Remote Desktop Services (RDS) is the tried and true, well tested technology option from Microsoft for serving up virtual desktops. Microsoft announced the public preview of Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) in March 2019. WVD is a newer, modern, Azure services based option for running virtual desktops. With Nerdio for Azure, you can run virtual desktop centric IT environments with either technology. You must choose between RDS and WVD at the very onset, when you provision the IT environment by clicking the "Add NFA account" button.
How should an MSP decide on the right path forward?
I. The technology based decision
There are many technical reasons to choose WVD over legacy RDS. Among them:
- WVD is a new, up-to-date, and very exciting technology from Microsoft
- WVD allows for native Windows 10 desktop instead of a Windows 10 "desktop experience" with RDS
- WVD includes profile management technology from FSLogix
- WVD management service is managed by Microsoft and is a PaaS service
- WVD supports OneDrive and indexed search in pooled desktops
Some MSPs may choose to continue using RDS over WVD for the following reasons:
- RDS is a mature, well understood, and market tested solution
- Applications that were written for RDS on Server OS may not work in Windows 10 Enterprise multi-session right away
- Customers and service providers may want to retain full ownership of not just the desktop VMs but also the control plane (i.e. RDS roles)
- RDS can be used both on-premise and in Azure while WVD is Azure only
II. The price-tag based decision
Let’s say that you are indifferent between WVD and RDS based on the technical reasons above. If your primary decision factor is based on cost, then how do you decide? That depends on whether the customer already owns a subscription to Windows 10 Enterprise under any of the Microsoft licensing programs mentioned above.
Scenario A: Customer already owns Windows 10 Enterprise subscription or is going to be licensing Microsoft 365 anyway
- WVD is the winner on cost
- There is no additional licensing cost for WVD Management Service
- There is no need for any additional Azure VMs to run the control plane
Scenario B: Customer does not own Windows 10 Enterprise subscription and is not planning on purchasing it for any reason other than potentially using WVD
- RDS is the winner on cost (but not by much)
- Incremental cost of Windows 10 Enterprise subscription is $7+ per user/month but the incremental cost of RDS SAL & Server 2016 license is roughly $6-$8 per user/month
- RDS is the winner only if there are 25 or more desktop users. Although there are savings per user/month there are also costs for RDS infrastructure VMs. If your customer has very few desktop users, the cost of these additional VMs may exceed the per-user savings.
WVD holds the promise to simplify the licensing and deployment of virtual desktops in Azure. With many organizations moving towards Microsoft 365 and Azure, it is a natural and relatively low-cost way to deploy desktops and applications in the cloud, unlike anything else that is available from other public cloud providers.
For a head-to-head comparison between WVD and RDS, refer to this KB article.