With all the interest and excitement around Microsoft Azure recently, my colleagues and I have been fielding lots of questions from partners about the ability to host RDS (Remote Desktop Services) within Azure as a solution for customers.
This is indeed a supported solution on Azure and provides a great opportunity for partners to deliver remote end-user Windows applications to their customers across a variety of platforms including Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, and Android.
SPLA partners are able to offer hosted solutions through RDS running on Azure as long as they obtain RDS SALs (Subscriber Access Licenses) through a Microsoft SPLA reseller. If you are not currently a SPLA partner, please consider reaching out to a Microsoft SPLA reseller to see what it takes to become a SPLA partner. Azure opens up opportunities to expand your practice by offering solutions via SPLA that you may have never been able to offer previously.
To get you started from a technical perspective, I would recommend referencing the Azure Desktop Hosting - Reference Architecture and Deployment Guides. If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide for configuring a Remote Desktop Session Virtualization environment, take a look at the blog post Step-by-Step: Remote Desktop Services on Windows Azure - A cost-effective alternative to Desktop as a Service. (I’ve had a few partners tell me this was a fantastic resource for helping them to quickly get RDS configured and running within Azure.)
For licensing questions, I would recommend starting with the Virtual Machines Licensing FAQ
What about the ability to offer VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) on Azure? To deliver a desktop hosting solution via Microsoft’s SPLA program, hosting partners can leverage Windows Server and the Windows Desktop Experience feature to deliver Windows users an application experience that is familiar to business users. Although Windows 8, Windows 7, and earlier Windows client versions are not licensed for SPLA (on Azure or any other Service Provider platform for that matter), the Desktop Experience feature in Windows Server 2012 can provide a similar user experience and application support.
Another potential option for the future is Microsoft Azure RemoteApp, that was just announced this morning. This service is currently in Preview, but offers an alternative way to deliver session-based applications from Azure to customers while providing simple, high level administration for the service. Azure RemoteApp will reduce much of the architecture planning, configuration, and maintenance that is required in hosting RDS on Azure today.