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."

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