Windows 365 Frontline available in public preview
Published Apr 06 2023 07:55 AM 24.6K Views
Microsoft

Today, we are excited to announce Windows 365 Frontline is in public preview. You now have the ability to provision Cloud PCs for shift and part-time workers or others who only need a Cloud PC for a limited amount of time during their work day. I'm going to share a few use case scenarios, then offer details on how you can provision and manage Windows 365 Frontline Cloud PCs.

How Windows 365 Frontline helps simplify provisioning for IT

Windows 365 Frontline makes it easier and more affordable to extend the power of Cloud PCs to frontline and shift work employees so they can experience the benefits of Windows in the cloud. A single Windows 365 Frontline license supports up to three Cloud PCs. These Cloud PCs can be used by any employee, as long as only one employee per license is active at any given time. So instead of purchasing Windows 365 Frontline for every employee, you only need to purchase the number of licenses required to support the maximum number of concurrent active users.

For instance, if you have 300 customer service representatives working across time zones or shifts but only 100 of them work at the same time, only 100 licenses need to be purchased to provision a personalized Cloud PC for each employee. When these 100 employees save their data and sign out at the end of their shift, the next group of employees can log in to their personalized Cloud PCs and pick up their work exactly where they left it at the end of their previous shift. And after their shift ends, a third group can sign in. Shift workers can get to work right away because their personal settings, data, and apps have been saved and are available as soon as they sign in to their Windows 365 Frontline Cloud PC.

Windows 365 Frontline can be managed alongside your other Windows 365 Cloud PCs and endpoints with Microsoft Intune. From deploying apps to applying settings, it's easy for IT administrators to tailor the experience of each group of Cloud PCs to meet the needs of each type of employee.

Let's go through an example of providing Windows 365 Frontline to 30 customer representatives that your company just hired in the Philippines. Your organization expects no more than 9 employees working at once. To ensure you don't run short on Cloud PCs, you have purchased 10 licenses for Windows 365 Frontline with a Cloud PC configuration of 2 vCPU/8 GB/128 GB. With 10 licenses, up to 30 Cloud PCs can be provisioned.

 

Note: Windows 365 Frontline concurrency limits are based on the Cloud PC configuration. For example, if you've purchased 10 licenses for 2 vCPU/8 GB/128 GB Cloud PCs, any 10 workers will have personalized access to that Cloud PC configuration at the same time. If you have also purchased five Windows 365 Frontline licenses for 8 vCPU/32 GB/512 GB Cloud PCs, then another five workers can be active on those Cloud PCs at the same time.

Provisioning Windows 365 Frontline Cloud PCs

Setting up a Windows 365 Frontline Cloud PC is simple, especially if you're already familiar with provisioning a Windows 365 Enterprise Cloud PC in Microsoft Intune. Continuing with the customer service representative scenario I outlined above:

  1. First, create an Azure AD group that includes all the customer service reps you wish to provision with a Cloud PC of a given configuration, e.g., 2 vCPU/8 GB/128 GB. I'll call this group "Customer service reps Manilla."
  2. Then, in the Windows 365 blade of the Microsoft Intune admin center, select Create to create a new provisioning policy and set up the Cloud PCs. For this example, I'll call this policy "Customer service reps."
  3. Select Frontline as the license type, select your join type, and choose your region and network as you typically do for Windows 365 Enterprise scenarios.

    A screenshot of Microsoft Intune admin center in the Devices menu, and Frontline and Azure AD Join are selectedA screenshot of Microsoft Intune admin center in the Devices menu, and Frontline and Azure AD Join are selected
  4. In the Image and Configuration tabs, assign the same settings you would for your Windows 365 Enterprise users or choose a different image targeted to these users.
  5. Under Assignments, you can see Windows 365 Frontline Cloud PCs that have been purchased by your organization and target them to a specific group of individuals. For example, here you see that you are entitled to provision 30 Cloud PCs because 10 licenses were purchased. Select the "Customer service reps Manilla" group you created earlier and assign the 2 vCPU/8 GB/128 GB Cloud PC configuration to this group.

