Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktops Adoption Trend

Recently, we hosted a great joint webinar with the team from AVD TechFest to present the results of a survey we conducted jointly to assess real-world usage trends regarding Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktops (AVD) and industry and customer sentiments towards the AVD technologies.

Alongside myself, Peter Claridge from eG Innovations and Simon Binder, digital workplace architect at Cygate and co-founder of the community-oriented AVD TechFest, were answering questions about Azure Virtual Desktops.

The survey was conducted between Feb-Mar 2022 and received more than 500+ responses; the full survey methodologies and results are available in a compact eBook format, available to download. Peter has already written a summary blog of his “favorite” bits of data/results as a quick read available here: AVD – Azure Virtual Desktop – Usage Trends and Statistics.

This was a brilliant webinar to take part in because we had a large and incredibly engaged audience. So, rather than presenting data, it took a very interactive discussion format. As such, the webinar recording has even greater value beyond merely the data presented. The lively and well-informed audience asked a lot of questions, and we ended up providing a number of links and answers in the chat. The audience also shared some of their own technical experiences of real-world Azure Virtual Desktops usage.

Whilst we had the opportunity to answer and discuss several questions during the session, there were a few we were unable to get to. Additionally, there are a few things that we wish we had answered more thoroughly. So, we have compiled, enhanced, and answered to give our readers, as well as those who attended or watched, some comprehensive information and links to the other data sources we covered in the chat window. Hopefully, we’ve pulled out all the links that were posted in the chat window so you can single-click below!

Questions About Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktops Answered

1. Where can I get technical details of real AVD deployments at scale?

The survey results presented covered the scales deployments users were using with the context of whether users were using vanilla AVD or in combination with VMware or Citrix Stacks. In general, the results showed many larger deployments incorporated VMware or Citrix technologies, but there were significant numbers of large AVD standalone deployments.

We were asked where technical details and overviews of such implementations can be found and recommended Claudio Rodrigues case study on a large healthcare provider, first presented at UK AVD User Group in September 2021. The recording is available on YouTube here: UK AVD User Group September meeting.

2. The ones that deployed on a very large basis, was it a simple use case? Do they use Citrix or VMware after a certain threshold? Also, what about management solutions like Nerdio?

This was asked when we presented the first few slides on size of deployments by vendor stack – e.g., VMware+AVD looked like:

In addition to mentioning Claudio’s deep dive case study (link), which featured multiple subscriptions to overcome API (Application Programming Interface) limits, failover, multiple regions, and leveraged Nerdio, we later showed results (that are available in the full survey) covering:

  • Uptake of Nerdio and other automation technologies such as AVD/WVD Admin. 18% of our respondents used Nerdio. Indeed, Claudio’s case study leveraged Nerdio too.
  • We also asked about usage of advanced features common in larger or more complex deployments and these are discussed on the webinar recording audio in depth; multiple subscriptions, multi-regions, back-up strategies, failover.

3. Where can I get information on monitoring the authentication and brokering process of AVD logons?

The survey covered data on real-world usage of authentication technologies including Active Directory, connecting to Active Directory and Azure AD via Azure AD Connector, standalone Azure AD and Reverse connect. The need to monitor these critical stages and components of the logon process were discussed, and we provided a lot of links to our engineer teams blogs on trouble shooting these components and how to proactively monitor them for audits and security purposes beyond performance and availability monitoring.

The links shared included:

We also mentioned how AVD uses Reverse Connect to ensure bad practices, such as listening on open ports, are avoided; this means information such as end-user client IP addresses are not as easily accessible as on-premises. The article we mentioned detailing this can be found, here: Reverse Connect for Azure Virtual Desktops.

4. What type of Azure instance should I choose and what size?

We discussed the survey results on Azure instance choices.

When we repeat this survey, we intend to couple this question with a question on whether users were using multi-session and, if so, how many users per VM (Virtual Machine) they are achieving/aspiring to. We all felt this was a bit of a gap in the data we collected.

We mentioned we keep a blog updated with any community or vendor resources regarding instance choice (should I choose a D-Series vs an F-series VM? How many users can you get on a DS4_v5?). There is a table at the bottom of this article with links to those resources we have heard about, and many include details on how to benchmark and assess user densities for yourselves: Choosing Azure Instances for Microsoft AVD: Community and Vendor Resources.

5. Can you explain the percentages on the data on end-point choice (laptop vs thin client vs smartphone etc.)?

During the webinar, we showed some data on the endpoint in use. This particular bar chart had percentages that added up to more than 100% because we allowed multiple answers. It should be noted that many questions in the survey are similar, but the pie charts always add up to 100% as we only use them to present data where a single response is required.

