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Cloud-hosted desktop concerns hold back adoption

IT pros at large businesses aren't willing to ditch their on-premises VDI for DaaS technology. A hybrid approach to desktop delivery could be the answer, however.

Skepticism about the cost, licensing and security of DaaS has held it back from widespread adoption.

Desktop as a service (DaaS) allows businesses to deliver virtual desktops through the cloud on a subscription basis. DaaS garnered attention as an alternative to VDI that lets IT avoid the upfront costs and ongoing infrastructure maintenance of on-premises virtual desktops. These benefits appeal more to SMBs, but even those organizations face roadblocks.

"It really hasn't been an explosive growth scenario at all," said David Johnson, principal analyst at Forrester Research.

With DaaS, a cloud-hosted desktop provider takes care of the back-end maintenance -- a benefit for small businesses that don't have the staffing resources or the infrastructure needed to deploy and manage VDI on premises. Enterprises, however, don't have those same constraints.  

"[Large businesses] are not anxious to move workloads to the cloud," said Robert Young, research analyst at IDC. "They want to capitalize on their on-premises infrastructure."

Additionally, the per-month, per-user subscription costs of DaaS can add up in large organizations, to the point where they may surpass the upfront cost of VDI over time.

VDI is better financially because you keep and own what you pay for, said Mehran Basiratmand, CTO of Florida Atlantic University, a VMware VDI customer in Boca Raton, Fla.

"With DaaS ... funding has to be secured every year," Basiratmand said.

[Large businesses] are not anxious to move workloads to the cloud.
Robert Youngresearch analyst at IDC

The difference in payment structure played a role in Florida Atlantic University's decision to choose VDI over DaaS.

"We had already invested in some infrastructure that we were able to use for VDI," Basiratmand said. "This is the case with many organizations."

Large businesses are also often skeptical about the security and reliability of cloud-hosted desktop technology. Many businesses don't like the idea of storing their data externally, Young said. Plus, when there is an outage or something goes wrong on premises, IT managers can go into the data center to troubleshoot and fix the issue, versus having to put their trust in a third-party provider, he said.

Logan Rosenstiel, a systems administrator at Rivermark Community Credit Union in Beaverton, Ore., agreed.

"The main holdbacks preventing widespread DaaS rollouts are a hesitance by some technology leaders to become more cloud-dependent," said Rosenstiel, a Citrix XenDesktop customer.

DaaS has most of the same use cases as VDI, and VDI itself is not that popular of a technology. Just 17% of businesses planned to adopt VDI last year, according to TechTarget's 2016 IT Priorities survey. That means there is less of a base market for DaaS to develop from.

DaaS adoption also has hurdles around Microsoft licensing policies, which don't always mix well with a subscription model. Businesses have to buy Windows licenses outright, which makes for higher upfront costs that eat away at the advantages of the pay-as-you-go DaaS model, Johnson said.

These licensing models, which play an important role in deciding which technologies organizations adopt, are not always clear or easy to understand, said Matt Kosht, an IT director at a utility company in Alaska.

"Licensing causes major confusion, which people just want to avoid," he said.

Hybrid approach on the horizon

An emerging approach to desktop delivery and management is a hybrid model, where admins can deploy and manage both on-premises and cloud-hosted desktops in the same environment.

The idea is for businesses with on-premises VDI to reap the benefits of DaaS without having to dump their existing infrastructure. For example, DaaS can help handle spikes in VDI usage.

The hybrid approach is fueling the growth of the DaaS market going forward, Young said.

"It's an interesting time," Young said. "Enterprise is interested in DaaS, but not ready to go all-in yet."

Next Steps

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Do you think the technology will push businesses into cloud usage? Why or why not?
1) Skepticism about the cost (it's very expensive)
2) lets IT avoid the upfront costs (you still have to pay that costs)
3) to the point where they may surpass the upfront cost of VDI over time (not may, will)

in 2010 i buy 200 Windows XP pc @ $400 each,
and i am still using them in 2017.

Plan in 2017 Q3 to buy 200 Windows 10 pc @ < $500
and will use them for 5 to 7 years.

Power/Heavy user spec:
win-xp-pc 7 years = $80,000
win-10-pc 5 years = < $100,000

smallest/cheapest possible spec:
cloud-DaaS 7 years = > $588,000
cloud-DaaS 5 years = > $420,000

Cloud DaaS will take off when you can get:
A Windows 10 DaaS + Office 365 E3, at around $15 to $20 per month.

that will work out to 5 year at ~ $181,000

I think the major barrier is that the major players that offer DaaS sell like a product and not a service. Side note: A little offended that Workspot was not suggested here. Hint Hint. We have a DaaS offering and a VDI on prem offering which both can be managed from our control plane sitting in the cloud. No need to worry about the cloud environment setup. We take care of that. We on board the customer which is led by our awesome customer success team. Today we can provision Windows 10 and Server 2016 to Azure and looking to do more with others down the road. The point is we can have the org run in mix mode where some users run on prem and other run in Azure. So as the org migrates data and apps sources to the cloud, their VDI can migrate as well saving on the pains of the transition.
First, DaaS is not a product.
Workspot is not the only one not suggested here.
Great news on the Win10/2016 stuff for WorkSpot, good job.
Workspot needs to make an on prem HA control plane appliance.

AWS / VMware / Microsoft / others - DaaS providers
Citrix / VMware / Microsoft / Workspot / etc...- DaaS players
You are right. DaaS is not a product. DaaS is a combination of product and services in a form an offering. Why do we have to have on prem HA congtrol plane appliance. Not saying that there are not use cases but "need" is a strong word.
- Major BARRIER is portability / vendor lock in.
you have a DaaS on AWS, you can't move it to VMware or Azure, or anyone else. I am sure there will be a product to do that, but it will take time or even down-time.
in Workspot case, can we move the control plane on-prem or to a different cloud provider?