Cláudio Rodrigues, Contributor
Published: 08 Jun 2012
As virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) has become more and more popular, it was just a matter of time before providers started offering hosted desktops based on a VDI model. The idea of Desktop as a Service (DaaS) is relatively simple: Host a bunch of virtual machines running a desktop operating system in a data center, and provide remote access to these machines using some sort of remote display protocol.
Sounds incredible, eh? The problem is that there are several issues that can arise with the cloud-hosted desktops approach. To help you decide if hosted desktops are right for your organization, let's take a look at five Desktop as a Service challenges.
Desktop as a Service licensing
DaaS licensing has to be the biggest challenge -- almost a show-stopper for some companies willing to have their desktops hosted elsewhere. Microsoft makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to license its desktop OSes for the cloud.
The issue of DaaS licensing has became so ridiculous to the point that some providers even introduced a BYOL model. Yes, you read it right: bring your own license. And it gets even more complicated. Take this scenario, for instance: If you use your iPad to work from home, you may need a license, which isn't always required if you use the exact same device inside your office.
The good news is that you can avoid this DaaS licensing hell by using a different underlying platform, such as Windows Server 2008 R2 instead of Windows 7. Of course, that leads to other issues because users would now share a server, limiting the amount of personalization each user can have.
Trust in the cloud
Most companies see their data as their most valuable asset. For that reason, organizations are still reluctant to host all of their confidential information in a shared facility somewhere that's not 100% under their control. In time, people will become more used to the idea of having this information somewhere else, but trust remains a challenge for Desktop as a Service adoption. This distrust is not only cultural; it's also tied into local regulations and compliance laws.
Connectivity for cloud-hosted desktops
Connectivity is another major challenge for cloud-hosted desktops, especially when it comes to secondary site and global connectivity.
That brings us back to the point above: data. With any Desktop as a Service offering, access to the data is critical -- no matter where a user is. To provide more consistent connectivity to hosted desktops, organizations can create local copies of certain applications to access that data. (For instance, you can do that with Microsoft Outlook Cached Copy, Word and Excel files, etc.) Still, that introduces the challenge of keeping the data synchronized and secure.
Desktop as a Service security
Cloud-hosted desktops are in a central location, which theoretically makes them easier to secure. On the other hand, security is often in the hands of a third party. That again raises the question of trust. With so many data breaches occurring on a daily basis worldwide, there’s no guarantee that data is secure. It's possible to keep data on premises while the desktop is hosted in a data center, but that can reduce the overall performance because of latency between where the desktop is and where the data resides.
With Amazon showing the world that even the mammoth players can go down and be unavailable for hours, the sense of reliability with hosted desktops is still up in the air for many companies -- especially if offline capabilities don't exist.
VDI and mobile devices brought Desktop as a Service into the spotlight, and in certain cases (small businesses, for instance) it makes a lot of sense to use cloud-hosted desktops. But there are many challenges to overcome with a DaaS model, and it's certainly not the silver bullet of IT. Others have tried the "we-can-do-it-all" approach in the past and failed.
About the author:
Cláudio Rodrigues is a consultant and CEO of WTSLabs Inc. based in Ottawa, Canada. He has been deploying server-based computing solutions since the Citrix WinView days and was the first person to ever receive the Microsoft MVP award for Terminal Services. He was the CEO of Terminal-Services.NET, the company that developed tools such as WTSGateway Pro and WTSPortal. Rodrigues is also a frequent BriForum presenter and has helped clients around the world implement server based computing technologies.
Cloud-hosted desktops and applications guide
Cloud providers defy Microsoft licensing to compete with OnLive
Microsoft clarifies cloud-hosted desktop licensing, stings OnLive
OnLive complies with Microsoft licensing, DaaS providers weigh in