On the webinar, we discussed if COVID and a shift to work-from-home meant laptop usage vs thin-client usage might be more prevalent. We discussed the relatively low mobile/tablet usage (probably not surprising). Audience input included anecdotal inputs that thin-client usage for work-from-home is seen particularly in finance/government organizations. We also realized another gap in our survey questioning in that many of those using digital workspaces use laptops repurposed as Chromebooks or via a secure thin-client OS. Audience input and discussion included:

  • Use of IGEL OS and USB devices (IGEL pocket) to repurpose devices
  • “At Zeetim we advise repurposing of laptops to a Thin Client OS. This reduces attack surface for endpoint, easier to manage, and tuned for the cloud workspace.”
  • “[We] use Samsung Dex with AVD”
  • A different Dex user added “We help organizations use a range of products. Has anyone else tried the Samsung DEX solution with things like Baseus docks?”

Takeaways: next time we do this survey we will probe deeper on whether endpoints are managed and if laptops, etc. are being used as a secure thin client.

6. What is going on with Azure Virtual Desktops and storage?

All of the presenters, and pretty much everyone else we have presented the survey data to, have found the response pretty much reflects what we have seen out in the field and in real deployments. Indeed the polls we took during the webinars correlated well with the survey data and nothing raised huge surprises. There was, however, one survey result we have all been very surprised by: the results on what storage solutions folks were using for AVD.

Figure 5: Storage solutions reported used for Azure Virtual Desktops

We weren’t particularly surprised to see moderate NetApp uptake as it is a very good premium option. However, being optional and incurring extra costs is one for the enterprise experts (many of the deployments reported in the survey were small and simple). We were, however, all pretty surprised that Azure files was not the top or obvious choice. For performance reasons, Azure files for most EUC professionals would be the natural choice if they didn’t need the additional benefits of a premium solution, such as NetApp.

The fact that so many reported using Windows file server VMs (Virtual Machines) seems somewhat odd. Our best explanation is that the survey found that half of deployments reported were fewer than 250 users and approximately a third were fewer than 100 users. It is possible at these scales these are SMBs (Small and Medium Business) inexperienced with VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) and/or Azure or preliminary PoCs (Proof of Concepts), where perhaps prototyping or simplicity means subscribing to Azure files hasn’t been a priority.

Audience Inputs:

  • “There is a lack of understanding around NTFS permissions, backups, and general storage control IMO”
  • Guy Rowson (based in Australia) joined the audience from Kumulus and volunteered to discuss NetApp solutions further – “Kumulus is a NetApp Cloud Preferred partner, and we’re partnering with MSPs to deliver with both Azure NetApp Files and NetApp Cloud Volumes OnTAP (i.e., the other).”

7. How can I deal with Teams/Zoom issues on Azure Virtual Desktops?

The survey revealed one of the commonly encountered issues for AVD admins is problems with unified communications, and in particular, Microsoft Teams. We mentioned a few resources available including:

The survey found many respondents were using AVD within a Citrix Stack of some sort so these links will probably be of direct use to those users more than the generic AVD user.

Useful information: The VP of engineering for Microsoft Teams, Juan Rivera (ex-Citrix HDX responsible for Teams Virtualization), is worth following for updates in this area and is very responsive on Twitter to customer inputs: Juan Rivera (@juanmicrosoft) / Twitter

Audience Inputs:

  • “Our Company standard is to do Teams/Zoom calls outside of AVD until MS improves the performance.”  On the audio, we discussed this experience and how as a monitoring vendor we are seeing security-conscious customers using eG Enterprise to audit and monitor users for abnormally low use of corporate communication tools. Identifying users who rarely use Teams, or an equivalent may indicate confidential corporate communications are occurring in WhatsApp groups or similar.
  • “Our biggest VDI challenge is user experience with Teams / Zoom meetings, within sync video and audio.”  Some discussion of this occurred, and we mentioned audio/video sync is a long-known weakness in most unified communication products, but there have been recent improvements announced by some protocols, including Teradici for CAS PCoIP (PC over IP) (different to the legacy PCoIP used in VMware) announcement, Amazon NICE DCV (announcement – June 2021), and Citrix HDX/EDT (announcements – Mar 2022) over the last year or so. These will be of particular interest to high-end Media/VFX users but should filter down into mainstream VDI/digital workspace at some point.

8. Where can you get good quality (preferably with technical substance) on AVD?

Resources we mentioned:

  • Simon covered the free in-person (and online) AVD TechFest event coming up in September 2022 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Aiming for an E2EVC tone, community-led and technical – low on vendor marketing – registration open, here.
  • AVD and similar User Groups: UK Group (where we referenced the Claudio Rodriges Case Study recording). Many groups have English language sessions.
    • UK AVD User Group (link),
    • Dutch Virtual Desktop User Group (link),
    • Virtual Desktop Community (worldwide) – link,
    • German WVD User Group – link.

9. Do you know of any future change to the mode of deploying non-persistent AVDs to make this task simpler – in a similar way to how we do it using Citrix provisioning technology (PVS)?

