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Microsoft Gets Around DaaS with Azure RemoteApp

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

Microsoft's Azure RemoteApp (codename Mohoro) is not a DaaS solution, but that's OK. The technology, available in preview, is a scalable application delivery platform ideal for Windows shops.

Microsoft shied away from big announcements at this year's TechEd (the company made enough of them during Build last month), focusing instead on several new and improved features and capabilities for admins and developers. The "cloud first, mobile first" message, which was the focus during Monday's keynote, included news around API management capabilities, streamlined cloud storage through Azure Files, new Azure security features, more identity management features, plus a few tooling and framework updates for developers around .Net and Visual Studio. Read: Microsoft's TechEd 2014 Announcements

One interesting new capability that involves both cloud and mobile is the Azure RemoteApp, available as of Monday as a preview. Azure RemoteApp adds the capabilities of Remote Desktop Services (RDS) to Azure, enabling IT to deliver enterprise Windows Server-based applications to end users regardless of the device type or operating system. After installing a remote desktop client, end users can access the apps from Windows, Mac OSX, iOS and Android devices while the data remains in the Azure cloud (they can also switch from one machine to another, and one OS to another, without losing data).

Microsoft's Azure RemoteApp is Not a DaaS

Although it's utilizing Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol, Azure RemoteApp is not a desktop as a service (DaaS) platform; if anything, it's application as a service (AaaS?) or an application delivery platform. It seems there's a bit of initial confusion around this because in a way, Azure RemoteApp does offer a DaaS-like experience, without actual access to the complete desktop. Some of the misperception is also coming from reports that were written when the tool was in development under codename Mohoro (Read: cloudcomputing.info's Microsoft working on a DaaS solution hosted on Azure article for more on this).

The Azure RemoteApp solution is actually much simpler than DaaS and doesn't involve the complex Windows desktop licensing (which is probably why Microsoft decided to stay away from delivering the whole desktop). What end users get instead of a full desktop experience is access to just the apps, which are running on Windows Server 2012 R2 in the Azure cloud. The applications themselves are centralized and managed in Azure and never stored on users' devices.

The advantages of Azure RemoteApp, according to Microsoft, include:

  • Scalability -- enabled by Azure IaaS without the need for on-premises infrastructure;
  • Simplified end user access -- available from anywhere and from any device;
  • Data security -- since apps and data never leave Azure.
Azure RemoteApp Preview
Window Server VersionWindows Server 2012 R2
Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2013Yes
Bring Your Own ApplicationsYes
Planned Device/OS supportDesktop OS: Windows 8.x, Windows 7, Windows RT,Mac OS X
Mobile OS: Windows Phone 8.1,iOS, Android,
Microsoft Account SupportYes
Active Directory, Virtual Network (optional)Yes
Storage (per user)50 GB
RegionsUS East, US West, Europe West, Europe East, Asia Pacific East, Asia Pacific Southeast
Capacity (initial at preview)20 users/tenant 

As far as deployment, Microsoft is providing support for cloud and hybrid options. For a cloud deployment the process involves creating a RemoteApp collection, choosing a template image, publishing remote app resources, and configuring end user access. In a hybrid deployment, the procedure involves creating a DirSync connection (after creating the RemoteApp collection), as well as building a link to a virtual network and template image before publishing the remote resources and setting up end user access.

Azure RemoteApp Preview - Hybrid Deployment. Image Courtesy of Microsoft.Azure RemoteApp Preview - Hybrid Deployment. Image Courtesy of Microsoft.On the end user side, once the Remote Desktop client is set up, users are able to see the published applications and launch them on a device of their choice from the RemoteApp portal.

Pricing for Azure RemoteApp has not been announced; general availability is planned for later this year.

To download and test the free preview, visit remoteapp.windowsazure.com. To learn more about Azure RemoteApp, see azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/remoteapp along with this blog post from Samim Erdogan.

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