In recent months some major vendors have launched cloud-hosted desktop offerings. There have been announcements from virtualisation leaders Citrix and VMware as well as several big-name vendors not usually associated with desktop application provisioning, including Cisco, Toshiba and Amazon.
Desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) is back in vogue, due to a perfect storm of technical, cultural and capital forces. Developments in virtualised desktop infrastructure (VDI) have paved the way as well. Over the past five years, VDI has become a lot more feasible.
Innovation in the ecosystem, including flash and SSD storage; much more powerful and robust desktop protocols; advanced graphics cards and a major expansion in offerings from key virtualisation platform vendors have driven VDI to the top of enterprise IT projects.
The maturation of the cloud services market has reduced the perception of risk, and customers are becoming used to workspace abstraction. More are willing to separate the OS, apps, settings and data associated with desktop services and assemble them at run time.
The development of cloud platforms as well as cloud app initiatives such as Project Mohoro from Microsoft are ushering in what I like to call a software-defined workspace, where data, applications, the user environment and full desktops all become meaningful "as-a-service" options.
Customers can buy a hosted desktop service direct from a vendor such as Amazon, a hosted service from a third-party DaaS provider (with its own DaaS cloud or reselling a service) or work with a third party to deploy VDI or a DaaS platform on-premise.
A customer may want a customised service, not a vanilla desktop. Some organisations might prefer a private hosted desktop service, not a public one.
Others may opt for a blend of VDI and DaaS; cloud-only companies looking for desktop support may choose DaaS-only delivered by their own internal cloud or an external provider. As always when it comes to end-user computing, one size does not fit all.
A major opportunity for the channel is to be able to help customers work out whether a DaaS implementation suits their users. This is not a simple question to answer.
The right approach lies in understanding the current physical environment - OS, applications, devices, network - in relation to customer needs. Service providers and resellers that are able to deliver granular assessments of a customer's user environment will be at a distinct advantage.
There are also other areas of opportunity to consider. The location of many resellers in relation to their customers may make them ideally suited to offer hosted desktops or some element of an abstracted workspace.
Customers will also need support to manage their evolving systems, whether on-premise or off.
This will include ensuring they sustain the ability to securely change user profiles to keep pace with a mobile and more demanding workforce. And, because of the expanding range of choices around cloud services, coupled with the need for flexibility, customers will want help ensuring their workloads are portable across different systems.
Most VARs we have spoken to agree that the cloud is real and that the days of selling low-cost, low-margin commodity products are drawing to an end. The name of the game is value-add and annuitising revenue streams.
Whether you build your own, build your customers', white-label another vendor's or have a value-add offering around a DaaS service, the options for services and recurring revenue streams are boundless when you speak the vocabulary of VDI, DaaS and the fully abstracted workspace. The limits will be down to how large we can scale.
We have always been reliant on the presence, speed, and quality of our networks - and more than anything the evolution of robust cloud infrastructure is leading us to a day when DaaS, VDI and all its derivatives are as pervasive as the dial tone.
Tyler Rohrer is co-founder at Liquidware Labs
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