    A screenshot of Select Cloud PC size menu in Microsoft Intune admin centerA screenshot of Select Cloud PC size menu in Microsoft Intune admin center
  6. Preview the provisioning policy choices you have made in Review + create and select Create to complete the provisioning process. The provisioning policy will begin calculating and will assign a Windows 365 Frontline Cloud PC to each one of the users in the group. In this case, it's 30 Cloud PCs because 10 licenses were purchased.

Cloud PCs provisioned to these users will be created and then automatically placed in a powered-off state until an employee logs in to their Cloud PC.

Managing Windows 365 Frontline Cloud PCs

Unlike Windows 365 Enterprise Cloud PCs, Windows 365 Frontline Cloud PCs remain in a powered-off state by default when they are not in use. When an employee logs in through the Windows 365 app or windows365.microsoft.com, their Cloud PC is powered on, and when they select Disconnect, it is powered off. This process is completely automated and does not require administrative intervention. If a Cloud PC is powered off, it will receive Intune policies and updates when it is powered back on.

Session time limits

Your organization will need to instruct employees to save their work at the end of their shift and explicitly disconnect or sign out using any Windows end-session control, so the Frontline license is released and available for another employee to utilize. Since some employees may forget to do that, we highly recommend configuring a Session Time Limit policy to enforce when inactive Cloud PC sessions will be disconnected. To do this, go into the Intune admin center:

  1. Select Devices > Configuration profiles > Create profile. From the drop-down menu, choose the following settings:
    1. Platform: Windows 10 and later
    2. Profile type: Settings catalog
  2. On the Configuration settings tab, select Add settings and search for "session time limits."
  3. Select the search result for "Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Remote Desktop Services\Remote Desktop Session Host\Session Time Limits."
  4. Select the box for "Set time limit for active but idle Remote Desktop Services sessions" and close the pane.
  5. Expand Administrative Templates and toggle "Set your idle but active session limit for Remote Desktop Services sessions" to Enabled.

    A screenshot of Administrative Templates menu with the “Set your idle session limit for Remote Desktop Services sessions” EnabledA screenshot of Administrative Templates menu with the “Set your idle session limit for Remote Desktop Services sessions” Enabled
  6. On the Assignments tab, choose Add groups and select the groups to whom you would like to provide a Frontline Cloud PC. In our example, this would be the "Customer service reps Manilla" group. You could choose all users who are using Windows 365 Frontline, depending on whether or not you'd like to customize timeout policy based on the type of users.
  7. On the Review + create tab, select Create to finalize your choices.

Power Windows 365 Frontline Cloud PCs on and off

There may be an instance when there's a time-critical update that you'd like to apply to your employees' Cloud PCs, even if they are currently not in use and powered off. To help with this, we've added two remote actions that are unique to Windows 365 Frontline Cloud PCs: Power on and Power off. These remote actions allow you to remotely turn the Cloud PC on before an employee shows up for their shift or turn it on to apply updates, and you can turn off an employee's Cloud PC in case you need to make it available for another employee.

A Screenshot of the CPC_Frontline menu in the Microsoft Intune admin center, and a curser is hovering over the “Yes” in the “Power off Cloud PC – CPC_Frontline” pop upA Screenshot of the CPC_Frontline menu in the Microsoft Intune admin center, and a curser is hovering over the “Yes” in the “Power off Cloud PC – CPC_Frontline” pop up

 

Note: These actions will be available at general availability for Windows 365 Frontline, not during the public preview.

Similar to the existing remote actions in Windows 365, you have the ability to apply these remote actions in bulk. New remote actions will be available to you individually and in bulk via the Graph API for automation purposes.

 

Important: Powering off an active Windows 365 Frontline Cloud PC may result in data loss for your employees, especially if they have unsaved changes.

Optimize reboots using Windows Update for Business

Since Windows 365 Frontline Cloud PCs will be powered off when not in use, it's important to minimize the chances of interruption to employees at the start of their shift.

