Microsoft announced today that its cloud-based app delivery service, called Azure RemoteApp, will be generally available in a week, on Dec. 11, after a months-long preview period.
Azure RemoteApp solves a critical challenge for organizations that are unwilling or incapable of migrating their apps to the cloud, according to Andrew Conway, senior director of Enterprise Mobility for Microsoft. Essentially, RemoteApp takes "apps that you would run on the Windows Server environment today and puts them up on the cloud," Conway told eWEEK.
This enables organizations to extend mobile access to their existing applications, and it is part of Microsoft's post-PC, "mobile-first, cloud-first" product development strategy.
Of late, Microsoft has been "very focused on solving customer challenges in the growing mobile devices trend," added Conway. RemoteApp's best-of-both-worlds approach—mobile access to legacy apps—is a key pillar of Microsoft's burgeoning mobile device management (MDM) ecosystem, which the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant kicked off in earnest with the debut of Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) in March.
"Applications run in the Azure cloud and are accessed through the Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)," explained the company in a statement. "Your employees can use corporate applications from anywhere and on a variety of devices including iOS, Mac OS X, Android, and Windows platforms."
Setting up Azure RemoteApp is a simple process for Windows Server administrators, maintained Conway. Specifically, they upload a session host image and select which cloud data centers host their apps, simple steps that allow organizations to "take advantage of the global presence of Azure."
End users are treated to access to their familiar business apps on tablets, smartphones and PCs using the client software that is available on public app marketplaces. There are early signs that organizations are already making the solution a part of their enterprise mobility projects despite its preview status, hinted Conway. The client app, he said, has racked up "many millions of downloads" across several platforms.
Businesses are leveraging Azure RemoteApp to bridge the gap between their legacy software environment and modern mobile work styles, said Conway. "They have apps that maybe they're not going to write a new mobile front end for," is a typical use case, he said.
Azure RemoteApp is "not solely [limited to] mobile scenarios," stressed Conway.
RemoteApp can also be used to help businesses provide application services without establishing a physical IT footprint in a region. Geographically distributed organizations "might not want to have infrastructure in a particular geography," he said. Businesses with high seasonal turnover and schools can use the cloud service to scale their user application environments up or down as their requirements demand.
Apart from making the service "simple to use and simple to adopt," Microsoft paid close attention to RemoteApp's cost. The company "established a low entry price with a limited number of hours for low usage scenarios," said Conway.
The Basic plan, suitable for lightweight line of business and data entry applications, starts at $10 per user per month and includes 50GB of storage and 40 hours of use. Overages are charged at $0.175 per hour, although charges are capped at $17 per user per month. The Standard plan for information workers starts at $15 per user per hour and is capped at $23 per user per month.
Current preview customers will be automatically transitioned to a 30-day free trial come Dec. 11.