Sphere 3D to Take Glassware 2.0 Platform to the Cloud

Windows application appliance vendor Sphere 3D has announced a partnership with Microsoft to take its Glassware 2.0 platform to the cloud through Azure.

“We are committed to providing our customers with new and innovative ways to implement their cloud strategy,” said Vibhor Kapoor, Director, Microsoft Azure Product Marketing. “By working closely with Sphere 3D, we are able to continue to deliver on that commitment and provide a new level of flexibility for organizations looking for scalable application delivery from the cloud.”

In partnering with Sphere 3D, Kapoor is fulfilling his promise to provide customers with new and innovative ways of doing business. The Glassware platform takes a new approach to Windows application hosting, adopting a “less is more” philosophy in containerizing Windows apps to deliver substantially more application sessions per box than a conventional RDSH-based system.

The initial outreach is targeted at the education sector, where Sphere 3D has seen some strong validation of its platform. I first came across Sphere 3D in conjunction with an announcement that Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS) was buying 32,000 Dell Chromebooks, one for each middle and high school student in the district. CCPS is one of the 100 largest school systems in the US. Although it had already standardized on Google Apps, CCPS still needed access to Windows applications to support the curriculum. It turned to Sphere 3D and Glassware 2.0 as a low-cost, high-performance appliance-based hosting platform for its Windows apps. While Sphere 3D’s approach to application hosting means it can deliver more apps per server and more apps per dollar than conventional RDSH-based platforms can, the downside is that in education, the hardware sits unused for a quarter of the year. Moving Glassware to the cloud will give Sphere 3D’s education customers another opportunity to save.

Pricing for Glassware on Azure has not been announced yet. There’s ample room to undercut Azure RemoteApp pricing. Microsoft’s pricing structure for RemoteApp is a hybrid of flat-rate and capped consumption-based pricing, with prices starting at $10 per month for a basic session, rising to a capped upper limit of $17. Before Azure pricing was announced, I polled a number of independent software vendors (ISVs) to get their perspectives on possible pricing and received estimates ranging from $5 to $15 per concurrent session per month. Given the performance advantages that Glassware 2.0 has over conventional RDSH-based Windows app hosting platforms, I would expect that Sphere 3D would be able to undercut Azure RemoteApp prices substantially. While it may not be able to hit $5/user/month, I don’t think pricing will be an obstacle to adoption.

A big opportunity for Sphere 3D would be to adopt a pure consumption-based licensing policy. Azure RemoteApp offers good value when used full time, but if it is used for just a couple of hours each week, the $10 starting price starts to look onerous. One user using the Basic Azure RemoteApp service for 100 hours in a month would be charged $17, but 100 users using the service for only one hour each would be charged $1,000. If Sphere 3D could offer an Amazon-like consumption model for its cloud service, it could open up a vast market for occasional-use Windows apps. Pricing could possibly go as low as $0.10/hour depending on resource requirements. This approach would likely be of great interest to Sphere 3D’s education user base. Education’s combination of tight headcount-based budgets and predictable seasonal workload is ideally suited to consumption-based licensing. Glassware may also open the door to low-cost GPU-enabled 3D graphics apps in Azure—something that would be of immediate interest to its education customers.

Initially, Glassware 2.0 will be available only through a select number of authorized partners. So I don’t expect to see such low pricing offered to consumers, but Sphere 3D promises additional use cases and expanded availability later on in 2015, opening the door to a direct-to-consumer model.

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11 Comments on "Sphere 3D to Take Glassware 2.0 Platform to the Cloud"

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Some interesting ideas but not particularly well thought through. How would Sphere provide usage based licensing when each user must be licenced for the software? That’s a huge upfront cost with little or no assurance the licence fee could be recovered. Microsoft licensing does not allow companies to rent or lease their software. Does Microsoft Azure provide hourly pricing today? If not, Sphere woukd need to buy in bulk and have some mechanism at the Azure level to calibrate and measure hourly usage. No small or insignificant task. Re GPU capabilities, Any company wishing to offer that service would need… Read more »
the fact that Azure offers server workloads by the hour does not necessarily mean Glassware has the embedded tech to support utility billing. That is a non trivial task to build and manage. More importantly is the issue of licensing. The advantage that Azure has is that is is a one stop shop for utility based pricing for both the server footprint and app licences. The value prop of Azure goes beyond simplicity and cost vs in house, it is the utility pricing, Azure offers that for everything while Sphere cannot, Azure also offers education discounts that Sphere cannot match.… Read more »

Re: “How would Sphere provide usage based licensing when each user must be licenced for the software? That’s a huge upfront cost with little or no assurance the licence fee could be recovered.”

Bill, you don’t seem to be aware that Sphere 3D also entered a Multi-Year OEM Embedded Agreement With Microsoft.
See: http://sphere3d.com/sphere-3d-enters-multi-year-oem-embedded-agreement-with-microsoft/
“Under the embedded licensing program with Microsoft, we are able to deliver turnkey solutions for Windows Embedded Server workloads to organizations ranging from small businesses to large enterprises.”

Thank you for the note re the Windows OEM Embedded Agreement. Perhaps a review of Microsoft’s Licensing policies would be worthwhile to understand the feasibility of the proposed route to market. The contract you mentioned is specific to Windows Server Embedded, and allows Sphere to bundle only that specific software product on their hardware. It does not permit distribution of the full Microsoft software catalogue including Windows desktop software and applications. Different animals entirely. To sell an app to an education user, Sphere would have to buy the licence upfront, and rent it on a month to month (or some… Read more »
Thank you Simon. I did not intend to suggest that Microsoft offers all their products to education for free other than Office 365. However, they do offer significant discounts to K-12 and higher ed for the complete suite of Microsoft technologies including Azure. Regardless, the license restrictions for Windows apps still applies to Sphere, and that hurdle would prevent pay as you go licensing and use of the software as you suggested in your original post. I understand that you are familiar with Citrix desktop services. Thus, I doubt I need to remind you of how difficult and combative Microsoft… Read more »

Simon, I just read some articles regarding Glassware that contained some very interesting information. This includes the news that Chesterfield County Public Schools is NOT using Glassware as reported earlier, and that New Caney School District in Texas only has two users running. That is two users out of 13,000 students.

I would suggest that this presents the usefulness and validation of the glassware technology in anew, and unflattering light.