If your organization uses Windows Update for Business policies in Intune to manage Windows updates, when an employee signs out or disconnects at the end of their shift, the service can automatically detect and apply any pending reboots to ensure updates are applied prior to the employee powering off their Cloud PC. This means they can be immediately productive at the start of their next shift. For Windows 365 to perform this intelligent optimization in a way that's consistent with your company's policies, it relies on your organization's settings for Windows Update for Business. For recommended configuration settings, please see Configure Windows Update for Windows 365 Frontline Cloud PCs

Frontline Cloud PC utilization reports

Available in the Microsoft Intune admin center, the Frontline Cloud PC utilization report helps to ensure your organization has purchased an adequate number of licenses to meet the needs of your workforce. To find this report, select Devices > Cloud PC performance (preview) > View report (under Cloud PCs with low utilization).

A screenshot of the Frontline Cloud PC utilization report, showing the status and connection historyA screenshot of the Frontline Cloud PC utilization report, showing the status and connection history

For each Cloud PC size, you can view the:

  • Number of currently connected Cloud PCs
  • Maximum number of connected Cloud PCs for a given day in the past 7 or 28 days
  • Maximum concurrency limit
  • Warnings if you're approaching and reaching the maximum concurrency limit

Per standard data retention policies, admins can view up to the last 28 days of data in the Frontline Cloud PC utilization report. This report is specific to Windows 365 Frontline and does not apply to other Windows 365 plans.

Windows 365 Frontline: The employee experience

As you can see, Windows 365 is easy for IT administrators to deploy, configure, and manage. Let's now look at how seamless the experience is for employees.

Stephanie is a customer representative at your call center in Manila. At the start of her shift, she uses her credentials to log in to windows365.microsoft.com or the Windows 365 app. She sees her Cloud PC. To get started, all she has to do is select Open in browser or Connect to connect to her Cloud PC.

A screenshot of the Windows 11 desktop, and the Windows 365 application is openA screenshot of the Windows 11 desktop, and the Windows 365 application is open

Within a short time, Stephanie's Cloud PC is powered on. She sees a reminder to save her work and disconnect from the Cloud PC at the end of her shift to release the Cloud PC for the next worker's shift. She can navigate to the Windows Start menu or her taskbar to access the apps she needs to work.

A screenshot of the Contoso Shift 1 tab in browser, and a notification in the top right says, “Close this browser window to sign out[.] When you’re finished, close this browser window to sign out of your Cloud PC”A screenshot of the Contoso Shift 1 tab in browser, and a notification in the top right says, “Close this browser window to sign out[.] When you’re finished, close this browser window to sign out of your Cloud PC”

If Stephanie steps away for lunch or a break, her Cloud PC stays on according to timeout policies set by the IT admin. When she comes back to her Cloud PC, she enters her credentials and quickly picks up where she left off.

At the end of her shift, Stephanie saves her work and selects Disconnect on her Cloud PC to make sure she signs out, signaling the end of her work day. The Windows 365 service automatically releases the Windows 365 Frontline license. Now, another shift worker can utilize this license and access their Cloud PC from anywhere, whether from home or on site at the Contoso call center.

A recap of Windows 365 Frontline benefits

Windows 365 Frontline is ideal for organizations of any size that employ shift workers, seasonal staff, or part-time employees who need access to a computing device only during their shift. It's designed to help you securely equip more employees with Cloud PCs when they need them, boosting employee satisfaction and productivity without the need to equip everyone with their own device. The integration with Azure Active Directory and Microsoft Intune makes it easy for admins to configure, deploy, manage, and secure Cloud PCs, and maximize existing technology resources to meet the needs of all employees.

Learn more about Windows 365 Frontline

I hope you enjoyed this tour of Windows 365 Frontline. Please read Windows 365 offers flexibility from the office or home to the frontline for more details and visit the Windows 365 Frontline website.

Ready to get started? Sign up for the public preview and bookmark our Windows 365 Frontline technical documentation.


Continue the conversation. Find best practices. Bookmark the Windows 365 Tech Community and follow us @MSWindowsITPro on Twitter. 

 

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‎Apr 07 2023 07:51 AM
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