Microsoft Mohoro: Want to run your desktop from the cloud?

Microsoft Mohoro: Want to run your desktop from the cloud?

Summary: It appears as if Microsoft will be making the Windows "desktop" available via its Azure cloud software. Would you "buy" a cloud-based desktop?

SHARE:

When I think "desktop", I think, well, desktop: My operating system, desktop interface, and applications all resident on the PC or laptop in front of me. Now, Microsoft, which has been having trouble lately getting anyone to use their new desktop, Windows 8, wants you to move to a cloud-based Windows desktop: Mohoro. Would you? Should you?

msdesktopvirtualizationstack-200x282
Ready to use the Windows desktop from the cloud? Microsoft hopes so.
(Image: Microsoft)

What Microsoft appears to be doing isn't just letting you run Windows applications remotely, ala Office 365, but enabling you to run a full Windows desktop from a Microsoft Azure cloud. The technology to deliver "Windows desktop as a service" is really quite old, and many companies have been using variations of it since the late '90s.

Citrix first created a remote Windows desktop in 1995 under the name WinFrame. Two years later, Microsoft cross-licensed the code, and together they produced the Windows NT 4.0 variant, Windows Terminal Server Edition. Today, the descendant of that product, Windows Server 2012 Remote Desktop Services (RDS), lives on and is used by many enterprises to deliver Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) Windows desktops over their local area networks.

In a new role, Microsoft is also now using RDS to deliver the traditional Windows desktop and applications to devices, such as Surface RT, that can't support them natively. Indeed, VDI session-based desktops are the only way to get anything like the full Windows experience on most tablets and smartphones.

Historically, the problem has been that there's not enough internet bandwidth to widely support a fat-client desktop.

Microsoft is far from the only company following this path. For example, Red Hat uses the Simple Protocol for Independent Computing Environments (SPICE) to deliver Linux VDI.

What is new here is that Microsoft appears to want to finally deliver VDI over the cloud. While technically possible, in the past, Microsoft explicitly refused to let users run remote Windows desktops under Azure or enable third parties, such as OnLive, to deliver Windows 7 desktops from a cloud. It appears that they will allow you to "rent" remote Windows desktops from their own managed Azure cloud in the near future.

The real question is: "Will you want to?" Cloud-based desktops — such as Google's Chrome OS with its associated Chromebooks and Linux-based Peppermint OS — are taking off. In addition, every desktop operating system worth its salt now comes with integrated cloud services such as SkyDrive for Windows 8, Ubuntu One for Ubuntu, iCloud with Mac OS X, and so on.

The major difference between all of these other offerings and Mohoro is that these are either true thin-client operating systems — Chrome OS is little more than just enough Linux to support the Chrome Web browser — or are really just fat-client operating systems that incorporate cloud services. Why are they this way?

It's not that the cloud can't support full-powered desktops. They've been able to do that since you were first able to run a server off a cloud. Historically, the problem has been that there's not enough internet bandwidth to widely support a fat-client desktop. What works fine in a gigabit Ethernet-equipped office may not work at all on an internet where the average US broadband speed is 6.7Mbps.

Last, but not least, even if you have the necessary internet bandwidth, do you really want to put all of your desktop — lock, stock, and menu — on Microsoft's cloud? You can start thinking about renting your desktop now, because by year's end, your company will need to start considering it.

Me? I like thin-client Chromebooks, but even if I were a Windows fan, I'm not sure I'd be ready to use a fat-client, cloud-based rental desktop operating system. How about you?

Related stories

Topics: Windows, Cloud, IT Policies, PCs, Virtualization, Operating Systems, Networking, Microsoft, Google, Windows 8

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

58 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • This would be the worst possible move

    A lot of people talk about the death of Windows, and normally I'm the one laughing at them, but if they made this the only option for the desktop?

    I... I don't see it working out for them too well.
    Michael Alan Goff
    • this is a enterprise solution..

      this is part of their server and tools division and not ment for consumers its an option not a must...
      rruffman1
      • yep, great for companies

        There are various venders that allow you to rent a virtual box at the datacenter and remote connect to it. They do backups, software upgrades, program the firewall, take care of licenses, hardware upgrades, etc. The full IT support, and all of it remotely.

        I can't see many 20-30 people offices with no own IT stuff not going to the virtual solution.

