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Deploying a Session Host


Course Introduction
Imaging Basics
1m 44s
4m 53s
Session Hosts and Images
Course Conclusion
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This course covers imaging in Azure to show you how you can build Azure Virtual Desktop session hosts as well as prepare for the AVD Specialty exam. This is going to cover a lot of information on the Windows OS, imaging tools, and how we work with images in Azure. Then we'll look at how to manage, maintain, and update those images. Finally, we'll cover how you can automate the whole process so you can scale as well as generate a new image each month or when a zero-day patch comes out, so you can stay secure.

Learning Objectives

  • Create a custom image
  • Deploy a session host with a custom image
  • Modify a session host image
  • Install language packs
  • Plan for image update and management
  • Create and use Azure Compute Gallery image
  • Automate custom images with Azure Image Builder

Intended Audience

  • Azure administrators with subject matter expertise in planning, delivering, and managing virtual desktop experiences and remote apps, for any device, on Azure
  • Anyone looking to learn more about Azure Virtual Desktop


  • Windows operating system
  • Imaging a Windows OS
  • Azure Virtual Machines
  • VM snapshots
  • Azure Compute Gallery 
  • Azure Image Builder

Now that we have a gold image, which we've successfully tested, we need to deploy a session host using our golden image. Over in the Azure portal, you can search for Azure Virtual Desktop in the top bar, and then open the Virtual Desktop Admin Center. On the left, go to your host pools, select a host pool and at the top, click registration key. Now, you may already have a registration key. If you do, then you can proceed in the next step. If not, click at the top to generate a new key. You'll have to put in a date and time when your key will expire and click OK.

Now that you have a key, you can close that window on the right and on the left side, go to session hosts, and at the top, click the add button. On this first screen is the host pool settings, so just click Next. And here's where you can build your virtual machine. We need a naming prefix. Now, this needs to be less than 11 characters because we need a net BIOS name to be a maximum of 15 characters. And the way this works is by setting your prefix and then at the end of that prefix, Virtual Desktop will add on a -0, -1, -2 for all of the VMs that you plan on building. I'll use the prefix CA-VM.

Then we have our availability options. You can choose between availability zones or sets, or choose no redundancy. But the kind of redundancy that you build will depend on your high availability strategy and what kind of host pool you're deploying. Since this is just a test of our image in Virtual Desktop, I'll choose no infrastructure redundancy required. Scroll down and underneath the image dropdown box, click the link to see all images. This will show you the Azure Marketplace with every possible image.

On the left at the top, click my items, and that'll show you your managed images, of which I don't have any, and then you can click on shared images. And this will show you all of the available images in your Azure Compute Gallery that are within your region. Select your image and you can see that this is using our image definition with the latest flag. As for the number of VMs, we'll just be deploying one, and then scroll down and select the appropriate network to deploy your virtual machine.

Now we have to make a choice of which kind of join we're going to do. Do you want Active Directory join or Azure Active Directory join? I'm not going to go into a lot of detail here but I'll just show you the options. If you use Active Directory, you'll have to provide credentials within your domain in a UPN format that has permissions to join machines to your domain, as well as the password. Then you can specify the domain name and an organizational unit path if you choose to. The other option is Azure Active Directory join, which is much simpler. Your VM will be a registered device within your Azure AD tenant and you have the option to also enable your device for Intune management. Which scenario is right for you will depend on a great many other decisions, as well as features that you want to access.

Next, you'll enter the local administrator credentials that you want to create on your new virtual machine. Then you can click next. You can optionally enable diagnostic settings, which is normally recommended, however, since this is just a test of our image, I won't be enabling diagnostics here. Click next and add your standard tags, and then deploy your VM. After the virtual machine is deployed, it will be made part of the Virtual Desktop service as a session host, and if all goes well, all the health status will be set for success and inside the virtual machine, you can check to verify that all your applications are installed and running.

About the Author
Dean Cefola
Principal Azure Engineer

Dean Cefola is a Principal Azure Engineer at Microsoft and has worked in the IT industry for over 20 years. Dean has been supporting Azure Virtual Desktop from the beginning and is the Microsoft FastTrack Global Leader for AVD.