Windows 8 to showcase 'desktop as a service'?

Since April, it's been quiet on the Windows 8 leak front. But here's a new tidbit to keep the "what's next for Windows" faithful going for a bit longer.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Since April, it's been quiet on the Windows 8 leak front. But here's a new tidbit to keep the "what's next for Windows" faithful going for a bit longer.

Blogger Charon at Ma-Config.com unearthed a slide presentation from a Microsoft architectural summit held in London in early April of this year that focuses on virtualization futures. (As Microsoft watchers may recall, new virtualization capabilities are expected by many to be part of Windows 8 when it ships around 2012 or so.) There's only one slide in the deck that explicitly calls out the 2012+ "Windows Next." But the deck still gives some general sense of what the Softies are thinking on the Windows client virtualization front.

The Microsoft solution architect presentation, entitled "Desktop as a Service," describes some of the customer pain points associated with Windows today. From notes that are part of the slide deck:

Customers today "see application compatibility issues, they see DLL hell, they see an inability to manage efficiently, they see high costs associated with maintenance and upgrades, they see a relatively short lifespan.....This cannot continue. Customers are increasingly refusing to let this continue."

What could alleviate these problems in a single bound? Virtualization technology! Or -- to reflect the deck's messaging more accurately -- a panoply of virtualization technologies.

Microsoft already offers a number of virtualization technologies -- