Microsoft provides more details on new Windows Virtual Desktop enhancements

Companies and employees have moved to work remotely in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to curb the spread of the virus. Microsoft says that this has caused an increase in Windows Virtual Desktop usage to “quickly provision and scale virtual desktops and applications faster”.

In view of the growing demand, the Redmond giant is announcing a few new capabilities to the service. The company today announced new Microsoft 365 management features, where it briefly spoke about the improvements. The new capabilities include improved management and deployment tools, security and compliance enhancements, an upgraded Microsoft Teams user experience, and expanded support for cross-platform operating systems.

For customers that want to deploy Windows Virtual Desktop faster and more efficiently, the company is introducing a new administration experience that is built directly in the Azure Portal. The improved experience makes it easy to manage the virtual desktops and apps, assigning users, and performing monitoring and diagnostic tasks right through the GUI.

As for the security and compliance enhancements, the company is bringing in features such as the ability to add groups of users to Windows Virtual Desktop using AAD groups, support for mandatorily enforcing multi-factor authentication, and more. The company adds that the service provides reverse connect technology and FSLogix profile containers. Reverse connect technology ensures that the destination VM “does not need any inbound ports to be opened”.

The security enhancements that the company lists are:

  • Ability to add groups of users to Windows Virtual Desktop using Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) groups.
  • Support for static or dynamic conditional access policies.
  • Support for mandating multi-factor authentication (MFA).
  • Windows Virtual Desktop integration with Azure role-based access control (RBAC) and analytics for greater administrative control over user permissions.
  • Ability to choose the geography you want to store your service metadata for the best possible regulatory compliance and performance.

The firm is also releasing deployment guidance with a new WindowsVirtualDesktop service tag. This helps “simplify the deployment of an Azure Firewall in conjunction with Windows Virtual Desktop”. The firm says the service tag “enables the required platform internet access” from the Azure VMs created for the Virtual Desktop service.

In addition to these features, Windows Virtual Desktop is also receiving improvements to the Teams experience. The firm is using a process called audio/video redirection (AV Redirect) to improve latency in data-heavy conversations. The new Teams experience will enter public preview in a few weeks, the company says.

Lastly, Microsoft is also releasing a Windows Virtual Desktop SDK to help its development partners create support for Linux-based thin clients. The firm terms it cross-platform operating system support, though the service is already available on Windows, Android, Mac, and iOS.