Thanks to the announcement at Ignite of Windows Virtual Desktops (WVD) and the information or more details that followed, specifically regarding Microsoft Office on the platform, several people in the industry are now announcing the death of Remote Desktop Services Session Host (RDSH).
Before proceeding with what I think, let me clarify that I do not think RDSH is the silver bullet. It is, like anything else, another tool for delivering applications to your users. That said, what we know as of today is very simple to summarize:
- RDSH is heavily used to deliver Line of Business (LOB) applications and many, if not the vast majority, have ties to Microsoft Office and/or interact with it.
- RDSH has been around since 1998 when it was officially announced at the New York Expo. That means we have been dealing with it for over 20 years now. We know how it works, how it behaves and its weaknesses and strengths.
- As we know it, we learned over the years how to deal with applications that do not like RDSH as a delivery platform. And by we, I mean thousands of people on the internet. You have an issue with RDSH, someone can probably fix it within a day or two.
- We clearly understand its scalability, performance and for many companies out there, the most important thing, its cost.
Now, looking at WVD, recently announced, all the above is completely unknown. How does it perform at scale? How does it work with all the LOBs out there, that as of today live in a happy RDSH world? And how much does it cost per user per month to deliver the same performance, scalability and availability as all these RDSH environments out there? Yes, we have no answers to that. Yet.
Then Microsoft announced that Windows Server 2019 and its RDS incarnation, does not run Office 365 but does run Office 2019 perpetual. Once people read that, the death sentence for RDSH was issued.
But does it make sense that to be the case? IMHO, no. And a big NO. And actually, quite the opposite.
What we know is simple: Office 365, like its Windows 10 counterpart, is or will become a nightmare with its almost daily release cycles. Yes, the same Office 365 you are running on your PC is not the one that was there last week or a month ago. It may even have new features.
Imagine that with critical LOB apps that interact with Office. If one thing changes on the Microsoft Office stack, everything may break on all these apps that rely on it. Reason why LOB apps are treated in a very strict way regarding patches and upgrades. For most businesses these are critical. If they go down, revenue could be directly affected (like one customer I have where one hour with their main LOB down means USD 1M in revenue lost). They do not like insane release cycles. They do not change their hosting environment on a weekly basis.
The other key point is, what are the exact differences between Office 2019 perpetual and Office 365, other than fast release cycles? What exactly is lost, functionality wise, when I run Office 2019, compared to Office 365? And the key question here, do these features are required by all the LOB applications that interface/interact with Office? Based on my experience, the vast majority of these LOB apps could not care less about whatever collaboration or online features Office 365 brings to the table.
For new deployments, mostly Office apps based, I do and clearly see the reason to go for Office 365. These are new deployments, not having to support mission critical LOB apps. Online features and collaboration are appealing to these use cases. Awesome.
With all that said the reality is, all the LOB apps will not be fixed overnight to work with Office 365. Even if they work, testing and certifying these apps with it may take ages and potentially may never happen for several companies. They will simply stick to what is known to work and to work well. This on itself may provide RDSH the fuel it needs to keep running, and existing, for many years to come.
And if the company all the sudden needs everything Office 365 has to offer, simple. Use WVD to handle that and keep RDSH for the mission critical LOB apps with Office 2019. Note that I did not mention cloud or on-premises anywhere and for one simple reason: RDSH does run anywhere, including the cloud. And unlike WVD, it runs on ANY cloud. Azure, AWS, Google, you name it.
The flexibility anyone expects from a mature solution. And in case you were going to the RDSH funeral, turn back and go home.
And by the way, 2019 is not the year of VDI.
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