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Why the desktop-as-a-service model hasn't taken off

DaaS has a presence in the market, but adoption hasn't skyrocketed like some expected. Experts pondered the reasons in a roundtable discussion at IDC Directions.

BOSTON -- The desktop-as-a-service model caught IT's attention because some administrators thought it would let...

them offload their infrastructure management duties. But that's not exactly what happened.

Desktop as a service (DaaS) is not as straightforward as it sounds, and the cost savings can be underwhelming. As a result, mass adoption has not yet happened.  

"Most folks ... are just dipping their toes," said Robert Young, research director at IDC.

Young talked about the pros and cons of the desktop-as-a-service model, plus the future of application and desktop virtualization, in a roundtable discussion with IDC Directions attendees at the conference this week.

Bright spots ahead for DaaS

For organizations that already have some level of virtualization, moving to the desktop-as-a-service model can be difficult. These organizations have existing management tools and software in place they have to account for when they migrate to DaaS. Additionally, the cost savings may not be as great as some IT administrators envision, because third-party management tools are often still required.

"You get what you pay for with DaaS," said Erwin Vollering, vice president of services at Login VSI, a desktop virtualization testing and monitoring vendor. "If you buy the base package, you get the base package. To get the same performance as [on premises], you pay the premium."

Even though adoption has been slower than many people thought, the desktop-as-a-service model isn't dead in the water.

If someone is on an iPhone, they don't want a full Windows desktop.
Robert Youngresearch director, IDC

In the past, many IT admins were hesitant to offload sensitive data to the cloud because the trust level just wasn't there. Now that major cloud vendors Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure are in the DaaS mix, those feelings have changed, Young said.    

"When more well-known companies get on board, there's less resistance," he said.

IT also has more familiarity with the cloud, thanks to the emergence of subscription-based apps such as Microsoft Office 365, which can allay some concerns as well.

On-premises alternatives

One area that continues to grow, especially in conjunction with the rise of mobility, is application virtualization, in which IT delivers individual applications instead of full-fledged desktops to users. By doing so admins can give users a more native experience than they would have with virtual desktops.

"If someone is on an iPhone, they don't want a full Windows desktop," Young said. "They just want apps. They want it to feel native. 'Oh, I'm going to log into this portal first.' They don't want to do that."

Virtual desktops, however, can save a great deal of time for users who have to log into multiple desktops during the course of a day -- a common occurrence in the healthcare industry, for example.

"[Without VDI, the user] puts in his password and opens his app, and two minutes later it opens," said James Millington, a healthcare group manager at VMware. "Nurses do that 50 to 60 times a day."

Instead of having to log into a new desktop in every room, nurses and doctors can just tap a card to access the virtual resources they need.

Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) also helps boost virtual desktop adoption because it quells one of IT's biggest fears: poor user experience. Issues such as boot storms, which occur during high-traffic login times, and other performance problems have left many companies hesitant about VDI; if it takes users longer to log into their virtual desktops than it would on physical desktops, IT will lose the buy-in of its users, Young said.

HCI solves a lot of these problems, Vollering said. A big reason is because HCI is easy to scale, so admins can add storage, networking and compute resources all at the same time to address performance issues.  

Still, a hybrid blend of the desktop-as-a-service model and VDI might ultimately win the day.

"Hybrid resonates because people like to put some stuff on the cloud, test it out, but stay in control of others," Young said.

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