This was asked to Simon by a member of the audience, who further elaborated on his challenges: “Currently we do AVD non-persistent updates by deleting recreating host pools which is tedious and time taking instead is there an alternate way to get that done?”

Simon confirmed that this is one of the feature gaps of native Azure AVD and one of a number of reasons that mean many use AVD within a Citrix context (as reflected in our survey results). Currently (at the time of the webinar – May/Jun 2022), there is no equivalent to Citrix PVS (Provisioning Services) that offers the same turnkey solution. When using Citrix with AVD, Simon mentioned that PVS is an option.

10. We currently use Citrix which has mature management of user sessions which makes life simpler for our support staff. Does AVD have similar management tools now?

Whilst AVD has matured since its launch, for those with needs beyond the simplest and smallest deployments some degree of tooling, scripting, or use of third-party products is usually required unless an organization is prepared to rely on manual administration processes via the GUI. The survey results highlighted the high use of tools, such as “WVD Admin”, Nerdio, and beyond. Citrix and VMware stacks are also commonplace for workspace deployments as AVD currently does not provide the breadth of management features of those established technologies.

For Citrix in particular, we offer comparable levels of insights as our native Citrix on-premises solutions for AVD into sessions, logon, protocols, and application performance. See: https://www.eginnovations.com/blog/what-why-how-of-citrix-performance-monitoring/.

11. What are the benefits of a third-party monitoring system such as eG Enterprise?

We were asked about use cases where customers have used eG Enterprise and why and discussed some of the limitations of native Azure monitoring via Azure Monitor and Log Analytics. It’s worth listening to the full recording but some of the points mentioned and links to further information included:

12. Hosts, what are your views on the use of AVD portal with respect to security and relinquishing control/visibility of that gateway?

The attendee elaborated: “Many have concerns about relinquishing security (and performance) of the broker/gateway process to MS Azure/AVD. How do the webinar hosts view on this?”

Simon discussed general issues and considerations around securing the Azure portal and architectures where AVD and other Azure services can be secured via integrations with security products and identity management products and overall needs for conditional access to be a part of any AVD or workspace design.

13. Are there any figures that Microsoft has published around the total number of hosts/seats on AVD?

Not that we are aware of. If anyone does see such information, please do let us know.

14. Where can I get German (or Dutch or other non-English information) Language information on eG Innovations?

In response to having a high number of attendees on this webinar from Switzerland, Germany, and Austria, we mentioned that our German team, as well as some of our other large regional teams, put out native language blogs and supplied links in the chat.

German Blogs: Gesamtblick über die komplette Umgebung entscheidet, Besuchen Sie eG Innovations am 11. und 12. Mai 2022, in Frankfurt am Main, eG Innovations – Update from the Bonn Regional Office

Netherlands Blogs (Dutch): Waarom Monitoren Van De Infrastructuur, Applicatie Performance Monitoring, IT Performance Monitoring – Marktobservaties door Renne Bots

Korean Blogs: eG Innovations Korea Partners’ Day

Invariably a lot of our content is in English, but our regional teams have real local staff who are happy to chat and provide support in native languages as you need if possible. Regional office contact details are available at Contact Us – IT Monitoring | eG Innovations

15. Will global energy price instability affect data centers and on-prem vs Cloud choices?

Totally out-of-the-scope of the original survey, one UK-based attendee raised a very interesting observation commenting that “On-prem has recently become more expensive mainly due to power prices in some countries. Potentially people are looking to migrate more to the cloud to reduce these on prem costs.”

This wasn’t one I had heard of, but it is an incredibly interesting concept. With Azure offering commitment tier pricing for services such as Azure Virtual Desktops, allowing customers to lock in at a price, will this be a driver and incentive to move from on-premises or for existing cloud users to choose to lock in for longer rather than use PAYG and more flexible options? One of the best things about these interactive webinars is how customers and users share factors affecting their choices and businesses.

16. Where can I get other similar surveys with usage data?

We do these surveys to understand our customers, but many customers and partners also use them to sanity check if their own usage is mainstream or as data to justify their own choice to senior management and their wider organizations. If the AVD survey was useful to you, you might like to explore:

  • Digital Workspaces in the New Normal 2021 Survey Report (eginnovations.com) – a survey we did last year that covered Azure virtual desktops among other similar technologies, such as AWS (Amazon Web Service) WorkSpaces and AppStream, Microsoft RDSH, Citrix CVAD (Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops), VMware Horizon, and so on. There is some interesting data on how many organizations will use multiple technologies from multiple vendors.
  • Cloud Technology Adoption Trends | eG Innovations – results from 900+ IT professionals which covers Cloud service usage more towards the DevOps, SREs (Site Reliability Engineers) use cases, but may be of interest if you are using cloud beyond EUC (End User Computing) / digital workspaces e.g., AWS RDS (Relational Database Services), Azure SQL DB, OpenShift, and so on.

17. How to contact or follow the presenters / eG Innovations for further follow-up

Further Information