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Microsoft  announce that Azure Virtual Desktop running in your Datacenter will soon be possible.  Read on to find out how MSPs will be able to offer Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) solutions on their own infrastructure.

Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) is now an established platform for delivering Windows installed Apps and Desktops. Licensing through Microsoft 365 SKUs and access to Windows 10 multi-session makes this a competitive option for DaaS or Application hosting.   

Leading Service Providers have been delivering Hosted Desktops using Citrix, RDS and VMware solutions with Atria. Atria enables these MSP’s to scale their helpdesks, provide self-service and reduce costs by utilising shared infrastructure, The only thing we haven’t been able to help with is Microsoft Licensing Constraints! 

At Ignite this week, Microsoft announced that Azure Virtual Desktop is coming to Azure Stack HCI.  I’ll come on to Azure Stack HCI in a moment, but the bottom line – Service Providers will be able to take the benefits of Azure Virtual Desktop and deliver from their own Datacenter.


Here are some of the potential benefits to Service Providers

Windows 10 Multi-Session is available outside of Azure

Without this change, it is difficult to create a true Windows 10 remote desktop experience – licensing constraints make delivering Windows 10 VDI challenging or impossible, Windows 10 multi-session is not available.

Access to Microsoft 365 Licensing Benefits

Service providers today require SPLA licensing. This needs licensing for Infrastructure, RDS per-user license, and an Office Pro Plus license per-user.  Then, QMTH (Qualified Multi-tenant Hoster) programme membership is required to legally use the Office Pro Plus components from Office 365 on shared infrastructure. Note that this is only open to Direct CSP partners

Partners not in the QMTH programme, need to license office via SPLA. This comes with constraints, A fundamental one is that it is only permitted for use in the hosted environment, unlike Office 365 which can be installed on 5 devices.  In all, super complicated for the partner, less competitive and more complex for end-customers.

After this change – Service providers can buy an M365 License which can:

  • Provide Office Licenses which can be used in the hosted desktop AND on all devices
  • Stop paying for RDS licenses – as this is also included

Low Latency and low cost connection to other Apps and Services

With infrastructure now in your datacentre, connectivity and access to other resources such as file systems, databases and ERP applications becomes an easier proposition.  No egress and Ingress charges, no latency issues.

Full control of data and data location

Due to legislation, in many markets there is a growing reluctance to move data into foreign owned cloud providers.  Although this service is managed from Azure, the data is retained and controlled within the Azure Stack HCI deployment.

Price Differentiation

I believe the economics of the licensing changes and potential reduction in hardware and networking costs will allow Service Providers to deliver a competitive option with increased margins.

Azure Stack HCI

Azure Stack HCI is the Microsoft Platform for running infrastructure outside of Azure. HCI stands for Hyper Converged Infrastructure – Physical server units, each with CPU and Storage, join together using High Speed networking to create a high performance and scalable fabric for hosting virtual infrastructure.

Azure Stack HCI is Azure managed and licensed through the CSP programme. So this means, it’s licensed alongside your M365 licenses. Licensing is on a per-core basis. The underlying technology is based on Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct.

All major server hardware manufacturers provide Azure Stack HCI boxed solutions. For the brave, it is also possible to repurpose existing hardware (provided it meets the minimum requirements)

The downside is that you wont be able to use any pre-existing SAN or VMWare infrastructure for running Azure virtual desktops – you have to be all in with Azure Stack HCI – at minimum for the part that’s hosting your desktops

Preview Now

Azure Virtual Desktop for Azure Stack HCI is currently in preview, with general availability expected next year.

Atria for Azure Virtual Desktop

Atria’s workspace management features are used today to deliver Azure Virtual Desktops, simplify the provisioning and management of M365 subscriptions and provide customers with self-service. We expect interest from MSPs wanting to deliver Azure Virtual Desktop offerings from their private deployments of Azure Stack HCI and will be working with MSPs to provide guidance.