Microsoft Project Mohoro will see the light of day next week and it will look a bit different from the Windows DaaS play IT pros expected, sources said.
Many thought Mohoro would result in a Microsoft-hosted desktop as a service (DaaS). However, Mohoro is actually only a "slice" of DaaS, described by sources as App-V on Windows Azure.
"You can take any given app and put a wrapper around it and execute it in Azure and people can access it as if it was a dedicated [remote] session," said a source familiar with Microsoft's plans.
Sources also called Microsoft's Azure Remote Application Service, to be revealed next week during Tech Ed North America 2014, a spin-off of its existing remote protocol desktop technology for apps.
“This is more like applications as a service instead of desktop as a service," according to the source familiar with the plans. "This is a spin on an old concept, but is now using Azure to host it."
Earlier this week, Citrix disclosed plans for Workspace Services, a platform for IT admins to design mobile workspaces and deliver them from various public clouds. Microsoft's Windows Azure serves as the control plane within Workspace Services, and Azure Remote Applications Services will tie in.
"If you use Citrix Workspace Services, you can run Azure Remote App Services with it," said one industry watcher familiar with Project Mohoro. "It’s a repeat of the late 90's with Citrix and Terminal Services, only now it is all in the cloud."
Azure Remote Application Services will give IT pros a different way to port business apps out to a new OS cleanly, or to mobile devices, another source familiar with Microsoft's plans said. Companies that use thick client apps, which are not naturally cloud-enabled, will be able to run the remote Azure apps.
Azure Remote Application Services will also allow customers to re-brand apps to look like native to their own environment.
How many apps it can run, and how quickly those apps can be delivered, may make or break the popularity of the service.
“If I were in charge of an IT shop and Microsoft tried to sell me an Azure apps service, the first thing I would ask is what apps are you going to support outside of Microsoft apps and what time table can you give for implementing those apps,” said Mike Drips, a solutions architect with WiPro, Inc. in Houston.
The need for an Internet connection to run the apps and the potential for Azure outages are also of concern.
"The Internet is not like oxygen where anywhere you walk there is Internet we can breathe in," Drips said.
Delivering applications from the cloud certainly isn't anything new, either; IT shops already host many applications in the cloud for centralized management and deliver them to remote end users.
"This is Microsoft's me-too play," said one source.
However, there is value in the upcoming offering, for customers and for Microsoft.
"Microsoft has to provide a counterpoint to the [DaaS offerings] that are popping up all over the place and do a service using the technology they've got," said Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, an IT consulting organization based in Kirkland, Washington.
"If Microsoft does this as a service, it can get rid of the more complex and unfriendly pieces of dealing with Windows clients," Miller said.
Azure Remote Application Services could also provide an impetus for more enterprise applications using the company's own mobile hardware, including Surface. Windows RT-based Surfaces cannot run products like Microsoft Project or Visio. However, if these applications are offered as a service, end users could potentially run them on Windows RT-based Surfaces, including the forthcoming Surface Mini expected on May 20.
Microsoft is looking for early adopters to test the service and at least one customer already signed up last month.
Microsoft dodges DaaS licensing changes
IT industry watchers expected Microsoft to deliver a full DaaS offering using Windows client OS, which would require the company to change to its own Windows client Service Provider License Agreement (SPLA).
As it stands, the licensing prohibits DaaS providers from delivering Windows client OSes from multi-tenant clouds. Instead, DaaS products such as Amazon Workspaces run Windows Server as a desktop OS. Azure Remote Applications Services will use the same approach, so no SPLA licensing change will be made, sources said.
Earlier this year, Microsoft also launched support for desktop hosting using Windows Azure virtual machines to create multitenant, hosted Windows desktop and application services based on Windows Server, for small scale IT shops up to 1,500 users.
Microsoft did not provide comment.