Azure Window Virtual Desktop Delivery For South Lakes Housing

Azure Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) is hugely flexible solution for those looking to spend more time focusing on delivering modern desktop services and less time looking after IT infrastructure.


South Lake Housing (SLH) are in the process of migrating services into Azure and are starting to leverage some of the many solutions Azure has to offer. In this instance; their new finance solution Open Accounts provided by MRI was hosted and configured in Azure by the Team at A4S Cloud Solutions.

In order to ensure performant application delivery from Azure; the A4S team proposed and delivered an instance of WVD that would be used to delivery the Open Accounts application to the clients laptops.


The use of WVD and Remote Desktop Services (RDS) Remote App delivery is a common occurrence amongst many of our clients as they balance the move of workloads into Azure with the need to maintain application delivery with responsive performance to their end users. WVD Remote App delivery is very similar to traditional RDS Remote App delivery however uses the most modern technologies for deployment such as ARM template driven configuration. Remote App delivery is fully supported and configuration within the Azure console.



The Design


Following detailed discussions with the client and their application provider MRI, requirements were taken and a design created. Below is a typical architecture example that was followed to ensure the client benefits from Microsoft best practices:


The key design areas are:

  • Fully integrated with the client's on-premise Active Directory.

  • Host pools that can be scaled when/if needed.

  • the ability to seamlessly control who has access.

  • Accessible from the clients own environment only.

  • Diagnostics enabled to send the needed telemetry and logging to A4S Monitor enabling real-time monitoring and alerting.

The client's environment is sized according to the anticipated demand and can be scaled quickly and efficiently if needed, the solution is also fully monitored and alerted upon using the fully managed A4S Monitor solution.

Our designs take into account the scalability and resilience needed, we also factor in security and will recommend various Microsoft Azure security technologies as best fit for the client need.


Application Delivery


Applications are configured for Remote App Delivery and are enabled for users based on group membership.


Remote App delivery is a highly effective means of delivery application from a remote location or that don't function well in low bandwidth scenarios, by delivering applications using this method the need for bandwidth the processor is minimised as much as possible allowing the solution to scale with minimal overhead and cost.


Bandwidth Considerations


With each RDP protocol iteration we find performance improvements and our testing of WVD is no exception. In particular we appreciate the improved controls around Quality of Services (QoS) that allows the client and partner to control many aspects of performance and framerate.


The below half screen video playback at 30 frames per second was shown to consume 8.5 to 9.5 mbps in default mode and 2.5 to 2.8mbps in H264/AVC 444 mode.

The below full screen video playback at 30 frames per second was shown to be similar to the half screen experience and consumed 7.5 to 8.5 mbps in default mode and 2.5 to 3.1mbps in H264/AVC 444 mode.

Some good links for WVD networking are shown below for your reference:


Access Control


Access control is handled through the client's on-premise Active Directory that is also hosted in Azure, this makes it a familiar process that can easily be operationalised with no re-training needed.


Cost Management


Never far from the thoughts of any IT budget owner are costs related to cloud delivered and hosted solutions. The running costs of this solution were identified upfront and reserved instances will be used to fix the compute cost, the solution will be tested using the smallest possible compute footprint.


Recent WVD Deployment Improvements


The deployment process for WVD seems to improve constantly, certainly this latest delivery was incredibly smooth using the modern configuration in contrast to the classic Azure deployment that could be complex and require various additional Powershell driven configuration outside of the GUI driven delivery.


Lessons Learned


The main lessons learned was to realise the hugely improved speed of deployment for WVD, we were able to deliver a working solution in hours with some time added on for installing the required application and adding to monitoring and alerting, very impressive.


Client Thoughts


The South Lakes Housing IT Manager Paul Aitken was impressed by the speed of delivery, the original intention to deliver the Open Accounts client via the client's VPN became unfeasible following a performance test hence the need to deliver via Remote App was a last minute decision and an urgent need.

As usual, A4S Cloud Solutions were incredibly quick to respond to this last minute need, now our new finance system is hosted in Azure and can be delivered to any device at any location with minimal effort.
We know that A4S has used the most secure and cost optimised approach to delivering this solution and we highly appreciate we have full visibility of this new solution in our A4S Monitor delivery so we can see use and performance at any time.
Windows Virtual Desktop is a new solution for us, already it's become clear that Azure Cloud gives our business access to an incredibly wide range of solutions that we didn't have previously, we also trust our partner A4S Cloud Solutions to deliver what we need, when and to the best standards.
We look forward to continuing our close work with A4S to help our business continue to grow and benefit from Microsoft Azure.

Conclusion


WVD is now far simpler to deploy than it was only a few months ago, added to that the flexibility to choose any operating system including Windows 10 in multi-session mode or even more legacy RDS variants means the client and partner have access to a solution that can bring benefit extremely quickly and closely aligned to the customer need.


WVD isn't a solution that a less experienced IT admin would deploy, there's still a lot of complexity involved however this is much more inline with more the traditional RDS deployment in terms of effort needed however Azure sometimes drawn out steps like OS installs can be actioned with very little effort.

The client is still responsible for areas such as security, anti-virus and access control however WVD makes those simple processes and lets the partner spend more of their time delivering benefit.


Many thanks


The A4S Team


If you would like to learn more about this project or would like to find out more about A4S Cloud Solutions and our approaches to cloud application migrations then you can get in touch via email or Teams on jason.birchall@a4scloud.solutions, ring me on 07415 897953 or check out this link: Work With The Experts!