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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Microsoft aims to capitalize on a surging desktop-as-a-service market with Windows Virtual Desktop on Azure -- and emulate the success of Amazon Workspaces.
The new service, set to enter public preview later this year, answers some questions about Microsoft's plan to offer multi-user Windows 10. It will also be compatible with the Microsoft Store and existing Windows line-of-business apps. Microsoft will also offer Windows 7 virtual desktops for customers who require extended security updates and support.
However, Windows Virtual Desktop will face tough competition from existing desktop as a service (DaaS) providers, particularly AWS.
"While Microsoft is late to the game, I think after talking to some customers using Azure, they recognize the value of delivering a Windows 7 and Windows 10 desktop directly through them," said Mark Bowker, analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.
The primary value will be how Microsoft integrates the data collected from its vast product portfolio -- including Office 365 and Active Directory -- with its Windows Virtual Desktop services, he said.
"Microsoft has the telemetry across all those different environments and the user's identity. It gives Microsoft the ability to provide that info back to the user and the IT administrator to put to good use," he said. For example, Microsoft could notify IT staff in the case of a security breach, or give them a heads up to unusual actions by a virtual desktop user.
The new service is also a way to pump up Azure -- which the company sees as increasingly strategic -- with a broader range of cloud-based services to keep up with its competitors, analysts said. Amazon's Workspaces desktop as a service was introduced five years ago and has quickly grown in popularity, and in some cases has displaced on-premises virtual desktop infrastructure, said Steve Brasen, analyst at Enterprise Management Associates.
"[Microsoft] is trying to match Amazon platform to platform with Azure. They need an Azure platform with the same capabilities that Amazon Workspaces is providing to customers," Brasen said.
Growth of DaaS
Chuck WolkenWindows network engineer, Helzberg Diamonds
The DaaS market has accelerated in recent years, spurred mostly by recent adoption of AWS' Workspaces, but also bolstered by smaller companies such as Workspot. While it can appeal to large enterprises, much of the recent DaaS market growth has come from SMBs that see value in the simplicity of offering virtual desktops without the capital costs needed for on-premises virtual desktop infrastructure, Brasen said.
Microsoft's foray into DaaS caught the attention of some customers at its Ignite show here, who see the technology as a way to simplify the delivery of secure desktops.
"If that can offload the daily management of some of my teams, who have to push updates down, that's big," said Chuck Wolken, Windows network engineer at jewelry retailer Helzberg Diamonds. "We're having to do much more with less, and do that with agility and security."
On the surface, Microsoft's Virtual Desktop service also seems to compete with Microsoft partners that already offer cloud-hosted desktops, such as Citrix. However, Microsoft said in a blog that it plans to work with its partners and also allow Microsoft Cloud Solution Providers to offer Windows Virtual Desktop to customers with value-added services.
"Citrix is focused on trying to move its customers to a cloud consumption model and this could actually help accelerate that model," Bowker said. "Just because Microsoft is offering the service, Citrix can still provide their broader desktop management service to customers."
However, it does raise questions for the value other services and more traditional VDI management providers can provide, such as VMware Workspace One, Bowker said.