The recently released Microsoft Windows 365 service and Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) are both Desktop-as-a-Service solutions from Microsoft but there are several important differences between them. In this article, we’ll take a look at what to expect from these solutions and the main differences when choosing which one is better suited to your business.
Azure Virtual Desktop
Azure Virtual Desktop is a desktop and app virtualisation service that runs on Microsoft Azure. Instead of logging in to your desktop running locally on a single physical device (e.g. laptop or PC) you access a desktop running remotely in the Cloud via Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD).
AVD can be accessed from any device – Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Linux – with applications that you can use to access remote desktops and applications, including multi-session Windows 10 and Microsoft 365 apps for enterprise. You can also use most modern browsers to access Azure Virtual Desktop-hosted experiences.
Typically, Azure Virtual Desktop is easier to deploy and manage than traditional Remote Desktop Services (RDS) or VDI environments. With AVD, you don’t have to provision and manage servers and server roles such as the gateway, connection broker, diagnostics, load balancing and licensing.
In short, Azure Virtual Desktop provides a managed VDI that is secure, cost-effective and offers a seamless experience that is comparable to a laptop or local desktop.
Windows 365 is a virtualization solution or put differently a cloud service where you can log in and access a cloud PC. This cloud PC has Windows 11 and includes Microsoft 365. Each Cloud PC is assigned to an individual user and completely secure. You can then access this Cloud PC on any device.
Windows 365 provides a simple provisioning process whereby you simply add a Windows 365 license to a user in Azure Active Directory and the solution is automatically spun up for them.
Windows 365 comes with Endpoint Management and Intune integration to help support better device management, admin support and provisioning.
Windows 365 offers fixed-price licensing (through Microsoft 365) for different Cloud PC sizes. When you assign a license to a user, you need to select one of several size options. Each has a different number of CPUs, RAM, and storage, and is intended to support different usage scenarios. Assess your business requirements to determine which sizes make sense for your users.
The difference between Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop
AVD securely delivers virtual desktops and remote apps with maximum control whereas Windows 365 is a complete software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution that securely streams your personalised Windows experience – all your apps, content and settings – to any device.
When it comes to comparing the solutions, it is useful to note that Windows 365 is optimised for simplicity whereas Azure Virtual Desktop is designed to offer a more flexible solution. Here are just some other key differences that we think are worth noting.
Architecture and compute
Both virtual desktop services run on top of the Azure cloud architecture and share the same global control plane. There are many similarities between them at that level, but the main difference lies in how each service is deployed.
With AVD, you use session host virtual machines (VMs) instead of cloud-based computers. That means you can use auto-scaling and reserved instances with AVD to optimise cloud costs based on usage. While Windows 365 Cloud PCs are permanently dedicated to individual users, AVD session host VMs can be used as both personal computers and pooled desktops.
Suitable for businesses of any size, AVD is suited for those requiring full control over virtualised infrastructure and app streaming capabilities. Windows 365 on the other hand is suited to small, Medium SMBs (up to 300 seats) and is ideal for Enterprise customers requiring a simple solution.
The IT admin experience varies greatly between Windows 365 and Azure Virtual Desktop. AVD relies heavily on Azure management concepts and provides maximum flexibility while Windows 365 aims to simplify management by making it close to managing existing physical desktop assets and leveraging the same set of Microsoft tools to manage physical and virtual PCs.
Although Windows 365 is a subscription-based service, it offers fixed pricing. Depending on the Cloud PC configuration you select, you’ll be paying a flat fee every month. Windows 365 customers may also pay a per-user fee, regardless of how much or how little they use their Cloud PCs.
In contrast, Azure Virtual Desktop charges by consumption; you’ll pay per usage, per month for AVD. You’ll also pay different rates depending on the Windows 10 or 11 license you have, and whether you’re using apps alone or a combination of apps and desktop services. Even though both charge a monthly fee, the exact amount you pay will fluctuate depending on how much or how little you use AVD.
Users of both Azure Virtual Desktop and Enterprise Cloud PCs must have active Intune licenses, since Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM) is used to manage both. This license is included in Business Premium, Microsoft 365 E3 or E5, or Windows 365 packages such as E3 and E5. You do still have to pay for compute used on top of the license.
Microsoft Endpoint Manager is not required for Windows 365 Business Cloud PCs, just as it is not required for physical computers.
To summarise, both solutions offer great benefits but ultimately it depends on your requirements as a business on which one you decide to implement in your organisation. If you’d like more information on which solution would best suit your business, contact our team of experts who can help.