Last week at the Amazon Web Services (AWS) re:Invent conference, AWS announced two new service offerings that focus on end user computing: AppStream, an application streaming solution that provides a platform for delivering applications to online and offline devices, and WorkSpaces, a Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) product. The WorkSpaces announcement took the financial markets by surprise, leaving them wondering about the future of Citrix’s and VMware’s positions in the DaaS marketplace. Citrix, which is already an established delivery partner with Amazon, has been white-labeling XenDesktop services with service providers for some time now, and VMware’s momentum is only growing with the purchase of Desktone last month. The best takeaway from this announcement is that we are seeing the demand and availability of DaaS solutions on the rise. The WorkSpaces service will be generally available at the beginning of 2014, but Amazon is allowing a limited number of evaluation customers to sign up now. The service options are as follows:
|Product||No. of vCPU||Session Memory||Storage||Microsoft Office||Price Per User / Month|
Each of the levels includes Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Java, and Zip tools. Along with Microsoft Office 2010, the Plus levels also include Trend Micro’s Antivirus. For users who require a persistent desktop, WorkSpaces also provides profile synchronization within their infrastructure and allows for the installation of software the customer already owns. Amazon has elected to use Teradici’s PCoIP protocol to connect clients to the hosted desktop service. For companies that use VMware’s Horizon View, this can simplify the migration of users from the companies’ internally hosted solutions to WorkSpaces. Without seeing Amazon’s technical specifications for the platform yet, it is a safe assumption that it will look to leverage the Teradici APEX accelerator cards to provide better scalability and end user performance.
DaaS, Another Piece of the Cloud
I find that the term “cloud services” is often misused as a reference to a specific service. Being a cloud provider means supplying a full stack of services: infrastructure, compute, storage, application, etc. So, as Amazon takes the next step by adding a desktop service to that stack, it is further substantiated as a provider of cloud services.
Hosted desktop services have often fallen under scrutiny; because they are not hosted in a customer’s own data center, close to the applications and data, some customers worry that the distance, or the latency created by the distance, will lower the end user experience. In most metropolitan areas today, getting a good-quality connection is not an issue. Cable and TV providers are increasing their services’ internet speeds from 3MB to more than 100MB, public WiFi is more common, and even cellular data is becoming more reliable.
With a rising percentage of the workforce becoming mobile or working from home, there is increasing reliance on these non-managed network connections to access corporate data and services. These users are running local client software that is reaching back to the data center to get to the application’s data. Internet-based applications and services such as Salesforce and Dropbox are more commonplace, and users are adjusting to the performance experience that these services provide. For the majority of these users, a hosted desktop service would gain the same level of acceptance. For an organization, such a service can enable a BYO program and can lower the overall desktop TCO. For those users who have more resource-intensive applications, Amazon does have the AppStream solution, which can leverage the processing power of the local device to deliver the application experience.
Is a hosted desktop service right for you and your organization? I recently wrote about the Desktop Transformation process and the steps that companies should take to evolve their own desktop services. As you evaluate your current application and desktop service inventory, you should be thinking about how to leverage one of these DaaS solutions. The use cases that fit the best are ones that have very low application complexity and for which users spend most of their time working remotely. It certainly appears that desktop virtualization has received a shot in the arm with the demand and growth of DaaS offerings.