Explore the ins and outs of Microsoft Azure RemoteApp

Azure RemoteApp is useful for delivering apps via the cloud, but admins should keep licensing and app compatibility in mind, and learn how apps function differently in the cloud.

IT has to meet the growing demand to deliver apps individually, and the combination of Microsoft's RemoteApp remote application service with the Azure cloud platform can help address that.

Microsoft originally offered Terminal Services RemoteApp as an alternative to installing applications directly onto desktops or other endpoints back in Windows Server 2008. RemoteApp runs Windows applications on a server and provides end-user connectivity to the app through Remote Desktop Services (RDS), formerly Terminal Services. Microsoft Azure RemoteApp is similar to the RemoteApp feature included with Windows Server, but applications run in the Azure cloud rather than on premises.

Although its functionality is similar to the older version of RemoteApp, implementing and managing Microsoft Azure RemoteApp can go sideways, so IT administrators should do some planning. IT pros must make sure Azure RemoteApp licensing requirements are suitable for their organizations and check if their applications are compatible with the tool.

Microsoft Azure RemoteApp licensing

Because Azure RemoteApp runs in the Azure cloud, admins don't have to worry about purchasing Windows Server licenses or RDS Client Access Licenses. What they do need is licensing for the software they make available through Azure RemoteApp. If the application is natively available through their Azure subscription, then they probably don't need a license. For example, admins would not have to license System Center Endpoint Protection because it is included with their Azure subscriptions.

Admins should also remember the minimum number of users RemoteApp supports is 20. Smaller shops can hypothetically still use it -- the service works in smaller deployments -- but Microsoft will bill for 20 users.

Putting apps in the cloud

Like Windows Server RemoteApp, admins can use Azure RemoteApp to host commercial applications, as well as custom, line-of-business (LOB) applications developed in house. Most applications work fine with Azure RemoteApp, but there are a few considerations to remember.

IT pros must make sure Azure RemoteApp licensing requirements are suitable for their organizations.

Admins must group applications into one of two types: cloud collections or hybrid collections. In a cloud collection, Azure hosts all the applications and any related data fully in the cloud. Cloud collections are the easier of the two types to deploy, but they are also limited to Internet-based resources.

Hybrid collections also host applications and store data in the Azure cloud, but they allow hosted applications to access resources residing on an on-premises network such as databases or file servers. Although hybrid collections are more flexible than cloud collections, they are more difficult to configure because they generally require site-to-site virtual private network access.

Application compatibility

Most applications work fine with Azure RemoteApp, but Microsoft only guarantees compatibility if the application meets all the certification requirements for Windows desktop apps and also adheres to the RDS programming guidelines.

The main trick to getting an application to work properly in Azure RemoteApp is to configure the app so it -- or the VM deploying the application -- never stores data locally. RemoteApp is designed to be multiuser, so it purges locally stored data at the end of a user's session.

Admins should configure the application to store data either in an external repository or within the user's profile. IT should store user-specific data in user-specific locations such as their profiles to avoid creating problems for other employees.

Microsoft Azure RemoteApp is an excellent option for organizations that want to run Windows apps in the cloud, but admins must properly license and configure applications to prevent data loss. It is available in four editions, but Microsoft only suggests the entry-level edition for LOB applications. For information employees who need Office and other productivity apps, Microsoft recommends the Standard or Premium tier of Azure RemoteApp, which starts at $15 and $20 per user per month.

Next Steps

What Azure RemoteApp means for Windows DaaS

Deploying Azure RemoteApp without IT support

A closer look at the Azure cloud

Dig Deeper on Application virtualization and streaming