Virtual Desktops

I have been reading with interest the new move by Amazon into the Desktop as a Service space, with their new Hosted Workspace offering. If you are not aware of it, it can be referenced here:

http://aws.amazon.com/workspaces/

Those who know me and have worked with me, know that I have quite strong views on Virtual Desktops. I have been involved in several large scale enterprise roll outs of virtual desktops and my experiences have taught me that no one has come up with a suitable/viable option yet for doing this. Why is that? I hear you say. First of all, let me assure you my comments/opinions here are my own.

1) The need for a second device to login to the virtual desktop. If this is a personal device, then there is an expectation that the company you work for will partly fund it, or provide a yearly supplement. Or the company will provide the second device to login to the virtual desktop. Now your company has to not only manage/life-cycle the VDI but the second device as well. Ah I hear you say, but what about thin clients, it turns out they are not dramatically cheaper than a standard desktop or laptop and they still have to be maintained and in some cases licensed, if the thin client runs a cut down version of Windows for example.

2) Virtual desktops tend to be setup in a dedicated area in the datacenter, creating hotspots in a number of areas, heating/cooling and of course the strain on the network through bandwidth consumption. This can be solved in the Cloud space by spreading the risk, x% of a rack could be dedicated to desktop then that risk is not sitting in one specific area. But then there is the risk that you affect the server fleet.

3) The licensing headaches, currently certain large vendor desktop providers licensing models do not translate to cloud offerings.

4) VDI environment management, management of gold images and the risk involved. If you break one laptop with a patch update that is not so bad, if you break the gold image, this is a huge risk, thousands of employees could potentially not login.

So why use VDI at all? There are some very good use cases, that translate to Enterprise very well:

1) Off-shored support personnel, they access the systems using a desktop that is physically in another country. This is great for companies that require data sovereignty.

2) Latency sensitive applications that require to be close the server.

3) Control, as soon as a person leaves the company, their VDI can be turned off, maintaining data IP of the company.

I admit I have barely scratched the surface, I see DaaS as an immature model at best currently. As outlined I don’t see anyone with a good cloud model for DaaS as yet. For the enterprise however it can be a very good option, but the enterprise has to be prepared that it will not save them capex or opex (additional teams are required to support the VDI environment and its complexity).

It will be an interesting space to watch in the next few years, but I dont think anyone will be making any money in that area any time soon. Good luck to Amazon and to Desktone.

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