VMware announced that it was acquiring Desktone at its VMworld Europe in October. My colleague Charlie Osborne discussed this move in his commentary, VMware acquires desktop-as-a-service firm Desktone. I've been thinking about why VMware would do this and how VMware/Desktone is likely to play in today's market.
What is "Desktop as a Service?"
Prior to this move Desktone was one of a small number of suppliers that offered tools and services that allows Windows desktop environments to be virtualized and then executed in the data center of some cloud service provider. Desktone called this approach Desktop as a Service (DaaS).
DaaS allows individuals or companies to order a service offering that allows them to access the image of a personal computer and installed applications without having to purchase hardware or software licenses. The image they're using can reside comfortably in the data center of a service provider.
On the face of it, this approach appears to be a low-cost but flexible option for those not wishing to deal with a personal computer on every desktop. These people would, instead, deploy a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone capable of executing the access virtualization necessary for people to access and use the applications and data that resides in that virtual desktop system.
How does VMware describe Desktone
In the VMware announcement of the Desktone acquisition positioned Desktone's offerings with its own VMware Horizon in the following way:
The explosion of mobile devices, mobile and web applications, and increased interest in the cloud is driving businesses to re-evaluate their desktop strategy. Desktop virtualization with VMware Horizon View simplifies desktop management, security, and control while delivering an optimum end-user computing experience across all devices and networks. The addition of the Desktone platform further extends the benefits of desktop virtualization by offering an additional choice to organizations looking for predictable economics, flexibility of cloud deployment or simple deployment and management due to the lack of resources or in-house VDI expertise. The Desktone platform was purpose-built for service providers to deliver windows applications and desktops as a cloud service with unique capabilities such as:
- Multi-tenancy – A must for cloud delivery. Each customer gets a separate virtual environment to ensure security while cloud providers are able to manage multiple customers under one platform.
- Self Service of virtual desktops – Simple provisioning from the cloud enables self-service for IT of full VDI, shared session remote desktop service (RDS) desktops and applications without the need to procure hardware or software.
- Grid-based architecture for elastic scalability – Advanced architecture enables unlimited scalability across multiple geographies and data centers.
- Low cost of delivery – Open source based technology eliminates Microsoft licensing fees and third-party software management, resulting in cost savings over competitive desktop virtualization offerings.
While Desktone and its competitors have been slowly building an ecosystem of service providers that offer Windows desktops and applications as a service offering, this approach hasn't taken over the market. Concerns about the ability to comply with regulations, data security, reliability, performance and about the true cost of running desktop images remotely has kept this approach from being adopted by everyone, everywhere.
Peter McKay, DeskTone's CEO, summarized what his customers have said when I spoke with him a year ago. He said that customers are looking for the following things:
- The constant need to update operating systems, application frameworks, applications and database software. The service provider can take on these tasks and allow companies to focus on their business.
- The emergence of smartphones, tablets and other intelligent network-enabled devices as a platform. Virtual desktop systems can be accessed from these devices when needed and from more traditional access point devices, such as laptop and desktop computers, the rest of the time.
- Difficult transitions from one operating system to another. Peter pointed out that many organizations are still relying on Microsoft's Windows XP as the platform for their desktop computing. Upgrades to Windows 7 or Windows 8 typically mean replacing the user's device. DaaS makes it possible for those devices to work through their useful life while the work moves to an updated environment offered as a service.
Peter, as one would expect, is always very enthusiastic about Desktone's technology and ecosystem. It is likely that Desktone's products will be attractive to even more partners now that VMware is behind them.