Channeling the Cloud

Major Cloud Players Are Jumping on the DaaS Wagon

The Desktop as a Service (DaaS) field is rife with opportunity for partners and tech giants like Amazon Web Services and VMware.

If you've ignored the opportunities of offering pure cloud-based Desktop as a Service (DaaS) to your customers, you might want to give it some attention.

DaaS brings virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), thin-client computing or virtual desktops to customers without requiring any datacenter infrastructure. This means you can procure virtual desktops with a browser while not requiring the Microsoft Remote Desktop Services App-V add-on to Windows Server, VMware View (now called Horizon View), or Citrix XenServer/XenDesktop suite and related servers, storage, and networking gear and services.

Many managed services providers (MSPs) offer hosted DaaS using Citrix CloudPortal Services Manager and related portfolio or remote management systems from the likes of Continuum, Level Platforms, Kaseya and N-able, which let MSPs offer a rich portfolio of desktop services.

Now the big boys are jumping into the hosted-DaaS game. Amazon Web Services (AWS) in November announced the WorkSpaces service, which is in preview. VMware in March launched VMware Horizon DaaS. Both are similarly priced at $35 per user per month.

The AWS Standard WorkSpaces plan provides 50GB of capacity with options for more capacity and dual virtual CPUs. AWS is also letting customers move over their Microsoft Office licenses, or if they don't have them, to purchase Office and anti-virus software from Trend Micro for $15 per month per user.

For its part, VMware was able to launch a DaaS service thanks to its acquisition last fall of Desktone and the launch of its public Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud. Horizon DaaS combines the two, offering users 30GB of storage and 100Kbps of average bandwidth. It supports full Windows clients, Apple iPads, Android-based devices and Google Chromebooks. Aiming to boost their appeal to enterprises, VMware announced a partnership with Google in February to offer the Horizon View VDI solution on Chromebooks, which also now extends to the new DaaS offering.

But enterprises still need to run Windows apps, so Horizon DaaS can stream them into the Chromebook, explains Dave Grant, VMware's senior director of product marketing and product management for DaaS. Customer accounts are in a multitenant environment, ensuring security, Grant adds.

To be sure, the hosted DaaS market is a portion of the overall desktop virtualization market. According to IDC, hosted DaaS will grow to $661 million in 2016, while the overall virtual desktop market will reach $3.5 billion.

Microsoft has yet to launch a hosted desktop service equivalent to AWS WorkSpaces or VMware Horizon DaaS, though it offers DaaS capabilities in Office 365. I'd be surprised if a DaaS service doesn't emerge that leverages Microsoft Azure (though I have no knowledge of Redmond's plans).

Even if you're waiting for Microsoft, hosted DaaS is an emerging opportunity to provide migration and richer offerings, just as Office 365 created a huge business around supporting it or hosted Exchange and SharePoint services. Hosted DaaS might not be as big as online Exchange and SharePoint, but it's a suitable add-on for many looking to migrate off Windows XP or to simplify the management of PCs.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.