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The transition to cloud-hosted VDI or desktop as a service can be complex because of various definitions of these services, application integration and a constantly changing market.
Just when many organizations finished their VDI deployments, cloud-hosted desktops and desktop as a service (DaaS) disrupted the VDI market. To address these new technologies and services, many organizations have been creating diagrams and running proofs of concepts (POCs) over the past year, and some have already transitioned to cloud-hosted VDI or DaaS.
Cloud-hosted VDI vs. DaaS
The lines between cloud-hosted VDI and DaaS are somewhat blurred, but cloud-hosted VDI generally refers to resources that enable enterprises to create and manage customized application and desktop environments. Microsoft, Citrix and VMware offer the cloud-based infrastructure for cloud-hosted VDI, but IT staff must generally manage and maintain those workloads. An increasing number of organizations choose to host VDI workloads in the cloud rather than on premises.
DaaS takes the capabilities of cloud-hosted VDI one step further and typically includes application integration, maintenance and other additional support and services that provide an all-encompassing virtualized desktop for users. Some examples of DaaS vendors include CloudJumper and Workspot, but major vendors such as Citrix and Microsoft have broken into the DaaS market as well, with offerings such as Citrix Managed Desktops and Windows Virtual Desktop.
Differences in service offerings and varied definitions among vendors can be thorny points when shopping for cloud VDI or DaaS. It's critical to have a clear understanding as to which components and processes are owned by the provider versus those that are managed by IT staff. To further complicate the quest for the right vendor and products, vendors frequently announce new or updated offerings, causing the VDI market to change often.
Similarities between cloud-hosted VDI and DaaS
When VDI was introduced in its infantile form about 12 years ago, organizations kicked the tires for a year or two before adoption started. At that point, VDI was a compilation of numerous systems that had several moving parts, including the hypervisor, gold imaging system and distribution, registration, licensing and load balancing. Failure of any one component was sometimes easy to isolate, but sometimes not.
Cloud-hosted VDI or DaaS minimizes or even eliminates many of these complexities. That's good news for IT administrators and the industry as a whole, but cloud-hosted VDI and DaaS also add a range of new options and costs.
It's a complex process to introduce a usable virtual desktop to a user, whether that desktop is cloud-hosted VDI or DaaS that is managed and maintained by a service provider. While VDI and DaaS are significantly easier now as compared to several years ago, the effort associated with providing a user with a realistic virtual desktop is still significant.
It's relatively easy to provide a user with a rudimentary virtual desktop that desktop only includes Microsoft Office, preexisting SaaS and other basic applications. That's the aspect of VDI and DaaS that vendors most commonly demonstrate to CTOs and CIOs. In reality, however, it's a complex process to present real-life enterprise applications to users because IT must integrate back-end databases, file servers and other resources. Once the applications are working properly, IT must also configure user profiles, permissions, lockdowns and other settings before the job is done. DaaS providers often address these final items, but organizations that subscribe to cloud-hosted VDI must work through them themselves.
Vendors in the DaaS market
As with many disruptive technologies, this shift in the VDI market is being nurtured by the industry leaders, i.e., Microsoft, Citrix and VMware. Microsoft and Citrix were painfully aware that VMware held the lead in the on-premises hypervisor market and that challenging VMware head-on was fruitless, but completely altering the architecture to the cloud changed the playing field. Microsoft and Citrix initiated cloud adoption, with VMware following suit.
From the perspective of Microsoft, Citrix and VMware, regular recurring service revenue provides a more stable stream, as opposed to large sales that take significant time to materialize and provide one-time bumps. To coerce enterprises to make the shift to consumption-based services, vendors tout the benefits of lower maintenance costs, better disaster recovery capabilities and attractive pricing. After all, what CIO doesn't see the value of minimizing the resources and people required to address cloud and DaaS requirements?
As competition heats up among the cloud-hosted VDI and DaaS vendors, each vendor will be forced to maximize uptime, service levels and system enhancements for their customers. When that happens, enterprises will be the resultant winners.