After two years of development and preparation, the news finally came just before Microsoft Ignite 2019 when Microsoft launched their eagerly-awaited Windows Virtual Desktop and at the same time, we launched our enterprise cloud printing solution – ezeep for Azure. This adds a reliable and high-performance printing solution to Windows Virtual Desktop. Above all, thanks to ezeep, the user doesn’t have to deal with any changes, and simply prints as before to the printer nearest them, even if only accessing their desktop via a browser.
Of course, we’re enthusiastic about Windows Virtual Desktop and especially in combination with ezeep. But is the industry ready and the concept already relevant? Our first question was which booth size would best match the expected customer demand at the show. What we didn’t expect was that we weren’t the ones to take that decision.
Microsoft Ignite 2019 was already fully booked in August, so there was only one option left for us – gold sponsorship. After a short, heated internal discussion and following some calls with our booth builder, the decision was clear. We accepted the challenge and flew to Orlando with 15 employees instead of just three.
Microsoft Ignite 2019 proved us right. Our booth was overrun, and not just thanks to its perfect location. Windows Virtual Desktop was one of the main topics at Microsoft Ignite, and companies such as Coca Cola, Ferguson and Beiersdorf were able to account initial experiences.
Two-thirds of our more-than 2,000 booth visitors are already evaluating Windows Virtual Desktop or intend to do so in the future. This alone would have been sufficient for a successful Microsoft Ignite, but also, there was huge interest in enterprise cloud printing itself.
Many customers are convinced of the cloud as an efficiency and productivity driver, but also as a way to meet current and future security requirements. The ability to shift printing to the cloud was really attractive for so many customers.
Whether for the shipping company, which wants to have freight and delivery documents printed at over 400 different locations by contractor drivers or the business which uses MacOS devices at 60% of its workstations, enterprise cloud printing not only enables these scenarios, but it also significantly simplifies printing for IT and end users.
As expected, universities showed great interest in a solution that would allow students to print without complex installation, operation, and billing.
But not just our booth was overrun. You could feel it every moment when an event with 27,000 attendees is sold out.
Not just Microsoft Ignite 2019, but especially the Windows Virtual Desktop team around Scott Manchester also made for a great show.
While Citrix and VMware are still in the process of demonstrating their added value (the VMware Horizon version is not expected until Q1/2020), Microsoft is already adding a whole range of new features.
New WVD Locations
When Windows Virtual Desktop was introduced at the end of September 2019, Microsoft already deviated from the plan to make it available internationally half a year later and instead launched worldwide immediately. The number of available Azure locations has been steadily increasing since the launch. This website provides an up-to-date overview: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/virtual-desktop/assessment/
Desktops from the cloud have the benefit that the actual user end device can be kept as simple as possible. And so, it’s fitting that IGEL, together with Microsoft, announced the imminent availability of the IGEL Edge OS with support for Windows Virtual Desktop. By the end of the year, thin clients will be available, and it will be possible to use a PC with the minimal IGEL Edge OS to access the desktop in the Azure cloud.
We have taken this opportunity to deepen our partnership with IGEL and this operating system will also support ezeep. This will allow companies to move both their desktop and printing infrastructure to the Azure cloud and benefit from fully maintenance-free hardware on-site.
Azure Stack Hub
Anyone who has wondered how Microsoft deals with customers for whom cloud isn’t an option will find their answer here. Azure Stack Hub is a kind of Azure location for an organization’s own data center that can be purchased for €100-200K. It supports a subset of the Azure cloud services and ensures API compatibility, albeit not with the latest version. This means that applications developed for Azure can also run on-premises on the Azure Stack Hub.
What is quite surprising, is that it was announced at Ignite that Windows Virtual Desktop will soon be one of the services supported by the Azure Stack Hub. The desktops would run on-premises, but the control panel would still run in the Azure cloud. For large and medium-sized companies who prefer to manage their data in their own data center, but do not want to miss out on without modern cloud services, this is certainly an interesting option.
Even though this became known before Ignite, it is still an interesting development. Based on the acquired FSLogix technology, a solution was developed which allows applications to be stored separately from the golden image on a file share, in such a way that they are only integrated when a Windows Virtual Desktop is started. This results in a drastically simplified administration.
Now, user profile data, applications, and printer drivers can be kept separate from the golden image thanks to ezeep. The only thing left is the files, but there is good news here as well.
Azure File supports the local domain controller
Local file structures can now also be integrated via Azure Files thanks to the new support of local domain controllers by Azure Files.
WVD Management Portal
Those who previously wanted to run Windows Virtual Desktop needed no reservations about Powershell as this was the only possibility. Even though this was quite quick and easy, many people still shy away from the classic command lines. Microsoft recognized this and introduced the new admin portal. In this video, everyone can get an impression of it for themselves.
If there was a second topic at Ignite that was just as widely discussed, it was definitely Microsoft Teams. Windows Virtual Desktop should not limit the use of teams, and Scott Manchester, Group Program Manager for Windows Virtual Desktop and Remote Desktop Services at Microsoft, presented at a Microsoft Mechanics session the appropriate Teams support.
Since the latency and resource usage for the popular Team video chats is more than suboptimal when running inside the virtual desktop, future versions of Windows Virtual Desktop clients will be able to redirect communication directly to the other person’s client. Instead of communicating via the cloud, there will be direct real-time communication between the two end-devices. During the presentation at least, no delay was visible.
There is no doubt that Microsoft is pushing into the desktop-as-a-service market with real enthusiasm. It’s time for customers to take a look around in this environment. Certainly, some will choose Citrix Managed Desktop or VMware Horizon 7. Both will refine Windows Virtual Desktop. On the other hand, it might be an intelligent decision to choose Windows Virtual Desktop as a pure Microsoft solution and complement it with products from the Windows Virtual Desktop launch partners. These include CloudJumper, Control Up, Lakeside, Liquidware and of course our own cloud printing solution ezeep. This not only provides best-of-breed but also leaves room for further innovation on behalf of Microsoft.
To promote this approach at Microsoft Ignite, together with our partners CloudJumper, Liquidware, Lakeside, ControlUp and IGEL we not only organized an evening at a nearby kart track, but also created a passport game at Ignite that guided visitors through the world of Windows Virtual Desktop.
For us, the crowning finale on the last day of Ignite was the full session “A Reference Architecture for Windows Virtual Desktop Printing”.
In the end, we just had enough energy left over to celebrate an incredibly successful Ignite in Hogwarts.