Is DaaS on the Horizon?

The big thing that caught my eye in the past week was the VMware announcement of Horizon DaaS availability, offering Windows desktops and applications across the hybrid cloud.  Significantly this announcement creates the union of vCloud Hybrid Service (VCHS), and the capabilities acquired in October 2013, with the purchase of Desktone. VMware are definitely not alone in looking at this are, but they are the first major player to launch in the UK.  (Amazon announced Workspaces in late 2013 but this service is not yet generally available)

So the major players are readying their DaaS offerings, but are we ready to see enterprises rush to adopt?

There are key technical challenges to be overcome with DaaS. Despite the obvious promise it holds, the key aspect of any desktop or application virtualisation solution has been the proximity of the desktop/app client to the back end platform, in many cases specifically implemented to deliver the best end user experience.  This is what drives investments in onsite infrastructure to deliver desktop virtualisation.  DaaS (in public cloud terms) now takes that proximity away again by putting the desktop in the cloud.

It is not just the application traffic flows that are a concern, the entire application and data delivery approach needs considering and potentially re-architecting for DaaS. Given the challenges we see with organisations keeping their base platform up to date and available, is this a key investment area in 2014?

If DaaS has an enterprise future it is in the hybrid model, and VMware aligning Horizon DaaS and VCHS was inevitable.  However a truly hybrid model requires both clear logic and mechanisms for provisioning and managing desktops across the public and private cloud.  At this stage it still seems too early that customers can adopt a platform will allow customers to consume services effectively in this manner.

Another major aspect that will dictate the success of DaaS is around the licensing.  VDI has struggled due to licensing constraints, particularly the VDA licensing requirement of Microsoft.  The early sign from the DaaS players is that they are addressing it by operating DaaS based on server OS rather than client OS, and as such working round the VDA licensing challenge. That said, many clients will want client OS for reasons such as application compatibility, so how and if this aspect changes over time will be of key interest.

We have been watching the DaaS market develop with great interest recently, and no doubt the market will continue to move at pace. A desktop is of limited use without a user’s apps, data and other resources, and we are yet to see how for the majority of use cases DaaS can be of real value without the back end transformation of the legacy app and data estate to support it.


About Paul Bray

Paul is Computacenter’s Chief Technologist for Computacenter in the UK & Ireland @PSBray

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