Many companies today are tackling the challenges of a hybrid workforce and planning to adopt a flexible working model for their business. They have either already invested in cloud-based virtual desktop solutions or are considering making the move. Such solutions have helped companies to not worry about compromising on either productivity or security of their assets. According to a recent report, the virtual desktop infrastructure market is forecasted to grow about 17% CAGR between 2021 to 2026.
Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop are both DaaS (Desktop-as-a-Service) solutions provided by Microsoft. In this blog, we will look at some differences between them.
What is Windows 365?
Windows 365 by Microsoft is a new PC-as-a-Service experience, streaming a version of Windows 10 or 11 in a web browser that can be accessed on any device and from anywhere. Yes, virtualization and remote access has been around for quite some time now, but with Windows 365, Microsoft aims to bring the Cloud PC experience for businesses that want to support hybrid and remote work for their employees. You can easily access Windows 365 on any modern web browser and allow your employees to access their Windows session with the same apps, data, tools, and settings on macOS, Android or Linux machines.
What is Azure Virtual Desktop?
Azure Virtual Desktop is a desktop application and visualization service that runs on the Azure cloud. It has several benefits including cost-efficiency (a lot cheaper than the traditional Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) and scalability. Check out this blog for more details on the benefits of using Azure Virtual desktop. Azure Virtual Desktop is available in personal and pooled deployments, both based on the Azure Virtual Desktop control plane.
Azure Virtual Desktop and Windows 365 Comparison
🖥️ Operating System and Control Plane:
Windows 365 provides either a Windows 10 or windows 11 (single session) personalized desktop experience. It is a Microsoft managed end-to-end solution and is built to ensure easy deployment. There are two versions available - enterprise and business. When you choose the enterprise version, you leverage Intune or Microsoft’s endpoint manager to manage and configure the sessions. You can actually provision your desktops, assign users to them, and modify desktops. The business edition of Windows 365 follows the direct self-service model with no external management. It is a standalone desktop that a user can log into and access resources.
Azure Virtual Desktop supports Windows 11 and Windows 10 Enterprise multi-session, Windows 10 Enterprise, Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows Server 2019, Windows Server 2016, And Windows Server 2012 R2. Both Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop share the same global control plane (web portal, licensing, gateway, etc.) managed by Microsoft.
☁️ Azure Compute and Administration:
Azure Virtual Desktop and Windows 365 both require Azure subscriptions. Azure compute for Windows 365 is 100% managed by Microsoft as Virtual Machines (VMs) for Windows 365 run in Microsoft’s Azure Subscription with a fixed cost and no direct admin access to underlying VMs. As these VMs run in Microsoft’s Azure subscription, you are not charged for compute costs and do not have the auto-scale or reserved instances feature for your cloud PCs.
In contrast, Azure Virtual Desktop follows a consumption-based pricing model. The VMs for Azure Virtual Desktop run in your Azure subscription. Pricing for Azure Virtual Desktop is based on usage; hence, the auto-scaling feature can benefit your organization in saving costs for VMs. Citrix or VMware customers who are leveraging their VDI solutions can extend them with Azure Virtual Desktop and run on a hybrid mode. In these cases, you are able to take advantage of the windows 10 multi-session scenario and continue to leverage the investment that you have in either Citrix or VMware.
With the aim to simplify configuration and usability, Windows 365 provides fully managed storage (limited storage) on a fixed price (per-user-per-month model). For example, if you have 25 people you want to provide desktops to, Microsoft will spin up 25 instances of Windows 365 but allows you to have that fixed per user per month costing. As the pricing is fixed, there is no feature of autoscaling as well as reserved instances. Also, as Windows 365 delivers single-session desktops for individual users, there is no FSLogix container technology for them.
When it comes to the storage aspect of Azure Virtual Desktop, it is customer managed with flexibility to select type and size of OS disks as well as FSLogix profiles.
|Windows 365 Business||Windows 365 Enterprise||Azure Virtual Desktop Single User||Azure Virtual Desktop Multi-User (pooled)|
|Control plane||Azure Virtual Desktop||Azure Virtual Desktop||Azure Virtual Desktop||Azure Virtual Desktop|
|Azure Subscription||Microsoft Managed||Microsoft Managed Except Networking||Customer managed||Customer managed|
|Compute||Microsoft Managed Fixed cost No admin access to VMs||Microsoft Managed Fixed cost No admin access to VMs||Customer managed Usage based cost Flexible||Customer managed Usage based cost Flexible|
|Storage||Microsoft Managed Fixed cost Not flexible Difficult to backup||Microsoft Managed Fixed cost Not flexible Difficult to backup||Customer Managed OS Disks FSLogix Flexible Easy to Backup||Customer Managed OS Disks FSLogix Flexible Easy to Backup|
|Networking||Microsoft Managed Fixed cost No admin access No flexibility||Customer managed Usage based cost Flexible routing IPs Security||Customer managed Usage based cost Flexible routing IPs Security||Customer managed Usage based cost Flexible routing IPs Security|
|User Profiles||No FSLogix||No FSLogix||FSLogix Optional||FSLogix Mandatory|
|Identity||Azure AD join only||Hybrid AD Join required Azure AD DS Not supported||AD DS required Windows AD or Azure AD DS supported Native Azure AD Join roadmapped||AD DS required Windows AD or Azure AD DS supported Native Azure AD Join roadmapped|
Windows 365’s Enterprise version has fully customer-managed networking with flexible routing, IPs, and security. You have the ability to create a network adapter that ties back into your tenant. Your users that log into Windows 365 Enterprise can access your Azure resources and your on-premise resources. Windows 365 Business is managed by Microsoft with fixed costs but no flexibility. There is no connectivity back to your on-premise or Azure tenant. Windows 365 Business is designed for those organizations that are entirely cloud-based or leveraging office 365 and do not have any dependencies on an on-premises environment.
When using Azure Virtual Desktop, VMs are created in the customer’s Azure subscription. This means you have complete control of the network routing, IPs and security of the virtual network and the flexibility of a usage-based cost structure.
🧔 User Profile and Identity:
As Windows 365 Cloud PCs are single-session desktops, the FSLogix profile feature is not available. With Azure Virtual Desktop, you can leverage FSLogix profile container technology to switch between VMs easily. When it comes to Identity management considerations for Windows 365, Hybrid AD Join is required and for Azure Virtual Desktop AD Domain Services is required.
✔️ Onboarding and Pricing Model:
Windows 365 offers a fixed pricing model for customers depending on the configuration of their Cloud PC. For Azure Virtual Desktop, charges are based on consumption and on the number of applications and desktop services you are using.
Onboarding for Windows 365 would simply require you to select your configuration and payment plan. For Azure Virtual Desktop, you can either login to your Azure portal or use WVDQuickStart for faster onboarding.
Which solution is the right fit for my organization?
Windows 365 is noted as a personalized cloud PC, supported across a wide range of devices. Azure Virtual Desktop is a turnkey solution where literally within minutes you can have a desktop available for a new user. It allows you to have more comprehensive control over your virtualized desktop experience.
Both services run on top of the Azure cloud architecture and share the same control plane. In essence, it can be concluded that Windows 365 is built around simplicity and Azure Virtual Desktop around flexibility.
Organizations lacking dedicated in-house IT resources or in-house teams to manage Azure Virtual Desktop might want to choose Windows 365. That being said, choosing the right DaaS (Desktop as a Service) solution really depends on your unique operational needs.
Contact us for a complimentary consultation to understand which solution is the right fit for your organization’s needs.
Edited by: Nikita Gill and Betty Quon