On Monday 2nd August, Microsoft made Windows 365 Generally Available, bringing around the next iteration of Microsoft’s vision for delivering Windows from the cloud. Windows 365 has been known as several things over the years; Project Deschutes, Cloud PC, however in mid-July it was announced to the world that Windows 365 would soon be available. Microsoft have now released technical information as well as models and pricing which we’ll highlight a few areas from here.
What exactly is Windows 365? It’s not a replacement for Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD), it is in-fact built on-top of it. The main difference is that Windows 365 is a way to simplify the purchasing and deployment of Microsoft Azure hosted Virtual Desktops. Windows 365 is part of the M365 service catalogue and is managed using the M365 portal and not the Azure portal.
With Windows 365 you pay a fixed cost for a user to have 24/7 access to a dedicated Virtual Desktop. Microsoft provide a set of Virtual Desktop sizes which you can choose from, with costs increasing based on the performance profile of the desktop.
Microsoft have published pricing for the different performance profiles. All prices are per-user/per month and use an auto-renewing monthly subscription. No long term commitment is required for either Business or Enterprise models.
Business Edition pricing shown in the table below is based on Hybrid Use Benefit pricing which requires that the user has a Windows 10 or Windows 11 Pro license allocated to their primary device and they must access their Windows 365 PC at least once per subscription period using this device. If a Business Edition user does not have a Windows 10/11 Pro license, then the price increases by around £3.40 per month.
Note: All pricing is accurate as of release date, this may be subject to change and you should always verify pricing before making any purchasing decisions.
|Cloud PC CPUs, RAM, and storage||Cost Per-User/Per-Month (Excl. VAT)||Example scenarios||Recommended apps|
|1vCPU/2GB/64GB||£17.00||First-line workers, call centres, education/training/CRM access.||Office (web-based), Microsoft Edge, OneDrive, lightweight line-of-business app (call centre application – web-apps), Defender support.|
|Mergers and acquisition, short-term and seasonal, customer services||Microsoft 365 Apps, Microsoft Teams (Audio only), OneDrive, Adobe Reader, Edge, line-of-business app(s), Defender support.|
|Bring-your-own-PC, work from home, market researchers, government, consultants.||Microsoft 365 Apps, Microsoft Teams, Outlook, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, OneDrive, Adobe Reader, Edge, line-of-business app(s) , Defender support.|
|Finance, government, consultants, healthcare services, bring-your-own-PC, work from home. ||Microsoft 365 Apps, Microsoft Teams, Outlook, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, PowerBI, Dynamics 365, OneDrive, Adobe Reader, Edge, line-of-business app(s), Defender support.|
|Software developers, engineers, content creators, design and engineering workstations.||Microsoft 365 Apps, Microsoft Teams, Outlook, Access, OneDrive, Adobe Reader, Edge, PowerBI, Visual Studio Code, line-of-business app(s), Defender support.|
There are two editions available for Windows 365, Business and Enterprise. The table below highlights some of the differences between the two.
