DesktopVirtualization

Sphere 3D to Take Glassware 2.0 Platform to the Cloud

DesktopVirtualization

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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Simon Bramfitt

Simon Bramfitt

Simon is an independent industry analyst covering enterprise desktop, mobile and application virtualization, delivery and management technologies. He is an experienced solutions architect with unmatched insight into the challenges of designing large (200,000 seat plus) high availability presentation and desktop virtualization systems. Simon was invited to join the Citrix Technology Professionals (CTP) group in May 2010 and joined the Virtualization Practice in September 2010

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

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Guest
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 »
Guest
thanks Bill re hourly licensing Sphere 3D can obviously license their product however they like, but the underlying platform is Microsoft’s and that needs to be taken into consideration. As it is, Azure already supports hourly billing of Windows Server workloads starting at $0.018/hr and as a cloud service, load-balancing and auto-scaling to meet fluctuations in demand are in effect built-in. So I think I’m good on the part of the analysis. Re GPU capabilities My bad, I took a shortcut in my explanation. AWS already has GPU support while Azure which does not. Nevertheless I think you must acknowledge… Read more »
Guest
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 »
Guest

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.”

Guest
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 »
Guest
Sorry Bill, your understanding of Azure educational discounting is wrong. MS offers Azure free to higher education for use as part of the curriculum, but not in K-12 and the program does not include Azure RemoteApp. While I’m not in a position to say what Sphere 3D might choose to do wrt licensing their products, I’m pretty sure that you’re not either, but as far as the work needed to implement hourly charge back is concerned, it is far easier than you seem to believe. There are several very good cloud-based services whose primary purpose is to make SaaS billing… Read more »
Guest

Pete

That OEM Embedded Agreement With Microsoft doesn’t really mean anything in terms of Azure, it applies only to the Glassware appliances. And even there, it’s no more than what is needed to do business.

Not important.

Regards

Simon

Guest
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 »
Guest
Try as I might, I can’t find anything that confirms that Microsoft offers educational discounts for Azure. If you can point me in the right direction I’ll be happy to take that into consideration and might revise my position. However I’m not convinced that sales quotas would significantly impact Sphere 3D sales the way you suggest. Any school board that takes the same path that Chesterfield has (i.e., standardizing on Chromebooks and Google Docs) is already effectively lost to Microsoft. I’d argue that offering this type of customer an easy way to consume Windows apps through Glassware on Azure is… Read more »
Guest

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.

Guest
I have no first hand information about a deployment in New Caney School District so I can’t comment on it directly. but I do find it hard to give any credence to a suggestion, regardless of source, that anyone would contemplate a 2 user Glassware implementation except as a stepping stone between zero and some probably much larger number. Regardless of your technical experience or agenda you must agree that a 2 user Glassware implementation makes no sense. What then is more likely, that against all logic New Caney has chosen to deploy a web-scale application hosting solution for just… Read more »
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