Experimenting With Azure Virtual Machines Part 2 – Windows 365

Back in June I wrote about experimenting with Azure Virtual Labs service as part of a multi blog series on virtual machines hosted in Azure.

In this multi-part blog series, I’m going to explore different flavours of Azure Virtual Machines, so buckle up and enjoy:

Hybrid Working & The Role Of CloudPC

This morning I’m writing this blog as I work from home on my MacBook Pro as I need to take my son to a doctors appointment over lunch. It’s this sort of hybrid/flexible working situation that has become increasingly common over the last few years and I’m fortunate that I have both a supportive employer that allows this, as well as technology that makes it possible for me to work seamlessly from my home.

My MacBook Pro is managed by Intune, my default browser is Microsoft Edge with an Entra ID (formerly AzureAD) work profile on it securing access to work resources in M365 and most importantly for this blog post, I also have a Windows 365 CloudPC accessible through my work browser on my Mac:

A screenshot of my MacBook showing my Windows 365 CloudPC running in a tab of Microsoft Edge giving me a full, native Windows 11 experience when I need it.

Most recently, I’ve been using Hyper-V virtual machines hosted on my Windows 365 CloudPC for customer testing:

I’ve blogged previously about my Hyper-V set up, and it was easier for me to continue that on a Windows 11 device than replicating it locally on my MacBook. When working with customers more familiar with a Windows 11 environment, having immediate access to the same OS on my primary machine is incredibly helpful and also means I can run Windows only applications when required securely on my CloudPC. The specs for this CloudPC are:

Just as my MacBook is, this Windows 365 CloudPC is configured and managed by Intune meaning the same corporate baselines are applied protecting both the OS and the content stored on it. I’m heading to Europe at the end of the year for a holiday and whilst I don’t intend to do any work (and won’t be taking my work MacBook with me) if something critical happened and I needed access to work resources I know I could access this Windows 365 CloudPC from a device and have a secured experience to complete any work necessary and my employer could have confidence I was not using a local device from a friend or internet cafe with possible data leaks or compromise risks.

The Windows 365 eBook

This morning I received a copy of the Windows 365 eBook from Microsoft that reminded me of this series of Azure virtual desktop blogs I’m writing and prompted this blog post. You can read a copy of it below in full. I thought I’d share a few take away thoughts from this short document (it’s a 6 minute read).

The Changing Landscape of Work

Microsoft’s messaging to IT Decision Makers (ITDM) is that in a world of increased uncertainty and change, you need to have technology that can support remote/hybrid working effectively in any location and on any device. They share some research data that over half of fully remote employees are considering a shift to a more hybrid work setup and that similarly over half of hybrid employees are considering going fully remote:

In my view this is not going to work for every industry, but certainly many information workers are able to work effectively from various locations and it becomes an increasing consideration for employers how they can deliver that flexibility whilst still meeting their security and compliance requirements around access to sensitive corporate data (see this blog post for more thoughts). I lived through the devastating Christchurch earthquakes of of 2010-11 when much of the central city was laid waste and know first hand how disruptive it was for many businesses, including schools and universities, that could not get physical access to their work locations.

A photo showing the dust rising over Christchurch immediately after the February 22nd 2011 earthquake – Image Credit.

Things had clearly moved forward significantly in the following decade as workplaces shut down again with the global Covid19 pandemic but I still know of large businesses and Government departments that had not fully implemented an effective remote workplace strategy or lacked sufficient numbers of laptops to give to staff who primarily used desktops in their workplace to complete their work. It’s in these scenarios that a secure CloudPC would shine. While I referenced information workers above, Microsoft has a grander vision of where the Windows 365 CloudPC can support a spectrum of roles:

The Only Constant Is Change

Windows 365 helps organisations provision secure Cloud PCs for a variety of job types – including full-time employees, consultants, temporary workers (like product-testers and interns) and mobile teams – no matter if they’re remote or in-person. Windows 365 can be effectively deployed to information workers just as easily as it is to frontline service workers and shift workers.

Security Will Be A Key Determining Factor For ITDM Whether To Embrace CloudPC

I recognised the convenience of having a virtual CloudPC on Windows 365 earlier in my blog post in terms of working from home, running Hyper-V or using Windows-only applications, but I believe one of the key considerations ITDM will have in mind with this type of solution is security, something outlined in the eBook as follows:

Saving Time & Gaining Efficiencies Through CloudPC Deployments

The other core benefit I see here is the ease and efficiency of deploying larger volumes of devices – using Microsoft Intune to configure the specs and settings of Windows 365, an IT Administrator can use the tools they already know for managing their existing physical devices to easily deploy Windows 365 devices, be it a single device for a temporary contractor, or hundreds of CloudPC for every staff member in an organisation if an emergency necessitated working from home on their personal PC or tablet. I acknowledge the eBook is Microsoft marketing material so take the following numbers as you will, but they suggest efficiencies gained are:

  • 40% cost savings when using Windows 365 compared to on-premise VDI or Desktop as a Service (DaaS) offerings
  • 75% reduction in endpoint configuration times
  • 25% reduction in new software deployment times

The Differences Between Windows 365 & Azure Virtual Desktop

A number of customers have asked me about the difference between Windows 365 (W365) and Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) and at the most simplistic level, it’s helpful to understand that W365 is a subscription based license with fixed monthly costs, no matter how much you use it but with correspondingly less configuration options over the virtual device. On the other hand, AVD is a consumption based model with almost endless configuration options and you pay for what you consume.

Beyond that simple difference, the eBook does provide a helpful comparison chart which was one of the more useful things in the eBook:

Closing Thoughts

After nearly seven years running Windows 10 and Windows 11 devices as my primary working machine, I’m enjoying being back on macOS with my MacBook Pro and experiencing the changes that have happened to the OS since I last used it regularly. However, I use my Windows 365 CloudPC almost every other day for various tasks related to my work and having the flexibility to work across OS is very empowering.

I have talked with a number of CIO in organisations who are actively evaluating the role of CloudPC in their device fleet strategy, with some running pilots with identified users already. I don’t see this trend changing as long as there are requirements for mobile, hybrid and remote working scenarios for employees.

Drop me a line if you’d like to talk more about this or check out https://www.windows365.com to see Microsoft’s information on CloudPC.

Read The Entire Windows 365 eBook – Embedded

I am always keen to discuss what I've written and hear your ideas so leave a reply here...

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