        I think longer term, this may even replace the desktop/fileserver at home.
        Sacr
        • horrible typing

          I can't edit :(

          venders -> vendors
          IT stuff -> IT staff
          Sacr
        • Actually we don't need Win 8 - it's not even recommend OS

          Windows 8 monitors what you download and send that info back to HQ. It could also delete programs without warning you. Also when you use Windows 8 your freedoms are compromised by proprietary software that locks you out from control of your own computer. Windows 8 had bad security methods that could expose your personal information.
          Frankie1965
          • ?

            Been on it for well over a year and no software has been removed and HQ isn't spying on me because I opt out of sending feedback. Do you honestly think the competition isn't monitoring the software you install from the app store? Wake up Frankie!
            Rob.sharp
        • For Specialised Third Party Apps, Maybe.

          The stuff Microsoft is offering isn't really essential. However remote server based Windows desktop applications may be necessary for some very specialised third party apps. I see this done mainly on LAN servers hosted on Windows Terminal servers or Citrix/VMWare/KVM virtualisation servers within the company though - not hosted in the cloud. The remote Windows desktop is horrendously inefficient for cloud use.
          Mah
    • not really...

      I dont see anything that has any interest for me in this article... But seriously... If you need it and you prefer Windows, then why not?
      Throw All The Things
  • It could work

    One use I can foresee is the development of certain types of applications. To keep a workstation capable of running the latest Visual Studio and Eclipse, you've got to stay fairly current. Well, what if you didn't? What if your crappy old desktop can run the very latest, without changing OSes?

    As long as they solve the slow frame rate and latency problems, I think this could work for developers. I can't imagine anyone using it who wasn't looking for a productivity solution, however. Nobody will use a cloud desktop to Facebook.
    Mac_PC_FenceSitter
    • It does work...

      Have you tried Xen App or RDS in the last few years?

      Citrix ran a demo at a local supplier, an old Pentium laptop with a 3G card connected to a Xen App server and streaming BBC World News on the host, without any dropped frames locally.

      Where I work, nearly all employees are on thin clients with Windows TS or Linux X-Windows sessions, which is slower than RDS or other VDI solutions, but it is fast enough for the work they need to do - they can develop on Linux or Windows, run Office or our ERP software.
      wright_is
  • "As long as they solve the slow frame rate and latency problems"

    Never happen. This is the fallacy of PC dumb terminals. And oh.. by the way, try implementing something like this with a touch screen client. Oh boy! Almost worse then doing VS compiles on the server. Simply a very dumb idea.
    BruinB88
    • A couple of AiOs

      use VDI technology, you have a central PC, then, when you detach the touch screen to use it in jumbo tablet mode, you are running VDI.

      It isn't dumb, it is very practical. we currently have around 50 Windows and Linux terminal users connected to our servers and there aren't any problems - unless 20 people try and compile an Eclipse project at the same time...
      wright_is
  • Sigh

    "Cloud-based desktops -- such as Google's Chrome OS with its associated Chromebooks and Linux-based Peppermint OS -- are taking off."
    x I'm tc
  • Microsoft Mohoro: Want to run your desktop from the cloud?

    I don't have a need to run my desktop from the cloud but I can see some businesses doing it especially the remote users. Like you said its not new but if Microsoft is providing a full desktop to server solution then this makes a lot of sense and fits in line with the rest of their services.

    "Microsoft, which has been having trouble lately getting anyone to use their new desktop, Windows 8, "
    Factual numbers plus real world experience says differently.

    "Cloud-based desktops -- such as Google's Chrome OS with its associated Chromebooks and Linux-based Peppermint OS -- are taking off."
    Taking off? What was their market share again?
    Loverock-Davidson
    • Chill LD...

      He meant Linux. It's hard to get anyone to use Linux on the desktop.
      mikedees
    • Loverock-Davidson...is having a old fashioned HISSY FIT..How Quaint

      end of Story
      Over and Out
      • It will be funny to read Windows fanboys writing...

        ...now positive messages about cloud. They are - well - fanboys.
        Frankie1965
  • Yes, Windows belongs in the cloud

    I've been using a Surface RT to RDP into my desktops at home. I'd be more than happy to replace the PC's with some rented space in the cloud -- maybe a cloud machine for each client or project, etc.
    Tojuro
  • WHY????

    Oh, wait, not everyone knows about VNC servers or RackSpace.com...... This is all old hat to me.
    chrisanderson1973
    • Not to mention..

      Onlive. Used it on my Android tablet for a few months.
      mikedees