VDI on Azure: WVD vs. RDS

What VDI Options are Offered on Azure?

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) allows organizations to provision operating systems and applications to users remotely. The Microsoft Azure cloud offers two VDI solutions, in a desktop as a service (DaaS) model. These are:

  • Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD)—a new offering based on a redesigned version of Windows 10 that supports multi-session access.
  • Remote Desktop Services (RDS)—a legacy option that runs both on-premises and in the Azure cloud, based on Windows Server 2016.

We’ll discuss both WVD and RDS, and which solution is best for your organization.

Azure VDI Services

Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD)

Azure can provide either multi-session virtual desktops based on Windows 10, or dedicated virtual desktops. It provides a complete desktop virtualization environment without running gateway servers or other management components, in a full desktop as a service (DaaS) model.

WVD allows you to run multi session desktops to save costs and conserve resources on virtual machines, while providing an authentic Windows 10 user experience, using the new Windows 10 Enterprise Multisession. Desktops can be persistent, to allow users to save personal data and settings. You can import desktop images from Azure Gallery for production workloads or testing.

Key managed and administrative features include:

  • Multiple management features—using Azure portal, PowerShell, and REST APIs
  • A single host pool can serve entire desktops or virtualized applications
  • Assigning users to multiple application groups to conserve images, reducing storage
  • Delegated access to user desktops to troubleshoot errors and provide support, with a full diagnostic service to help remediate errors.
  • Administrators only need to manage desktop images and virtual machines—the rest of the VDI infrastructure is managed by Azure

Related content: read our guide to Windows Virtual Desktop vs Citrix

Azure Remote Desktop Services (RDS)

RDS, a veteran VDI solution from Microsoft which is nearing end of life, can run in several deployment models:

  • On-premises using Microsoft Server 2016 instances and additional management components
  • In the Azure Cloud
  • On other partner solutions

RDS supports two main virtualization options:

  • Session-based virtualization—enables multiple users to share the resources of one Windows Server machine, but requires users to work in a Windows Server UI
  • VDI—uses a Windows client to provide high performance, application compatibility, and a familiar Windows desktop environment.

Virtualized environments can be exposed to users as a full desktop with an environment that lets them install and manage a variety of applications. This is suitable for users who use the remote desktop as a primary work environment.

Alternatively, RDS provides RemoteApps, which provides a single application, hosted on a virtual machine but looks like a local application on the user’s desktop. This is suitable for allowing users to access applications from a remote desktop.

Azure WVD vs RDS: Choosing a VDI Solution in Microsoft Azure

There are several factors to consider when deciding whether to use RDS or WVD for VDI on Azure. RDS technology has evolved over time, and is robust and predictable. It isn’t perfect, but it works well as a hosted desktop solution, and is used by many organizations as a low cost replacement for VDI technology like Citrix.

Consider using RDS in Azure for the following reasons:

  • RDS provides more control over the VDI control plane, including RDS roles, which are fully managed in WVD. This may be important for security or compliance reasons.
  • RDS has been operating successfully for years in large-scale enterprise environments
  • Applications created for Windows Server may not work without updates in Windows 10 Enterprise Multisession, which is used by WVD.

Conversely, WVD may be more attractive for the following reasons:

  • Allows you to use native Windows 10 desktops with a familiar user experience, instead of a Windows 10 “experience” on a server operating system in RDS.
  • Much simpler license management—straightforward pay per use model, as opposed to complex management of multiple layers of licenses in RDS
  • DaaS-style hosted service which is much less complex to operate than RDS. The WVD control plane is fully hosted and managed by Azure.
  • WVD supports index search on OneDrive, which is not provided by RDS
  • Includes user profile container technology from FSLogix, which includes support for bookmarks, shortcuts, and a custom Start menu.
  • Improved integration with Azure AD – see the detailed note in Azure AD documentation

Addressing DaaS Challenges with Hysolate Isolated Workspace as a Service

DaaS is a great solution for delivering a desktop experience in the cloud, but is far from perfect. When users work remotely, especially in low bandwidth environments, user experience is lacking, especially when running intensive workloads. Users cannot use desktops offline, and there is still management overhead, although less than in an on-premise VDI deployment.

Another factor to consider is the pricing of these solutions. Hosting desktops and storage in the cloud requires a large infrastructure investment from the DaaS vendor, which is passed on to organizational users, creating a heavy, ongoing OpEx expense.

Hysolate solves these problems with an innovative approach called isolated workspace as a service (IWaaS). Users get a local isolated operating system running on their machine deployed within minutes and managed from the cloud.

Isolated workspaces enable:

  • A higher level of freedom on employees corporate devices
  • Ability to receive 3rd party generated content in an isolated zone
  • Access to IT admins, DevOps, developers, and other privileged users in their everyday environment
  • Access to employees from personal, unmanaged devices

The behavior of the workspace is managed in the cloud, while all of the computing resources run locally on user machines.

This eliminates the need to invest in a large and costly infrastructure, and provides a better local user experience, with offline availability.

Learn more about our Isolated- Workspace as-a-Service platform