Last month, Microsoft announced the general availability of Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD), their DaaS offering that enables organizations to run Windows 10 and Windows 7 virtual desktops on Azure. With Microsoft Ignite around the corner, I spoke with Ben Murphy, Global Director of Product Integrations at Lakeside, to learn the latest on WVD.

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Interview Transcript

Heather Bicknell: Microsoft introduced the RDmi component of Windows Virtual Desktop at Ignite in 2017 and anticipation for the service has been building since then, first with the public preview and now, as of last month, general availability. What kind of response have you noticed from the IT community now that WVD is GA? How excited are VDI admins?

Ben Murphy: I would say it’s overwhelmingly positive. From what I’ve seen, there’s a massive interest in moving a lot of that locally hosted infrastructure up into Azure. In general, I think that people are kind of tired of having to manage both the actual physical machines and also doing the care and feeding of the administrative side of the infrastructure itself I think has proven to be frustrating. From what I’ve seen across the board from customers of all sizes is that they’re fairly into it.

Heather Bicknell: Of course, businesses have embraced virtual desktops for a while now to streamline desktop and application delivery and enable secure remote work, among other use cases. So, what makes WVD different from other VDI and DaaS offerings available today?

Ben Murphy: I think the key differentiating factor is the fact that Microsoft is now taking the heavy lifting of the load balancing and gateway components, managing that for you. And the other side of it is they also are offering some industry unique flavors of Windows. So, they’ll have the multiuser Windows 10 experience, which is unique to the Windows Virtual Desktop platform. That I think will be a fairly interesting one because, again, to recap something we discussed previously, a lot of what people had done in the past was invest effort to try and make Windows Server more of a desktop experience. In fact, that’s a large component of making the RDS experience a little bit more palatable to folks. So, this is going at it from the other direction, which is making the native Windows 10 experience something that people can get in maybe a more favorable, scalable kind of platform with multiple users just sharing one resource, which I think a lot of people find an interesting proposition.

Heather Bicknell: Looking ahead a bit to when organizations will start really adopting WVD, of course adopting new technology can be a massive undertaking for a large organization and it’s often difficult to know how resources are being used by employees and what kind of end-user experience they’re providing. How can organizations determine whether WVD is right for them?

Ben Murphy: Selfishly, I think that the best way to do it is to do an assessment with ourselves. We have a Windows Virtual Desktop assessment that is free and allows you to get your hands around what’s in an environment and what are some recommendations for sizing and making sure that you’ve got devices and applications that people need to be productive. We also do an analysis to try to understand a fit for a multiuser Windows 10 experience, which I think is an important aspect of it. But, generically, I think the most important thing that you can really do when you’re trying to do a fundamental transformation like this is take stock of what you have and really make an informed decision based off of user resource consumption and concurrent demand and application portfolio in order to come up with a strategy that’s going to make sure that you’ve got the apps that you need and the performance that a user expects, because the worst-case scenario would be under-sizing and presenting someone with an experience that just doesn’t work for them.

Heather Bicknell: For sure. So, you talked about the assessment, that’s of course one part of Lakeside’s partnership with Microsoft. Lakeside has been an official Microsoft partner for WVD since the beginning. How has this early access shaped the partnership? What other offerings can customers access today?

Ben Murphy: I would say that a large part of the collaborative work that we’ve done with Microsoft has been on the idea of diagnostics and helping people understand the source of issues that they might run into. So, a key part of what we’re doing as well is the steady-state comparison of 1) a starting point, so coming up with a user experience scoring mechanism which of course is an existing part of our product, using that as a baseline to then compare against what you get in Windows Virtual Desktop and 2) augmenting that with the ability to get some WVD-specific information out of their diagnostic API. So, the key there is being able to understand some of what you would call a “black box” which is all of the RDmi pieces that Microsoft will be managing for you. So, load balancing characteristics, connectivity potential issues, those kind of things will come out of the diagnostic integration that we’ve got. And that’s something that we’ve invested a lot of effort in jointly with Microsoft both helping shape what the output of that is like and integrating it into our product.

Heather Bicknell: I’d like to touch on Microsoft’s Azure Migrate service, which is designed to help organizations move on-premises workloads into Azure. Could you share how Lakeside will be involved with that service?

Ben Murphy: Yeah, that’s a very good question and I think the key here is, historically, the Azure Migrate service has been targeted at looking for server workloads that you want to transform into cloud services. So, that’s been not necessarily geared towards end-user computing and that’s really now where we augment that by our ability to add Lakeside data in for project tracking and ultimately for transformation as well into the Azure Migrate platform. So, we’ve been working with Microsoft for a while now and we’ll be launching at Ignite an assessment toolset that will be natively part of the Azure Migrate platform. So, if you have a SysTrack assessment, you can then integrate that data in with your project tracking into Azure Migrate and we’ll be the first and only end-user computing assessment technology that they’ve got integrated with that.    

Heather Bicknell: Could you give a preview of what you’ll be presenting at Ignite and tell people how they can find you there?

Ben Murphy: You might have to help me with where people can find me because I forgot. I’m going to be in the Hub, but...

Heather Bicknell: I’ll share the session link in the show notes.

Ben Murphy: Cool, cool. But I’ll be doing “The ABCs of WVD.” That will be a step through the journey of where we think a lot of customers are going to begin, which is questions about what workloads seem to make sense for Windows Virtual Desktop. And then, transforming their environment into an Azure-hosted cloud service with Windows Virtual Desktop multiuser Windows 10 instances potentially or maybe maintaining a Windows 7 environment. Essentially, it’s stepping through that and the mechanics of how you do a comparison to a before and after to make sure you’re delivering the user experience that people would expect.

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