What is Windows 365?
On 14th July, Microsoft unveiled Windows 365 and hailed it a new category of computing.
Windows 365 is a cloud-based virtual desktop solution, streamed securely from the Microsoft Azure public cloud to any compatible device*Requires an HTML5 compatible web browser. This Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) offering from Microsoft provides a predictable per-user-per-month cost per cloud PC, with 12 different resource configurations to choose from.
Business & Enterprise Plans
There are two flavours of Windows 365 Cloud PCs to choose from – Windows 365 Business and Windows 365 Enterprise.
Windows 365 Business, is designed for small businesses. There are no technology prerequisites; purchasing, deploying, and managing Cloud PCs is all achieved from the Windows 365 portal. This basic version of W365 doesn’t require an Azure subscription, Active Directory domain or any other infrastructure. Everything works with Azure AD and Microsoft manages all of it.
Windows 365 Enterprise provides more control and features, giving IT greater control over the Cloud PCs they deploy. Enterprise Cloud PCs can only be joined to a traditional Active Directory domain (Azure AD DS and Azure AD join are not currently supported) and are managed using existing tooling from Microsoft Endpoint Manager. An Intune license is therefore required for each user assigned an enterprise Cloud PC.
Windows 365 vs Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD)
With the launch of Windows 365 Cloud PC, you may rightly be wondering where this leaves Microsoft’s not-so-old Azure Virtual Desktop solution (at least we now understand why it was recently renamed from Windows Virtual Desktop!). To try and normalise these two seemingly identical cloud desktop solutions into familiar cloud terminology, W365 is a DaaS (Desktop-as-a-Service) or SaaS solution from Microsoft, delivering a fully provisioned desktop to an end-user, with Microsoft taking care of all the infrastructure and platform components required to deliver that desktop, whilst AVD is a PaaS solution, with Microsoft managing the underlying RDS infrastructure, but IT admins still responsible for administering the platform and virtual desktops themselves.
Both AVD and Windows 365 leverage the same set of Microsoft cloud technologies. Windows 365 is built on top of existing AVD components, but its billing model is crucially different (fixed price for W365 vs. consumption based for AVD). Realising the true value of AVD and its consumption-based billing model requires virtual desktop specialists who can unlock the true potential of the platform by leveraging dynamic scaling, multi-session desktops and profile virtualisation capabilities to name but a few, whereas W365 can be deployed and configured within minutes, with minimal IT expertise and left for Microsoft to manage, at a premium of course.
The pandemic and resultant shortage of physical hardware pushed many smaller organisations to adopt AVD in a hurry, resulting in spiralling consumption costs because they lack the expertise to effectively manage the platform. Microsoft’s hope is that Windows 365 will plug that gap and provide organisations with a quick, easy and cost-effective way to provision desktops in the cloud, on demand.
When comparing the operating costs of the two solutions, W365 is approximately 11% cheaper than AVD when deploying persistent, per-user desktops. The scales begin to tip in AVD’s favour however, once you begin utilising AVD’s full capabilities with a pooled host pool, available 50 hours per week (based on 10 hours/day, 5 days/week) saving approximately 58% compared to W365.
To put it simply, Windows 365 is optimised for simplicity, whilst Azure Virtual Desktop is optimised for flexibility.
Windows 365 is the obvious choice for small businesses looking for a simple, cost-effective way to deploy Cloud PCs which requires minimal ongoing management. For enterprise organisations however, things aren’t quite so clear-cut. W365 is favourable for very small Cloud PC deployments such as proof-of-concepts, or for organisations that require predictable per-user pricing, such as those who intend to cross-charge Cloud PCs to another department or organisation. Azure Virtual Desktop remains the natural evolution for on-premises virtual desktop environments or organisations with infrequent virtual desktop users, such as those utilising it as part of their disaster recovery strategy.
It’s therefore paramount that enterprise organisations developing their cloud desktop strategy carefully consider both solutions. We work with our customers to help them make an informed decision, aligning back to their underlying business requirement. Irrespective of the chosen solution, we have assessment, deployment, management, and optimisation services to compliment both Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop.
Get in touch today for help developing your organisation’s Cloud desktop strategy.