Should You Run RDS on Azure?

Last Updated:
April 11, 2024

Should You Run RDS on Azure?

A Brief History of RDS

Microsoft® Remote Desktop Services (RDS) is a component of Windows Server® that allows IT to provide virtualized applications and desktops to users using client machines that support Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). RDS has been available for decades. It was introduced in 1998 as Terminal Server in Windows NT 4.0 Terminal Server Edition and was renamed Remote Desktop Services in Windows Server 2008.

Although statistics on the exact number of companies using Microsoft RDS are unavailable, it’s safe to say that RDS has been available long enough to have millions of customers and multi-millions of users. Companies that utilize RDS fall into two primary categories; organizations using RDS to provide employees with corporate applications or desktops, and Windows ISVs using RDS to deliver applications to customers.

End User Computing and the Public Cloud

Prior to the availability of the public cloud, Terminal Services/RDS was run on servers located in corporate data centers. In 2006 Amazon Web Services (AWS) was introduced, followed by Google Cloud in 2008, Microsoft Azure® in 2010, and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure in 2016.  As public cloud services became more ubiquitous, organizations began to move a variety of workloads, including those running RDS, to the public cloud.

For its first full decade, the global cloud computing market grew at a very healthy pace—according to Cloudzero, from $24.63 billion in 2010 to $156.4 billion in 2020. Beginning in 2020, the pandemic forced organizations to accelerate cloud adoption for end user computing workloads to enable employees to work remotely. According to Gartner®, worldwide public cloud services spending for just end user computing was $491 billion in 2022.

Moving end user computing operations to the public cloud was a godsend to organizations that needed to keep employees productive during the pandemic. Over time, these organizations realized other benefits, like faster hardware lifecycles, near-instant scalability, and a desktop with a modern look-and-feel. Many organizations chose to adopt their public cloud provider’s Windows virtual desktop service rather than continuing to manage their employees’ Windows® desktops on their cloud provider’s servers.

Shifting employee desktop management to a public cloud provider freed IT end user computing teams from day-to-day user desktop management so they could focus on more strategic initiatives. Gartner’s prediction for worldwide public cloud services end user spending bears out this trend, with 2023 projected to be $597 billion and 2024 projected to be $725 billion.

Windows ISVs and the Public Cloud

Windows ISVs were in a different position than organizations providing productivity apps to employees when the pandemic-driven global shutdown occurred. First, Windows ISVs’ computing operations were already optimized for remote users, with contingencies in place to accommodate both expected and sudden growth. A cloud provider’s ability to scale quickly is not as attractive to an ISV as it is to an organization that needs to suddenly accommodate a significant increase in remote employees.

Second, Windows ISVs deliver applications to customers that have different expectations and needs than employees who require a desktop with productivity applications in order to do their jobs. RDS provides ISVs with more control over application delivery and user experience, which are critical to optimize customer retention. When an organization moves to a cloud provider’s virtual desktop for employees, that organization must adopt the user roles defined by the provider. User roles as defined by ISVs may not be aligned with user roles as defined by a public cloud service.

Third, some Windows applications written for RDS on Server OS may not work on a public cloud like Azure without updates that may affect app functionality. Windows ISV customers choose Windows applications because the rich functionality and alignment with specialized business needs that Windows apps deliver is far more important to them than a modern look-and-feel.


Should Windows ISVs Run RDS on Azure?

According to Computer Reseller News, in Q1 2023, 65% of the total global cloud market share was held by AWS (32% of total market), Microsoft Azure (23% of total market), and Google Cloud (10% of total market). Interestingly, market share shifted slightly in Q1 2023 when AWS lost one percentage point to Microsoft Azure, demonstrating that Microsoft’s focus on growing their cloud market share is bearing fruit.

Windows ISVs that are using RDS to deliver applications from a private cloud or a public cloud alternative to Azure can be categorized by Microsoft as a growth opportunity easily identified by their annual purchase of user licenses. These Windows ISVs may be in the receiving end of promotional offers to move their application to Azure.

But…if it ain’t broke, should a Windows ISV fix it? Windows ISVs considering a move to Azure from their private cloud or another public cloud need to consider the following:

  • Cloud environment adoption resistance: moving an application infrastructure brings change and disruption to an ISVs’ customers and employees and adds risk to the project.  
  • Unknown costs related to cloud migration: even if the ISV already has one move under its belt, moving an application infrastructure is full of unknowns that can be costly.
  • Potential gaps in employee skill sets: moving to a new platform means that the ISV employees currently managing the application infrastructure need to learn how to manage the new infrastructure while managing the old one and planning and executing the move. That’s intimidating even for a seasoned team.
  • Potential gaps in the application ecosystem: moving to a new platform means that the ISV needs to have a thorough and detailed understanding of every element that connects to the application ecosystem and be prepared to duplicate it in a new, unfamiliar infrastructure.
  • What happens if something goes wrong: if the collaboration with the new vendor goes wrong, the ISV is either stuck in an unhappy relationship or is forced to make another difficult move and possibly face contractual penalties.

There is an alternative solution.

Instead of switching cloud platforms, why not switch to a new application publishing solution?

GO-Global® is an alternative to RDS for ISVs that want to publish Windows applications from any public, private, or hybrid cloud, to customers located anywhere, using any device that supports a browser.

GO-Global fully replaces Microsoft RDS functionality, including multi-session kernel, Remote Desktop clients, display driver, protocol, internet gateway and management tools, and eliminates the need for user licenses.

Because GO-Global does not use RDS, applications published using GO-Global require less IT implementation and management effort, scale more economically, and provide users with a web-native experience. Additionally, GO-Global leverages a cloud services’ existing infrastructure and security and scalability features to deliver advanced functionality with less complexity and lower cost.

 Despite its low cost, GO-Global delivers enterprise-level scalability but is easy to install, configure, and use, with considerably less technology overhead required for implementation, and provides a great customer experience, including fast logins and minimal latency, even over low-bandwidth connections. And GO-Global’s Universal Print Driver eliminates printing issues, so customers can print documents without resorting to inconvenient workarounds.

To learn more, request a demo here or download a free 30-day trial.

Interested in RDS Alternatives?

See how GO-Global provides a simple, cost-effective replacement