What you need to know about cloud desktops and DaaS providers
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When looking at the DaaS landscape, the terms platform and provider are often used interchangeably, but they should not be.
Unlike the discussion about on-premise versus on-premises, where only one is correct (it's on-premises if we're talking about things that exist in your data center), the terms platform and provider both have a place in the desktop as a service (DaaS) discussion. They are two different parts of the same whole. Many vendors in the DaaS market are providers and also offer DaaS platforms, but some only do one or the other.
DaaS platforms are the fundamental blocks of a DaaS tool. Without the platform, there would be no provider. The platform exists to tie the hardware and software into one entity. On the back end, the platform handles storage, networking, virtualization hosts and security. On the front end, it handles billing, brokering, image management and optimization. Platforms bind the front end interface that customers and end users see to the iron cages and blinking lights of the data center. You cannot have DaaS without a DaaS platform.
DaaS providers are the companies that actually interact with the end users. They can behave like a partner between a customer and the platform vendor, but how they do it depends on the platform. For instance, Citrix relies exclusively on a network of Citrix Service Providers that uses its DaaS platform (which is basically just XenDesktop with a lot of automation) but does not sell desktops.
VMware and dinCloud actually function as both a platform and a provider -- you can call them up directly and order hosted desktops. They both also have a network of partners with their own DaaS tools built on the VMware (Desktone) or dinCloud platforms. But dinCloud's partners are more like resellers because dinCloud hosts all the desktops in its own data centers, whereas VMware's partners maintain their own data centers and install the Desktone platform.
Let's get this straight
The person you call to rent your desktops from is the provider. That provider may use one of several platforms, or it may be the platform creator itself. When you want to use Amazon Web Services (AWS) Workspaces, you buy desktops directly from the platform creator because it is also the provider. If you use VMware Horizon DaaS, VMware is both the creator of the platform and the provider.
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The number of providers is too long to list here, but the list of platforms is not. Any DaaS provider you call likely works with one of these platforms or creates one of these platforms.
- VMware Horizon DaaS (formerly Desktone. This is different than VMware View.)
- AWS Workspaces
- Microsoft Azure RemoteApp (still in Tech Preview as of this writing)
- Virtual Bridges VERDE (relatively new to the platform space)
You can buy desktops directly from all of these platforms except Virtual Bridges and tuCloud.
The most important takeaway from this is that there is a difference between platforms and providers. The provider is the company you'll work closely with for the foreseeable future, so it's important to put a lot of effort into finding the right one for your needs. Though it may seem that the simplest path to DaaS is through a platform company that also sells desktops, keep in mind that the provider networks exist for a reason. Many providers offer different value-adds, like help with migrations, image management or even full desktop management tools that you might need for a successful DaaS project.