Desktop as a service solves some, but not all virtualization issues

Today Cisco becomes the latest to make an announcement in the desktop-as-a-service market. It is offering a set of products to cloud providers so that they can offer DaaS to end users, based on either VMware’s Desktone or Citrix's desktop virtualization technology.

The announcement follows VMware’s acquisition of Desktone in October and Amazon Web Services’ entry into the market in November with its own desktop service for businesses.

What’s driving all of this activity, given that desktop virtualization has been stagnant for years? Here are a few reasons for the buzz around DaaS:

--Consumerization of IT. “Increasing mobility and flexible workstyles in the midst of rising compliance needs -- including the need to support multiple OSs and device types that are often owned or managed by the employee instead of the company -- means that companies need simpler ways to provide secure, managed access to Windows desktops, applications and other systems of record behind the company firewall,” said Forrester’s Dave Johnson.

--Ease of use. Desktop virtualization has traditionally been a nightmare to manage in house. Letting someone else handle the complexity is a good idea for businesses that don’t want the hassle. DaaS will particularly appeal to “smaller organizations and departments in larger organizations with specific needs, for whom developing the skills and tackling the complexity of traditional on-premise VDI is difficult to justify,” Johnson said.

--Service providers see dollar signs. “If I’m a VDI vendor, I just sell software. However if I build a cloud to deliver VDI, I’m also charging you for use of the hardware. Thus I’m reselling hardware now as well. I’m sure the markup isn’t huge but it will generate a higher revenue stream,” said Gunnar Berger, an analyst at Gartner.

Still, it’s not all smooth sailing ahead. “DaaS may be able to deliver on some of the shortcomings of VDI (complexity/cost) but it offers new challenges,” Berger said. For instance, if a business is running applications on-premises with its desktops hosted in the cloud, it’s adding a couple of hops between the user and the app, opening the door to a potentially significant hit on performance. Berger envisions a hybrid model that could address this problem, in the future.

Also, the current DaaS offerings won’t appeal to enterprises. “There are a lot of barriers to entry: Security concerns, license restrictions, user experience issues, bandwidth increases, application compatibility issues, and that’s just off the top of my head,” Berger said.

But he expects a lot of those problems will be solved in time.

“In the end DaaS will stand a chance because businesses by and large want to get out of the management of Windows devices and they are eager for any solution that has that kind of potential,” he said.

Read more of Nancy Gohring's "To the Cloud" blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @ngohring and on Google+. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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