For either of the two packages, users must purchase both a compute license for PC capacity and a software license for Windows. Microsoft has yet to post details on compute license SKUs, but there will be 12 available when Windows 365 enters general availability according to a blog post on Nerdio’s website. Those will range from virtual devices equipped with one CPU, 2 GB of memory, and 64 GB of storage to VMs bearing 8 CPUs, 32 GB of RAM, and 512 GB of storage.
Software licenses must be tied to a version of Microsoft 365 that includes Windows, such as the Business Premium, E3, and E5 subscriptions.
Introduced in 2019 under the name Windows Virtual Desktop, AVD has been popular since the start of the coronavirus pandemic with businesses looking to keep home-based and mobile employees securely and continuously connected to the applications and data they use at the office. According to Landes, Windows 365 is an alternative to Azure Virtual Desktop rather than a replacement.
“There’s space for both of those in the world,” he says, adding that AVD is a more configurable choice for channel pros with appropriate skills.
“There will be many MSPs who have gone out, they’ve gotten their Azure Virtual Desktop specialization, they love spending time on things like image management and performance management and reporting and many other things around auto-scaling,” Landes says. “They’ll probably want to keep using Azure Virtual Desktop for that, because it’s much more flexible.”
Windows 365, by contrast, requires little to no experience but offers far less customization as well. “The whole notion of Windows 365 was to make it simpler, to make it easier, and to really provide fewer choices for people,” Landes says.
The system will be easy for most Microsoft partners to purchase and deploy too, he continues. “It’s simply like adding another SKU to their Microsoft 365 order.” Indeed, Landes expects Windows 365’s ease of use to enable a wider cross-section of channel pros to add cloud-based virtual desktops to their service roster.
“There’ll be some who are brand new to virtual desktops who intellectually know they need to get there, but don’t know how,” he says. “They’ll see this as a new opportunity for them to finally move into the cloud and move into the VDI space.”
Another Windows 365 advantage, for Microsoft partners and their customers alike, is that users pay for the service at flat, predictable monthly rates. “With Azure Virtual Desktop, you have to pay based on how much compute you use,” Landes notes.
IDC expected spending on desktop-as-a-service solutions to reach $2.99 billion in 2021 even before COVID-19 made such offerings more relevant. Landes sees much more upside ahead for that market.
“I think we’re still only scratching the surface of the percent of users who are making use of a virtual desktop,” he says. “What this announcement does today with Windows 365 is that bring the ability to consume a virtual desktop to more users.”