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Cloud-hosted desktops rule 2014

Amazon WorkSpaces, VMware Horizon DaaS and Microsoft Azure RemoteApp Services all validated the gravity of cloud-hosted desktops and applications in 2014.

After several years of heralding the Year of VDI, 2014 was really the Year of DaaS. Vendors such as VMware, Amazon and Microsoft all made DaaS plays, making cloud-hosted desktops one of the hottest topics of the year.

VMware significantly contributed to the buzz around desktop as a service (DaaS) in 2014, along with the likes of Amazon and Microsoft. Late in 2013, VMware acquired Desktone, and earlier this year the company took that technology and released Horizon DaaS. Because Desktone had been around for several years, it was already arguably the most successful DaaS platform.

The most notable activity around DaaS in 2014 was without a doubt the entrance of Amazon Web Services (AWS), however. Prior to AWS throwing its hat into the ring with WorkSpaces, cloud-hosted desktops were a peripheral technology that was a well-known niche within the desktop virtualization community, but was hardly known to the outside.

AWS changed all that: Its involvement validated the entire concept of DaaS and exposed it to companies that had already begun moving other data center-based services to the AWS Elastic Compute Cloud. This created even more awareness and prompted us to call 2014 "the Year of DaaS."

By the time Microsoft entered the discussion with Project Mohoro -- now called Azure RemoteApp Service -- the DaaS machine was operating at full steam. Microsoft's entrance was entirely expected, though still somewhat of a surprise given the company's proclivity to wait out pockets of turbulence in the desktop virtualization space. The brilliant aspect of Azure RemoteApp is that it only focuses on applications instead of desktops, which is what we really care about, after all.

More Microsoft missives

Microsoft also came out with changes to Windows client OS licensing, introducing the ability to license Windows 7 and 8 on a per-user basis, as opposed to per device. Prior to this, the only way to deploy a virtual desktop was to either access it from devices that had a Software Assurance license associated with them or to pay a hefty $100 per year for each non-SA device that was used to access a VDI desktop.

Microsoft had been so stubborn on Windows licensing for so long, we never saw the change coming, but when you consider the fact that Microsoft is seemingly backing up a step with Windows 10 and eliminating the Windows 8-ness of it, you can almost see a "new Microsoft" taking shape under the guidance of new CEO Satya Nadella.

As Nadella guides Microsoft toward the cloud, it's not impossible to imagine Windows 10 being available in the middle of 2015 via packaged installs -- and as a DaaS desktop delivered from Azure, licensed on a per-user basis. That's something that seemed all but impossible a few years ago, no matter how much we wanted it.

You might be wondering where Citrix plays in the DaaS arena, and you wouldn't be alone. Citrix has no plans to offer its own desktops, choosing instead to enable their large network of Citrix Service Providers to sell varying packages of DaaS and managed desktops to customers. I've speculated that the main reason for this is that Citrix lacks the infrastructure to stand up a compelling offering that can compete with Amazon, Microsoft and VMware. Citrix also has to keep its partners happy.

Next Steps

Read part one of Gabe's 2014 year-end wrap-up to find out what big moves Citrix made this year. Part three recaps advancements in application management and what's to come in 2015.

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