On August 2, 2021, Microsoft will release their brand new Cloud product: Windows 365. The announcement website gives a simple description of what customers can expect:
“Windows 365 combines the power and security of the cloud with the versatility and simplicity of the PC. From contractors and interns to software developers and industrial designers, Windows 365 enables a variety of new scenarios for the new world of work.”
But the implications of such a service are far reaching, particularly for medium sized business, large businesses, and enterprises. This article will cover the features of Windows 365, and explain the game changing aspects of such a move by the tech giant.
Not Your Typical Azure Virtual Desktop
Some may roll their eyes at this latest product launch by Microsoft, having experienced the strange and complex world of Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD). Truth be told, a rebranding wouldn’t help such an offering, since its problems are more deep-seeded. Administrative headaches and user-unfriendliness plagued the AVD offering. Still, the company assures the old system’s current user base:
“Microsoft continues to innovate in Azure Virtual Desktop for those organisations with deep virtualisation experience that want more customization and flexibility options.”
But what about everyone else?
Windows 365 offers a far more simple model. This simplicity encompasses the user experience, the administration, and even the integration of the new Cloud service. This means a whole new audience, as medium sized businesses can participate in Windows 365 without heavy system administration or domain management requirements, making ad hoc licenses are far more attractive.
The new service will launch with Windows 10 implementations (Windows 11 as soon as that OS becomes commonplace) that can be streamed to any device. Because of that abstraction layer, offering an interactive image of the desktop rather than the desktop itself, a user session can end whenever they like, and resume again on any device, anywhere. One can start creating a presentation at their desktop, get on a train, and resume their PowerPoint session from a tablet as soon as they have access to the network again. It is the perfect kind of flexibility for the new hybrid remote / office workforce that is expected to be prevalent by 2022.
When just about anything can become an effective thin client for Windows 365, some hardware costs plummet. A Chomebook could replace an expensive corporate laptop for temps, new employees, and workers who are largely remote. Those who prefer light and portable over chunky and powerful will experience a big win here. If a coder wishes to use their sleek, delicate MacBook but still have some real processing power, they need not worry. With all of the compiling and number crunching happening in the Cloud, they just need a good multimedia device to receive the remote desktop’s stream.
Windows 365 – Always Secure, Always Updated
Because all of the management takes place behind the scenes, the user will never be asked about installing an operating system update. A system administrator won’t be needed to set up a ton of policies. Windows 365 will update whenever it needs to, and sharing and collaboration is as simple as including employees in a corporate pool and granting the right level of access.
On the security side, the new offering uses elastic endpoints that don’t need advanced training to deploy. It uses Endpoint Manager to manage everything, from on-premises infrastructure to Windows 365 virtual endpoints.
As an additional boon, loss, damage, or theft of hardware need not bring work to a grinding halt. Simply excluding that device from the access pool and provisioning any tablet or laptop will have the user up and running again in no time. Since everything can theoretically be stored in the Cloud, the theft of a device need not equate to a data breach if employees follow protocol.
Microsoft Teams Integration
At the heart of the Windows 365 collaboration experience is Microsoft Teams. After experiencing a ransomware attack that crippled their IT infrastructure, the government of Nunavut was invited to an early implementation of Windows 365. One of their main worries was that collaboration with their remote communities would be made more difficult. But they found that the Teams communication platform was more than up to the task, despite the latency and bandwidth limitations of their satellite network.
Government Senior Systems Expert Farnhan Nadeem had this to say:
“Teams is a major hit, and it’s working perfectly in Windows 365. The audio quality of a Teams meeting is better than the cell service we have in Nunavut communities.”
Their government-wide Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams distribution took 3 weeks, instead of the 3 years that was budgeted for the planned IT overhaul after their ransomware attack. It has been their central communications and collaboration platform ever since.
Dovetailing nicely with BYOD policies and the work from home trend, a simpler implementation of Windows in the Cloud as a device-agnostic OS was much needed. Although some will undoubtedly stick with Azure Virtual Desktop, Windows 365 is going to be a popular offering. Ease of use and a simple, streaming thin client that can be used just about anywhere has a lot of advantages over its predecessor.