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AVD or RDS - how do I decide which one is the right option for me?

Remote Desktop Services (RDS) is the tried and true, well tested technology option from Microsoft for serving up virtual desktops. Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) was launched by Microsoft in the fall of 2019. AVD 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 AVD 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 AVD over legacy RDS. Among them:

  1. AVD is a new, up-to-date, and very exciting technology from Microsoft
  2. AVD allows for native Windows 10 desktop instead of a Windows 10 "desktop experience" on Server OS with RDS
  3. AVD includes user profile container technology from FSLogix
  4. AVD Management Service is the control plane that's hosted and managed by Microsoft in Azure
  5. AVD supports OneDrive and indexed search in pooled desktops

Some MSPs may choose to continue using RDS over AVD for the following reasons:

  1. RDS is a mature, well understood, and market-tested solution
  2. Applications that were written for RDS on Server OS may not work in Windows 10 Enterprise multi-session right away
  3. 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)
  4. RDS can be used both on-premise and in Azure while AVD is Azure only

II. The price-tag based decision

Let’s say that you are indifferent between AVD and RDS based on the technical reasons above. If your primary deciding factor is based on cost, then how do you decide? That depends on whether the customer already owns a subscription to Windows 10 Enterprise.

Scenario A: Customer already owns Windows 10 Enterprise subscription or is going to be licensing Microsoft 365 anyway

  • AVD is the winner on cost
  • There is no additional licensing cost for AVD 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 AVD

  • RDS and AVD are pretty much a tie on cost
  • The incremental cost of Windows 10 Enterprise E3 subscription is $7/user/month but the incremental cost of RDS SAL & Server 2016 license is roughly $6-$8 per user/month
  • RDS may be 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.

AVD simplifies 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 AVD and RDS, refer to this KB article.

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