple users will have trouble connecting.

To avoid outages, you need to make sure to implement redundancies in your data and connectivity. You should also make sure that new desktops can be readily created, especially if desktops are persistent. This means regularly backing up your instances.

Use Thin Clients

Thin clients are devices without built-in computing resources. These devices serve as portals to remote resources and typically include a monitor and peripherals (such as keyboard and mouse).

Because there is no native system for thin clients, these devices can be much easier to manage than traditional workstations. For example, you do not have to update device software or OS individually since these are served remotely. Additionally, these devices may be more secure since you have greater control over what settings users can change and whether they can install unapproved software.

Use Flash or Hybrid Storage

VDI requires greater IOPS performance than traditional virtual infrastructures. The easiest way to obtain this higher performance is through the use of solid-state storage. For example, the storage available in dedicated flash arrays such as Azure NetApp Files or ultra disk.

You can also consider hybrid storage systems. These systems typically use flash drives to enhance hard disk drives, increasing performance without significantly increasing hardware.


VDI on Azure with Azure NetApp Files

Azure NetApp Files is a Microsoft Azure file storage service built on NetApp technology, giving you the file capabilities in Azure even your core business applications require.

Get enterprise-grade data management and storage to Azure so you can manage your workloads and applications with ease, and move all of your file-based applications to the cloud.

Azure NetApp Files solves availability and performance challenges for enterprises that want to move mission-critical applications to the cloud, including workloads like HPC, SAP, Linux, Oracle and SQL Server workloads, Windows Virtual Desktop, and more.

In particular, Azure NetApp Files helps virtual desktop environments benefit from a comprehensive file share service that’s highly available and offers unprecedented cloud performance.

Learn More About VDI on Azure

Read more in our series of guides about VDI on Azure:

Amp Up End-User Experience in Windows Virtual Desktop With Azure NetApp Files
Desktop virtualization is not a new technology but it is one that is being revamped by the cloud. While traditional VDI could be complex and pricey to deploy, services with Windows Virtual Desktop are making it easy and cost effective to deliver virtual desktops to your users.

In this article you’ll learn how Azure NetApp Files and Microsoft Desktop Virtualization work together, what role FSLogix Profile Containers play, and the benefits of using Azure NetApp Files with Windows Virtual Desktop.

Read more: Amp Up End-User Experience in Windows Virtual Desktop With Azure NetApp Files

Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop on Azure
When deploying virtual desktops, durability is essential. You need to store and maintain access to persistent user data, desktop configurations, logging, and application data. In particular, you need to be able to reliably backup your FSLogix Profile Container since this serves as a single source of truth for your deployment.

In this article you’ll learn how using FSLogix Profile Containers with your WVD deployment and Azure NetApp Files can help you ensure your data remains available and how to deploy all three in Azure.

Read more: Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop on Azure



How to Get the Lowest Overall TCO with Windows Virtual Desktop
This webinar will show you how to improve your VDI performance, scalability, and security, see a live deployment of WVD using FSLogix and Azure NetApp Files, and hear a Q&A about VDI with both NetApp and Microsoft experts.

Learn more: How to Get the Lowest Overall TCO with Windows Virtual Desktop

Azure VDI Pricing Deep Dive: How to Calculate Windows Virtual Desktop Costs
One factor that cannot be overlooked when implementing virtual desktop infrastructure and services is cost. In order to budget for a sustainable deployment and ensure that services can meet your needs you need to carefully evaluate how services are priced and how you can get the greatest ROI.

In this article you’ll learn about licensing options for WVD and how to calculate costs for WVD deployments. You’ll also see some examples of Azure VDI pricing and learn how to reduce costs with Azure NetApp Files.

Read more: Azure VDI Pricing Deep Dive: How to Calculate Windows Virtual Desktop Costs

Wondering what Azure VDI can do for your organization?

Learn about how Azure VDI was able to help Fergusen enable a remote workforce in one weekend, create on-demand data strategy, and provide speed and capability for users in our Ferguson Success Story.

If you have specific questions or want to further discuss how Azure VDI can help your organization become more secure, have faster access to storage, get the most out of your data, and support a sustainable remote work force, please schedule time to speak with one of our specialists. Schedule time here.

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Learn how to run Kubernetes clusters and containerized applications in Azure, using the Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), Azure Container Instances (ACI), and related services.

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Learn how to migrate your workloads and data to Google Cloud, including in-depth comparisons between GCP and other cloud providers, tools, strategies, costs, and more.

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