Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD, formerly known as Windows Virtual Desktop or WVD) is Microsoft’s offering to enable virtualization of desktops and applications in the cloud. As more organizations migrate their resources and services to the cloud, the concept of a cloud-hosted desktop environment has become increasingly popular. AVD comes as a natural evolution step on the cloud, following the Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS) on-premises technology. This blog post provides an Azure Virtual Desktop AVD overview of architecture and use cases.
What is Azure Virtual Desktop?
Azure Virtual Desktop is a cloud-based service that provides a scalable and secure virtual desktop experience. It allows users to access Windows desktops and applications from anywhere on any device. Backed by Azure’s robust cloud infrastructure, AVD offers built-in security and compliance features.
Architecture of Azure Virtual Desktop
At its core, AVD is about virtualizing Windows OS, apps, and data, and delivering them to users. The main components include:
- Host Pools: This is a collection of VMs that provide users with Windows desktop experiences. There are two types: Pooled (multi-user) and Personal (single-user).
- App Groups: Defines which apps or desktops are available to users. Two types include RemoteApps (for individual apps) and Desktops (full desktop experience).
- Workspace: A grouping mechanism that aggregates app groups for end users. When a user logs into AVD, the workspace shows all apps and desktops available to them.
- Profile Containers: Uses Azure Blob Storage to store user profiles, ensuring a consistent experience regardless of the VM they connect to.
A typical architectural setup for Azure Virtual Desktop is illustrated in the following diagram.
Design Decisions for Azure Virtual Desktop
When setting up AVD, several key design decisions must be made:
- Licensing: Ensure you have the appropriate licenses for your Windows OS version and Microsoft 365 if applicable.
- User Profile Storage: Decide on storage solutions like FSLogix (recommended by Microsoft) to provide a consistent user experience.
- Network Design: Network connectivity between on-premises resources and Azure, possibly using Azure ExpressRoute or VPN.
- Scaling: Whether to use Azure Automation to auto-scale VMs based on demand to optimize costs.
- Image Management: Decide if you’ll use a golden image (a template for VMs) and how to update and manage it.
- Security: Implement Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), Role-Based Access Control (RBAC), and Azure AD conditional access.
Use Cases for Azure Virtual Desktop
- Remote Work: For individuals who need to access their personal desktop environment from different locations or devices.
- Learning and Training: Setting up virtual labs for learning, without affecting personal PC settings.
- High Performance Needs: Users needing occasional access to high-performance computing without investing in high-end personal hardware.
- Enterprise Mobility: Employees accessing their work environment from different devices and locations, ensuring data security and compliance.
- Software Development and Testing: Developers can use AVD to test in a clean environment, ensuring that applications work smoothly for all users.
- Seasonal Workers: Rather than invest in hardware for temporary employees, companies can provide them with virtual desktops that can be scaled down after the peak period.
- Secure Data Access: For industries like finance and healthcare where data security is paramount, AVD offers a controlled environment where data can’t be downloaded or misused.
- Mergers and Acquisitions: As companies merge, they often face IT integration challenges. AVD can provide a unified desktop experience while backend systems are integrated.
Azure Virtual Desktop is a testament to how cloud services continue to revolutionize the way we think about IT infrastructure and resources. With its flexible and scalable architecture, coupled with robust security features, it caters to a wide variety of use cases, both personal and enterprise. Proper design decisions ensure a smooth and cost-effective implementation, making AVD a go-to solution for desktop virtualization in the modern cloud era.