The recent rumors of Microsoft working on a hosted virtual desktop (DaaS) solution to add to their cloud services offering may actually end up being one of the most viable options for organizations who already rely heavily on Microsoft infrastructure to run their business. Having all of your core services being delivered from a single location and provider could ease the operational concerns of some who find running a hybrid of on-premise and hosted solutions still requiring the same amount of operational support.
One of the most fundamental challenges that organizations have faced when looking at a Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) solution is the ability to provide access to the applications and data that reside in their own data centers when connecting from the hosted desktop. Having dedicated network connections, storage replication and directory services federation are basic steps to enable integration of the hosted solution with the corporate environment. Physics then plays a large part in the final end user experience. With an undetermined number of hops between the user and the DaaS solution, and then from the provider back to the corporate network, application behavior and performance could be, at best, unpredictable. Having the applications on the hosted desktops and next to the data is the ideal configuration
If you are an organization that relies on Microsoft to provide its core applications; collaboration, customer relationship management, database, messaging, productivity and unified communications you may be able to realize some capital and operational expense savings with a Microsoft consolidated solution. Microsoft provides an online calculator for the Azure services where you can profile the infrastructure services that you would need. Similar calculators and pricing options are available for the application services.
The Windows 7 license agreements today still does not have provisions for DaaS providers to resell Windows 7 services. “You may not: rent, lease or lend the software or use the software for commercial software hosting services.” So if Microsoft does move into this arena, we should expect to see changes to the EULA to accommodate the model, and as a result, DaaS providers will finally make Windows 7 part of their available offerings, giving customers many options to choose from. Another possible scenario will be introduction of a “Windows Online” version that will only be available through Microsoft’s cloud platform.
Three features to help adoption
Just having a hosted virtual desktop (DaaS) solution is not going to make users just run to sign up. The move to the cloud is a dramatic shift from traditional desktop deployment methods. Adopters will need to feel they have control over the environment, while giving up the administrative tasks they are consumed with everyday. The possible list of desired features can vary from person to person, but three come to mind that can help with user adoption.
- Orchestration. Start with an intuitive self-service portal that will guide the novice through the process of provisioning the services and give the more experienced users the tools necessary to build according their own specifications and be able to meet the demands of a dynamic user population. Make the process of managing, or even self-healing, easy.
- Image Options. Microsoft will need to accommodate organizations with all levels of technical ability. From Ease-of-use machine templates for those customers who just need a basic desktop with pre-configured applications, to blank-slate images for the more advanced users to configure. Backup and recovery of desktop images for those users who fall victim to a bad configuration change or unwanted installation of malware is also necessary.
- Group Policies and Security. Providing the user the ability to select a range of security policies; from highly secure to wide open, and even allowing them to import from their existing policies. Hosting of your desktops will mean that Microsoft will be responsible for keeping your users safe. We need to watch the development of the Forefront products to see if they will meet the growing security demands of clients. A third party client security product may need to be leveraged. Bottom line, customers will need to feel their environment is safe, and can meet their compliance and security requirements.
Look before you leap
Before beginning your move to a DaaS platform, there are a few housekeeping items that should be looked at:
- Get an application inventory. Determine which of those apps are going to go with you into the cloud. Are any of these applications available in a SaaS model? If so, you could eliminate application complexity from the start.
- Data cleansing. Replicating multiple instances of the same file, entire iTunes media folders, and unused (stale) data need not take up valuable cloud storage.
- Profile your users. Classify how your users work, what types of devices do they use, andhow do they connect to your network? Some use cases are just not suitable for being connected 100 percent of the time.
- Check the numbers. You should do a thorough review of your assets, capital and operational expenditures to understand what it costs to run your environment. Then run the numbers with the potential cloud provider for the matching services, bandwidth and storage capacity. Know what your true cost savings will be.
- Migration Services. Moving one or more services to the cloud takes more than just flipping a switch. Get a plan from the service provider or another outside firm so you can get an understanding of the impact of the move.
With the possible introduction of project Mohoro to its cloud offering, Microsoft is positioning itself to be able to deliver a full “office in the cloud”. While no details of a real complete solution exists today, the possibility should make some take a serious look of how a total cloud hosted service could benefit their organization.