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Microsoft Unveils Azure Virtual Desktop As New Name For WVD, Adds Management Features

The company also unveiled new security capabilities for the platform, which was previously known as Windows Virtual Desktop.

Microsoft has rebranded its virtual desktop infrastructure platform under the Azure name and announced new security and management capabilities under preview.

Previously known as Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD), the platform will now be known as Azure Virtual Desktop, Microsoft said Monday.

[Related: Nerdio Seeing Growth Surge Amid ‘Unbelievable’ WVD Demand]

The company has also launched public previews of several features in Azure Virtual Desktop to improve security and management for users, such as enhanced Azure Active Directory support, Kam VedBrat, Microsoft partner group program manager, wrote in a blog post on Monday.

Select users of Azure Virtual Desktop will gain the enhanced support for Azure Active Directory, which is used to manage security controls and user access to apps and data. Users will soon gain the ability to enroll virtual machines automatically with Microsoft Endpoint Manager, making deployment easier and reducing the need for a domain controller, VedBrat said.

Channel partners told CRN that more integrations for Azure Virtual Desktop will help users to adopt the platform. Phil Walker, CEO of Network Solutions Provider, a Microsoft partner based in Manhattan Beach, Calif., said he hopes to see more integrations between Azure Virtual Desktop and Microsoft 365.

“That’ll help grow adoption,” Walker said. “Customers want tools that will help them with efficiency and productivity in this new digital economy.”

Another new capability in preview is the ability to join Azure Virtual Desktop virtual machines to Azure Active Directory and connect to the virtual machine from any properly credentialed device. VedBrat calls this “just the beginning of the journey towards full integration with Azure Active Directory.”

Single sign-on, new credential types -- including FIDO2 -- and Azure Files for cloud users are other future capabilities, he said.

Preview users can enroll Windows 10 Enterprise multi-session Azure Virtual Desktop virtual machines in Microsoft Endpoint Manager and manage them like shared physical devices in the admin center, VedBrat said.

A new onboarding experience in the Azure portal will start an automated deployment of a Virtual Desktop environment, he said. And finally, independent software vendors can pay a monthly per-user access price to use Azure Virtual Desktop to deliver apps for customers to stream as opposed to just internal employees, VedBrat said.

In a report published last year, IDC MarketScape ranked Microsoft among the “major players” for virtual client computing, alongside vendors such as Amazon and CloudJumper. However, Microsoft still lagged behind virtual client computing leaders Citrix and VMware, according to the report.

Zac Paulson, CEO of TrueIT, a Microsoft partner based in Fargo, N.D., said that physical desktops remain a large pain point for managed service providers. Setting up physical desktops to clients’ specifications and removing unnecessary pre-loaded software consumes a lot of time, unlike virtual desktops, he said.

“I hope it becomes as easy to add a virtual desktop as buying a computer,” Paulson said.

The rebranding to Azure from Windows reflects a growing adoption of the cloud brand, Paulson said. The Azure name may not be as familiar with consumers as Windows or Xbox, but Paulson said he can see awareness growing as Microsoft names more cloud-enabled tools under the Azure banner.

“Some day, I’ll hear my mom talking about Azure like she talks about YouTube or Windows,” he said.

Last July, Gavriella Schuster, who was then Microsoft’s channel chief, said that Windows Virtual Desktop had been seeing a spike in demand with the shift to remote work during the pandemic and was an opportunity for partners. And in December, an executive with Chicago-based Azure automation provider Nerdio told CRN that the company had seen “unbelievable” demand for the Windows Virtual Desktop offering during the pandemic.

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