Microsoft has announced plans to deprecate its classical edition of Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD), a desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) product, by 2026. Until then, customers will be able to continue using the service. Microsoft has not provided an explanation for the decision to end the classic version of AVD.
At the center of Microsoft's unsettling announcement is the possible confusion it could create among DaaS users. The company so far offers two products under the same name – Azure Virtual Desktop, each with varying levels of integration with Azure. The now deprecated or “classic” AVD service features a separate management GUI not incorporated into Azure Portal, and is not addressable via Azure Resource Manager, Microsoft's key deployment and management service within the cloud environment.
In a peculiar move, the successor to AVD Classic is also called Azure Virtual Desktop. This is not the first time Microsoft has taken such unusual naming decisions, as it previously changed Azure Active Directory's name to “Entra” while preserving the term “Active Directory” for on-premise directories.
Azure Virtual Desktop – Classic vs. New
One of the main differences between AVD classic and the new AVD is the latter's usage of Azure Resource Manager. The current AVD was once branded Windows Virtual Desktop. Both AVDs also differ from Windows 365 Cloud PCs, another DaaS homegrown by Microsoft.
Azure Virtual Desktop (classic) is the original version of Azure Virtual Desktop. It was released in 2018 and is managed using the Azure Virtual Desktop PowerShell module. It does not support Azure Resource Manager (ARM) objects. (Microsoft has recently also disclosed that it will shut down the Remote PowerShell Protocol (RPS) for Exchange Online.)
The new Azure Virtual Desktop was released in 2020 and is managed using the Azure portal. It is built on ARM and offers a number of advantages over Azure Virtual Desktop (classic), including:
- Improved management and monitoring: Azure Virtual Desktop offers a more user-friendly and centralized management experience in the Azure portal. It also provides improved logging and monitoring capabilities using Log Analytics.
- Enhanced security: Azure Virtual Desktop offers a number of enhanced security features, such as Azure Role-based Access Control (RBAC) and managed RDP settings.
- Support for Microsoft Endpoint Manager / Intune: Azure Virtual Desktop can be integrated with Microsoft Endpoint Manager / Intune to provide a unified management experience for your Windows desktops and applications.
In addition to the above advantages, Azure Virtual Desktop also offers a number of new features that are not available in Azure Virtual Desktop (classic), such as:
- Multi-user Windows 11 desktops: Azure Virtual Desktop allows you to deploy multi-user Windows 11 desktops to your users.
- Azure Virtual Machines (AVM) templates: Azure Virtual Desktop allows you to create and use AVM templates to deploy host pools with pre-configured settings.
- Azure Files support: Azure Virtual Desktop supports Azure Files as a storage backend for FSLogix user profiles and application data.
Migration from AVD classic to the new AVD
In an effort to simplify its infrastructure, Microsoft took up the decision to phase out the classic service which The Register believes might be operating on a separate infrastructure pod. No new AVD classic tenants could be created from last Friday, marking the beginning of the end. However, Microsoft is offering larger customers an extended timeline. By September 30, 2026, Microsoft is scheduled to fully terminate the classic service and offer support only for the new AVD.