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Hello Everyone,

We broke the news to you last week that we plan to make Azure RemoteApp generally available. The day is upon us. With today’s release, Azure RemoteApp is now generally available!

Starting today, Azure RemoteApp is available for purchase, backed by an SLA and supported by Microsoft Support, offering the full scalability and security of the Azure cloud. Using Azure RemoteApp, you can deploy your critical business applications in the cloud; manage them through Azure’s convenient interface; and provide your users an intuitive, high-fidelity, WAN-ready user experience. We are ready to host your Windows applications in production: Deploy them in 13 Azure regions globally and turn them into a finished, turn-key, cloud service accessible to users on any device, anywhere in the world.

Click here to jump right in! Sign in to the Azure management portal where you can deploy your first RemoteApp collection and be ready for users in minutes. You can also try our 5-minute hands-on demo, or for a longer spin with another popular app, check out RemoteIE powered by Azure RemoteApp.

Feature Updates for General Availability

Today’s release supports all the features and capabilities of Azure RemoteApp from the preview. Tristan and Thomas gave a deep-dive session on Azure RemoteApp at TechEd Europe 2014, where they discussed these capabilities in detail. With today’s release, we are building on these capabilities and adding a few important enhancements:

Global Availability

Azure RemoteApp is now available worldwide in the following Azure regions:

  • North America: Central US, East US 1 & 2, North Central US, South Central US, and West US
  • Europe: North Europe and West Europe
  • Asia: East Asia, Southeast Asia, Japan East, and Japan West
  • South America: Brazil South

We will expand the service to Australia East and Southeast regions in the next few months.

Full-Featured 30-Day Free Trial

We are making a 30-day free trial available to all Azure customers. You can start your trial by visiting the RemoteApp section of the Azure management portal and creating your first RemoteApp collection.

01- Welcome to 30-day trial

If you were enrolled in the Azure RemoteApp Preview, your account will automatically convert to a 30-day free trial following today’s update.

The 30-day free trial supports all features of Azure RemoteApp: You can create both cloud and hybrid deployments, use any of the built-in template images including Office 365 ProPlus, upload your own custom template images, configure virtual networks to use with your RemoteApp collections, and invite users with identities from Azure Active Directory or Microsoft account.

During the 30-day free trial, you can create a maximum of two RemoteApp collections and assign no more than 10 users to each collection.

Support for Office

One of the popular aspects of Azure RemoteApp in Preview was our support for Microsoft Office. You could create a cloud-only deployment using the Microsoft Office template image and your users could start using Office applications within minutes. This made the Azure RemoteApp experience real for many of our Preview customers.

We are continuing to support Office applications. After today’s update, you will have two choices for hosting Office applications in Azure RemoteApp: Office Professional Plus 2013 during the 30-day free trial, or Office 365 ProPlus.

Office Professional Plus 2013

During the 30-day trial, you can use the “Office Professional Plus 2013 (30-day trial)” template image to create a RemoteApp collection. This template image contains Office Professional Plus 2013 preinstalled. You can assign users to this trial collection using their Azure AD identities or Microsoft accounts (Live IDs). No additional subscription is required.

02 - quick-create office trial - update

This is a great option to kick the tires and get a good feeling for Office in Azure RemoteApp. However, this option is intended for evaluation and testing only. RemoteApp collections created using the “Office Professional Plus 2013 (30-day trial)” template image cannot be transitioned to production mode and will be permanently shut down at the end of the trial period.

Office 365 ProPlus

Alternatively, you can create your RemoteApp collection using the “Office 365 ProPlus” template image. This option allows you to extend your Office 365 service to Azure RemoteApp. You must have an existing subscription plan and your users must be licensed for the Office 365 ProPlus service, either standalone or through the Office 365 Enterprise E3/E4 service plans. The RemoteApp instances of the Office apps will count as one of five installation instances allowed for each user, and they will be fully activated. You can view the details of Office 365 service plans at this TechNet article, and manage your users’ Office 365 licenses at the Office 365 Admin Portal.

Office 365 ProPlus option is available during both the 30-day free trial and in production mode, but it is the only supported option after the trial expires.

Note that, you can also create a custom template image containing Office 365 ProPlus. To construct such a template image, follow the deployment steps for Office 365 ProPlus on RDS, found here.

Switching to Production Mode

Once you start your 30-day free trial, a note in the RemoteApp section of the portal will tell you how long you have left before your trial expires. You can activate your account anytime and switch to production mode using the link in this note.

03 -go to paid

When you activate, this will affect all the RemoteApp collections in your account.

  • Collections running with the “Windows Server 2012 R2” or the “Office 365 ProPlus” template images will transition to production seamlessly. All user data and settings remain intact.
  • If you have uploaded custom template images, collections using those images will also transition seamlessly.
  • The “Office Professional Plus 2013 (30-day trial)” template image is intended for evaluation only. Collections running with this template image cannot be transitioned to production. They will be put in “disabled” state.

With the transition to production, there will be three important changes affecting your account:

  • Trial-mode restrictions on deployment size are removed. You will now be able to create additional RemoteApp collections and assign more users to collections.
  • Usage in your RemoteApp collections starts incurring charges. For example, you will start being charged for a minimum of 20 users on a monthly basis. (See below for details.)
  • Your use of the service will now be covered by our SLA.

