Azure RemoteAppwas one of those pieces that was a long time coming, and today it is one of the coolest things we offer the IT community – and I believe it will play a big role in any mobility strategy in the future.
The philosophy behind Azure RemoteApp is simple: There are a lot of scenarios and industries where an app-based approach is more efficient than desktops (to see some of the amazing functionality and uses cases for desktop virtualization, see my post from last week here).
It is quite common for me to hear a customer say, “We are going to go 100% VDI” but when I check back their deployment ends up being ~20% and 80% remote applications. VDI has become the term used for all server-based computing, and is used to describe both application and desktop remoting.
What I am hearing a lot lately is that organizations want to use more app and desktop remoting solutions, but they don’t want to make the large up-front CAPEX expenditures and maintain the necessary farm of servers. The desire to use more remoting solutions is primarily being driven by the need to enable the long tail of internal Windows applications the company relies on to a growing number of different mobile device platforms. If this sounds familiar, then we have a great solution for you: Azure RemoteApp.
Because all of its power and scale are based in Azure, Azure RemoteApp is a great way to take these valuable Windows apps and deliver them to a mobile workforce. This service, in many ways, is a very effective bridge between your existing inventory of internal apps and enterprise mobility.
With Azure RemoteApp, IT teams can empower their workforce to use any app that can run on Windows Server 2012 R2 on a variety of devices– and all of this is based within the Azure cloud where it can easily scale and get updates. This combination of features – ease of use, bottomless scale, and simple maintenance – means that IT teams can offload a number of manual tasks and focus on bigger pictures.
The cloud component here is huge: The apps are deployed in the cloud, the apps are hosted and managed in the cloud (with no need for maintenance by you), and then the visualizationof these apps is delivered to the device user. With Azure RemoteApp, your users can access these apps from anywhere and you never have to worry about managing or calibrating these apps – that is all handled as SaaS in Azure.
Keep in mind that Azure has a global footprint and we can ensure your users are sent to the Microsoft datacenter that is closest to them. This ensures that they have a great, high-performance experience running their apps. Our global footprint even addresses this little thing called “the speed of light” that any global cloud has to deal with. What I mean is that, in terms of end-user performance, the server where your users are running an app has to be within ~750 miles of that user’s physical location – otherwise there is enough latency that the end-user notices the lag. This is why we’re building Azure datacenters all over the world – to deliver your users the best possible experience.
There are countless ways to plug Azure RemoteApp into your infrastructure, and, in this post, I’ll look at a few of the ways it can make a big impact on your mobility management capabilities.
Azure RemoteApp + EMM: Efficient, Scalable, Accessible
One of the things that really sets Azure RemoteApp apart is how broadly functional it is – especially compared to other in-market solutions attempting to participate in the same category.
With Azure RemoteApp, you can empower your end users to access their corporate apps from virtually anywhere – and from a variety of devices. On the back end, you can easily scale up or down to meet the changing needs of your businesses, and, of equal importance, this management can be done securely.
Azure RemoteApp is also built with your bottom line in mind: With the auto-scale capabilities of Azure RemoteApp, you only end up paying for the actual capacity you use. If you were to build out your own infrastructure to do this you’d be at the mercy of overloading some days, and then having unused hardware costing you money on others. As the demand fluctuates, RemoteApp is able to spin up and spin down capacity on-demand.
When I demonstrate Azure RemoteApp’s functionality, one of the things that really surprises them is to see so many non-mobile Windows programs running on a handheld device. For example, by deploying Visio or Excel with Power BI in the cloud, I easily access those apps with Azure RemoteApp on my phone (almost as exciting as football on your phone for you Manning fans!). Even though Excel with Power BI doesn’t have a mobile version, I can run the program easily. The massive amount of processing takes place back in Azure (there’s way too much for the average phone/tablet to handle) and I can see the visualizations in real time on my phone. The other day the Azure RemoteApp sent me a status update while we were playing the Halo game on a Nokia 1520 phablet – and it was a great gaming experience!
What Makes Azure RemoteApp Unique
If you spend any time on a search engine looking at current cloud-based virtualization solutions, you’re going to see a lot of DaaS options and definitions. When Microsoft set out to build its first on-prem service (Remote Desktop Services), the first stage of development was to gather data about the needs and adoption of currently deployed remote technology. The result was a product that has become widely (and enthusiastically) used all over the world.
As we continued to support and enhance RDS, our ongoing research discovered something else: As IT organizations strain to meet the growing/emerging needs of their organizations, they really needed a flexible service that could deliver apps to a variety of devices and then scale up and down quickly based on the need for those apps. Keeping the costs minimal was critical, since there were more and more mobile workers every day.
To address this growing need, Microsoft listened to customer feedback and took action. We didn’t just take the existing RDS product and start hosting it in Azure IaaS – we started fresh and built a pure Cloud SaaS solutionthat was architected from the ground up to have the cloud scale and performance of a cloud service that millions of users would require. I’ve written a great deal about how a major part of our “Cloud First” engineering vision is to prove things out in our public cloud and then bring on-prem. This is certainly our plan with RemoteApp.
RemoteApp capability already exists for on-prem RDS via Windows Server, and this brings incredible scale and manageability to RDS.
This doesn’t just represent a cloud-first design principle, it is an example of a rock-solid Hybrid approachthat capitalizes on Microsoft’s cloud-based strength (hosted apps and workloads) and our years of datacenter experience (session-based apps, RDS, etc.). Years ago we created the Windows apps that are now used so widely, and now we are making these apps even more broadly applicable by moving them to the cloud and devices.
Getting Started with Azure RemoteApp (Is Really Easy)
Perhaps the most popular part of Azure RemoteApp (at the outset, at least) is what it doesn’t include: It doesn’t require additional software and you can provision the service in minutes directly from the Azure Management Portal.
Another huge benefit here is the freedom of choice that Azure RemoteApp provides. When setting up Azure RemoteApp, you can choose either a cloud-based deployment (where you simply deploy a standalone cloud service), or you can select a hybriddeployment (where the service is integrated into your on-premises infrastructure). Here’s how both deployments work:
ARA Cloud Deployment:
- With the cloud deployment option, IT can quickly provision (just a few clicks!) access using the pre-built application collections.
- IT can also bring their own LOB apps to the cloud deployment option.
- Users can access apps with either their Microsoft accounts or organizational accounts (using Azure Active Directory).
ARA Hybrid Deployment:
- Again, with the hybrid deployment option, IT can bring their own LOB apps and users can access these apps with their organizational accounts.
- IT also needs to create a DirSync connection between Active Directory on-premises and Azure Active Directory.
- IT needs to create a site-to-site VPN connection from Azure to on-prem (or to an Azure virtual network).
The Hybrid deployment option allows you to completely uplift existing multi-tier applications to Azure without writing a line of code or asking users to learn a new experience. For example, if you have a rich client application that queries data from a SQL Server on-premises, you can leave the SQL Server right where it is and hand over the management of the client application to Azure RemoteApp. The data stays secure, the experience is seamless for the user logging in with their existing domain credentials, the client application is more easily managed from a central location, and the users are now able to get their work done from new devices and locations.
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Azure RemoteApp is a great way to provide anywhere, anytime access to the corporate apps that empower your workforce to be productive on the go. The power and scale of Azure give you the flexibility to manage any demands on the app, and, by centralizing the apps in the cloud, you can be confident that sensitive corporate resources are secure since, once users log off, everything stays in the cloud rather than the device.
To learn more, check out the RDS Team’s Blog introducing Azure RemoteAppb