Microsoft Office and the death of RDSH.

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.

CR

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Is UPD now FSLogix? Taking a look at the FSLogix acquisition by Microsoft.

Perfect timing I guess. A couple weeks after I released the whitepaper I wrote showing how UPD compared to FSLogix, Microsoft decides to open its wallet and acquires FSLogix. I am sure someone at Microsoft did read the whitepaper and understood that UPD needed a revamp and that it would probably take them a long time to fix it than opening their wallet. Very happy to see this happening. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what this potentially means to everyone in the industry.

I am not going to discuss the existing UPD limitations and how FSLogix can be used to complement it or to fully replace it. You can read all about that on this blog post.

The question now that many are asking themselves is simple: will this be part of a cloud-only offering, like Windows Virtual Desktops is as of today? The answer, no one really knows for sure. Probably, not even Microsoft.

The main thing is, UPD, even though it is a much better solution than traditional roaming profiles, still suffers from many issues, no matter if you are hosting your solution in the cloud or not. At the end of the day, you are still accessing a Windows OS and given how it works, a profile is always required (even if it is a local one).

If UPD 2.0 (that is how I will call the FSLogix offering, now under the Microsoft umbrella) does become what FSLogix is and more, it makes no sense to tie it to a cloud-only offering. The reason for that is simple. First of all, having to deal with two different solutions for on-premises and cloud based deployments. Considering many are still fully on-premises and some are in a transition mode (one that may take years), forcing customers to have to deal with two completely different solutions, especially when in a hybrid deployment, could lead to a terrible end-user experience, where things do not work smoothly regardless of its location.

And that is something that Microsoft is trying to avoid at all costs at this stage. If the plan is to turn Microsoft into an utility company, where you pay your monthly bill exactly the same way you do with your cable, natural gas and hydro, it has to behave exactly the same way as everyone is used today. To the point that no one can tell the difference where it runs or how it behaves. Once that is the case, almost certainly a transition to the cloud will be just a natural evolution of an on-premises environment. Simple, effortless and more than that, painless.

Making such solution a cloud-0nly offering creates this gap between what is there right now and what will be there in the future, simply creating push back from customers, instead of promoting adoption. Reason why I do believe that Microsoft will do something regarding WVD, making it available on-premises. To simply make the transition to a cloud-hosted WVD simple for anyone using WVD on-premises.

Yes, luring customers, instead of forcing them.

Now it is worth mentioning that Office 365 is far from being a Windows only offering. Many use it from mobile devices running iOS and Android and of course from non-Windows desktops. With that in mind, to make the Office 365 experience the same no matter where/how you use it, Microsoft has to fix more than profiles. As per my twitter, the main one that comes to mind is printing. I do remember a session I attended during the first ever BriForum, in 2005. Yes, thirteen years ago. And guess what? The printing landscape is as bad as it was back in that day.

So Microsoft, please keep your wallet open and get Tricerat as well. That will give us, Office 365 users, a true world class experience, no matter where we are and what we use.

You know, like a true utility company, that does not care if I have a Vizio or a Samsung TV.

It just works.

CR

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