If you do not transition to production mode by the expiration of your trial, your RemoteApp collections will be disabled. Fear not: We will save your settings and your users’ data for another 90 days, so you can still activate your service and switch to production mode without any data loss.

New Performance and Scale Options

With this release, we are offering two scale configurations: BASIC and STANDARD.

  • BASIC is intended for lighter, task-worker use cases, such as a single productivity application or a data-entry or web-browser frontend to a line of business system.
  • STANDARD is intended for typical productivity use cases such as using Office and other knowledge worker line of business and productivity applications.

In both configurations, the service uses Windows Server session virtualization and connects multiple users of a RemoteApp collection to the same underlying RD Session Host VM. (Users from different collections never share the same VM.) Since multiple users share the resources of a single VM, session virtualization brings significant efficiencies in resource utilization: Only one copy of each OS component needs to be loaded and run. This is also true for many application components. This results in significantly lower demand on both memory and disk I/O. In addition, as each user goes through periods of interactive use mixed with idle time, the peaks of usage by one user can take advantage of idle time of other users. The benefits from this type of sharing increase when co-located workloads are highly varied, diverse, and intermittent, which is especially true for desktop applications. Session virtualization is a highly effective way of unlocking these efficiencies while maintaining a high fidelity user experience.

During the preview, we experimented with and collected feedback on a range of configurations. STANDARD scale configuration reflects what our experiments so far suggest is appropriate for most productivity use cases. Preview feedback also indicated a less resource-intensive use case, comprising of light use of productivity applications and data entry frontends to line of business system. BASIC scale configuration addresses this use case. Both scale configurations provide 50GBs of personal storage per user that is backed by highly available Azure Storage.

You can select the scale configuration for your RemoteApp collection while creating it. If you want to change the scale configuration later, you can do so using the SCALE tab. When you make a change, the RemoteApp collection will be refreshed at the new scale configuration. Your applications and settings and your users’ data remain intact.

04 - scale-choice - Copy

Scale configurations is an area of ongoing optimization as well as long term platform innovation. As we improve the efficiency of the Windows platform and the Azure cloud, we will continue to tune STANDARD and BASIC scale configurations for their respective application use cases and, if necessary, provide additional scale configurations for other use cases.

Prices and Usage Metrics

With today’s update, we are also starting to offer Azure RemoteApp with a usage-based, per-user billing model. For each RemoteApp collection, you will be charged monthly based on the number of users you have assigned to that collection and each user’s hours of usage:

  • For a base monthly fee, each user can connect and use the applications for up to 40 hours.
  • If a given user exceed 40 hours in a given month, we will charge overage for each additional hour.
  • Once a user has reached 80 hours of use in a given month, we will cap fees for that user, stop charging overage, and allow unlimited access.

Note that there is a 20-user minimum: If you have fewer than 20 users assigned to a collection, you will still be charged the base monthly fee for 20 users.

While designing this billing model, we kept three things in mind:

  • We want Azure RemoteApp to be affordable. Desktop and application virtualization has traditionally been expensive to build, deploy, and manage. We want Azure RemoteApp to change that. This is why we are offering the BASIC scale configuration, where you can host a line-of-business application for as little as $10/user per month. At the STANDARD level, you can host your users’ productivity workspace for just $15/user per month.
  • We designed the service for the mobile access use case. The objective of Azure RemoteApp is to empower you to provide your users access to business and productivity tools on their mobile and personal devices. Preview feedback suggests that 40 hours of included usage hours per month will be adequate for most mobile access use cases.
  • Your bill must be predictable. When you use the service more, there will be no unexpected, runaway fees. There is a cap to how much you will pay for each user. Once you reach this cap, additional usage is free of charge.

You can find out the details of Azure RemoteApp pricing on the official price information page.

You can keep an eye on your RemoteApp collection’s usage on the DASHBOARD page. The chart on this page tracks the number of users assigned to the collection and the overage hours they have accrued, the two elements that determine your bill for the collection. The table breaks down usage for each user, providing you greater visibility.

05 - usage chart

You can also download usage details for any month. This will produce a detailed report that lists all users’ usage during that month.

06 - usage download - window

Supported Clients

Your users can connect to Azure RemoteApp using a phone, a tablet, or a PC. We provide client apps for iOS, Mac, Android, and Windows, including Windows RT and Windows Phone. Our Windows desktop app for Azure RemoteApp is also supported on Windows Embedded thin clients. You can download our client apps from http://remoteapp.azure.com.

Additional Resources

We have a wealth of in-depth information on Azure RemoteApp:

Summary

Today’s release is a very important milestone for Azure RemoteApp, and we are very excited. Thank you for your support throughout the Preview. Your input and feedback shaped the updates since the Preview release, and they will continue to guide us in the future.

With the improvements we are releasing today, Azure RemoteApp is now ready for your production Windows applications, available at an affordable price, ready to serve users on practically every mobile and personal device, and in every corner of the globe. Azure RemoteApp is a new way to deploy your business applications. Start small, take that one key application to the cloud, and expand from there. Or go big, provide your users with a complete workspace. Either way, you can start today.

Start here.

Samim Erdogan, @samimerdogan
On behalf of the Azure RemoteApp Team