|Area||Business Edition||Enterprise Edition|
|Users Supported||Up to 300||Unlimited|
|License Requirements||None, however Windows Pro License entitles Hybrid Use Benefit pricing.||Windows 365 Enterprise requires that each user be licensed with a Windows 10 Pro subscription, Microsoft Endpoint Manager, and Azure Active Directory P1, which is included in Microsoft 365 F3, Microsoft 365 E3, Microsoft 365 E5, Microsoft 365 A3, Microsoft 365 A5, Microsoft 365 Business Premium, and Microsoft 365 Education Student Use Benefit subscriptions.|
|Infrastructure Requirements||None – Desktops are Azure AD Joined only.||Azure AD only is not currently supported. Enterprise Edition requires that there is a Customer Managed virtual network present in a supported Azure Region. This Network must have DNS Servers configured with access to Active Directory Domain Services (on-premises AD). Azure Active Directory Domain Services (AADDS) is not currently supported.|
|Virtual Desktop Hosting||In Microsoft’s Azure Subscription. No VM level access is possible.||In Microsoft’s Azure Subscription. No VM level access is possible.|
|Networking||Inbound and Outbound network traffic is via the Windows 365 Service – users have direct internet access.||The Virtual Desktops are provided with a network interface in a customer managed Azure Virtual Network. All network traffic will flow via the Customer Network.|
|Current Supported Regions||US East|
US East 2
US West 2
US South central
|As per Business Edition, however as Desktop network interfaces must be provisioned into a Customer Managed virtual Network, if you do not have an Azure deployment in a supported region, you can deploy a virtual network in a supported region and use virtual network peering to link to your existing Azure deployment.|
|Management Options||User Managed – Desktops are not Intune enrolled.||Intune Managed (MEM)|
|Additional Costs||None – however note that there are outbound bandwidth caps that may be enforced:1 vCPU – 12GB |
2 vCPU – 20GB
4 vCPU – 40GB
8 vCPU – 70GBBeyond these levels, Microsoft may restrict bandwidth and outbound data volume on a case-by-case basis to protect quality of service for all Windows 365 users and customers.
|As network access is through a customer managed Virtual Network, any outbound bandwidth usage will be the responsibility of the customer.|
Is this a big deal?
For some, yes! One of the main goals of Windows 365 is to provide a simple way to provide users with Cloud Desktops. With Windows 365, it can be as simple as assigning a license to a user in your M365 admin centre. For small businesses this could provide a really simple delivery model.
For larger organisations, Business Edition with the User Managed approach is likely a non-starter, however we see many organisations making the transition to modern management with Intune (MEM) so the ability to quickly deploy Intune managed desktops in the cloud may be attractive for some use cases.
For large deployments, cost management is typically a significant factor – balancing the needs of the user against the operational cost. Windows 365 is based on the user’s desktop being on and available 24/7. In my experience very few can keep working 24 hours a day, even with decent coffee available, so balancing the 24/7 availability of Windows 365 vs a more right-sized approach leveraging autoscaling solutions in either Native AVD or Citrix could mean that your cost could be 30-40% lower by using Pay-as-you-Go in Azure. This will be largely lead by working patterns, but could end up being a significant cost difference.
One point to note is that the Windows 365 “always-on” cost is on average lower than paying for a similar instance size using a 3-year reserved instance, which is typically the cheapest method of purchasing Azure capacity, so I would say that Windows 365 is very well priced for what it is, but what it is may be more than you need.
Another point to note is that Windows 365 is single user workloads only. 1 license = 1 user = 1 Virtual Desktop. There is no Windows 10 Multi-Session in Windows 365 so if you are able to make use of Multi-Session workloads in AVD or Citrix, you will likely find your comparative cost for delivery is reduced further.
Lastly, I want to mention data. The model Windows 365 employs requires that your data really needs to be stored in the cloud. Users log on with a local profile, so any data they save pretty much HAS to go into OneDrive or SharePoint. The desktop is persistent, so any data saved elsewhere may be temporarily retained, however if a user has a configuration issue – the main lever you have to pull is the “Re-Deploy” button which will destroy and recreate the desktop. As the desktop is running in Microsoft’s Azure tenant, you don’t have VM level access so there is no ability to do VM level backups and restores.
One-thing Microsoft have certainly achieved is to make Virtual Desktops incredibly simple, with simplified administration and pricing. This has driven a lot of interest from around the world, notably they were offering 60 day trial subscriptions to Windows 365 desktops which were paused after a day due to “unprecedented demand”.
Some users need simplicity, others need flexibility. We now have solutions for both, which is a great opportunity for many to try out cloud desktops maybe for the first time.
If you have any use-cases you think may be a good fit for cloud desktops, be that Windows 365, AVD, Citrix or others – get in touch with your account manager and we can help you find the right path.
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