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.
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In my Enterprise Desktop Strategy paper that was released back in September 2009, I defined what organizations should be considering as they look to incorporate desktop virtualization into their environments. I explored the different components, processes, and tools that brought the concept of the enterprise desktop together. Four years have gone by, and we have been through several “year of VDI” hype cycles. What we have learned is that as much as Desktop Virtualization is an innovative solution, it can also be disruptive if it is not properly integrated as part of the whole desktop service.
Amongst all the major infrastructure and cloud announcements at VMworld this year, I was looking for some interesting technology that would stand out from a EUC perspective. Every which way I turned there were great solutions displayed on the exhibit hall floor, but hidden in the back row of this highly attended event was the piece of technology that I was looking for. Released back in May, the ViewSonic SD-A225 and SD-A245 (22 and 24 inch respectively) smart display devices peaked my interest. The devices are loaded with Android Jelly Bean 4.2 operating system and come pre-configured with Citrix’s XenMobile MDM client, so right out of the box you can apply application and device level security using your existing XenMobile infrastructure. The devices are very feature rich, providing a touch screen that puts out 1920×1080 resolution in full HD powered by a NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad core processor, Bluetooth, Gigabit Ethernet, Speakers, USB ports, WiFi and Webcam.
Corporate data is floating around on PC’s and laptops, sitting on cloud file-sharing platforms and being transmitted over email. Laptops and mobile devices are sitting in the trunks of cars at the mall, being left in hotel rooms or lost in the backs of taxis. Data has become as good as gold. Credit Card numbers, Social Security numbers, architectural diagrams, marketing plans and source code – each a target for a particular thief. And just like fine art and jewelry, there is a huge black market of data buyers. Don’t think your competition wouldn’t want to get their hands on your customer accounts, price lists or intellectual property if they could. There are too many cases in recent history of massive data loss to think that this problem is something that can be easily fixed without changing the way employees get access and use corporate data.
There has long been a debate about testing products within a virtual environment. Not just on how, but the why as well as the what to test. There are limits in some EULA’s as well on the reporting of such testing. This was the subject of the 7/25 Virtualization Security Podcast (#112 – Virtualization Security Roundtable) held Live from NSS Labs in Austin, TX. Where we delved into the issues of testing within a virtual environment. While the discussion was about security products, it is fairly straight forward to apply the concepts to other products within the virtual environment.
Data Protection and patch management of virtual desktops, while not a sexy topic, is one that should happen on a regular basis within any organization implementing or working to implement virtual desktops. Recently, we have been testing virtual desktop software and there is a huge difference between patching and protecting data in a small number of instances and 1000s of instances. There are scale considerations as well as ease of use for file level and system recovery as well as issues with patching virtual desktops (not to mention other security issues).