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March 21, 2019

And Lo, You Could Deploy Windows 10 from Azure

Microsoft announces public preview of Windows Virtual Desktop

By CBR Staff Writer

Microsoft today announced the public preview of Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop, a service that runs Windows 10 and its applications as a service on Azure. For end-users in love with their screen saver and/or bespoke apps, the offering includes “individual ownership” through persistent desktops. (i.e. personal desktop features won’t disappear every time the administrator spins up a new virtual machine in Azure).

Admins, meanwhile, can use the Windows Virtual Desktop PowerShell and REST  interfaces to configure the host pools, create app groups, assign users, and publish resources. This includes the ability to publish full desktop or individual remote apps from a single host pool, create individual app groups for different sets of users or assign users to multiple app groups to reduce the number of images.

“With Windows Virtual Desktop, you can deploy and scale your Windows desktops and apps on Azure in minutes and enjoy built-in security”, Julia White, Corporate VP for Microsoft Azure, and Brad Anderson, Corporate VP said today. (The offering was first announced in September 2018 and will be generally available in H2).

Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop: Data Transfer to US Initially

The offering may be of particular interest to highly regulated industries like financial services and healthcare.

Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop will allow admins to manage and provision access to corporate data and apps easier more carefully, including providing access to specific apps for certain employees.

Admins beware however: while during public preview, desktops and apps can be deployed on virtual machines (VMs) in any Azure region,  the management solution and data for these VMs will reside during the preview stage in the US, which may result in data transfer to the US while users test the service…

A partnership with Samsung will also mean that mobile workers will be able to access a full Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus suite via the Korean company’s DeX accessory, which effectively allows users to turn their phone/tablet into a PC, while partnerships with other software and service providers will bring a range of other offerings in the Azure marketplace to Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop, Microsoft said.

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Users need the appropriate Windows licences, an Azure subscription, containing a virtual network that either contains or is connected to the Windows Server Active Directory and ideally round-trip (RTT) latency from the client’s network to the Azure region where host pools have been deployed of less than 150 ms.

In other, less welcome news, Microsoft announced that it is ending support for Windows 7 on January 14, 2020.

Allan Liska, senior solutions architect at Recorded Future, said in an emailed comment: “While it is understandable that Microsoft no longer wants to maintain security updates for a 10-year-old operating system, the reality is that Windows 7 still maintains more than 40% of the market share. In some sectors, such as healthcare and manufacturing, that number is even higher. Ceasing security updates for Windows 7 puts these already heavily targeted industries at further risk. ”

He added: “In addition, the cessation of security updates for Windows 7 by Microsoft ignores the reality that we live in a connected world. Many breaches have occurred because an attacker gained access to an insecure home system that was connected to a more secure corporate network via VPN. This decision will leave consumers more exposed, which potentially endangers the networks to which they connect. I highly encourage organisations that are unable to upgrade from Windows 7 at this point to take advantage of Microsoft’s extended support. For home users, it may be time to bite the bullet and upgrade.”

Microsoft is sweetening the Virtual Desktop offering by pushing extended support for Windows 7 back from  January 2020 to January 2023 for customers wanting to support Windows 7 legacy applications via a “comprehensive virtualization solution for Windows 7” it noted.

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