Microsoft’s Azure Virtual Desktop No Longer Requires Active Directory

Published · Sep 20, 2021

Microsoft’s Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) is now generally available with virtual machines (VM) joined to Azure AD instead of Active Directory. However, the new setup comes with some limitations.

In a Microsoft announcement, senior program manager David Belanger said: “This new configuration allows you to provide access to cloud-only users (created in Azure AD and not synchronized from an on-prem directory) which wasn't possible before.”

Up until now, Azure Virtual Desktop was cloud-hosted but based on Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Services technology. This required “domain-joined” PCs and a connection to the full Windows Active Directory.

The connection could be in the form of an on-premises active directory over a VPN with AD Connect or through Azure Active Directory Domain Services.

This comes soon after Microsoft launched another, more commercial, virtual machine service, Windows365.

Convenience and Security

There are a few key differences between Azure Virtual Desktop and Windows365.

For one, Windows365 is more rigid. Microsoft charges per user per month, regardless of usage. With AVD, admins can control VMs to scale or even deactivate them when they aren’t in use.

AVD also supports pooled desktops, allowing for multi-user Windows 10. This has the potential to greatly reduce costs, which is always a plus for businesses. The rise of remote working and the digitalization of companies accelerates innovations like this.

A downside of AVD is that it’s harder to implement than Windows365. In its current state, Windows365 is more streamlined and user-friendly. Windows servers are popular business solutions but ultimately, it comes down to what a business needs in terms of hosting. 

Technological capabilities are expanding, but so are the costs and threats that come with them. In light of that, companies have to weigh up their tools and systems to get the best hosting and computing framework possible.

Garan van Rensburg
Garan van Rensburg

Garan is a writer interested in how tech reshapes the environment, and how the environment reshapes tech. You'll usually find him inoculating against future shock and arguing with bots.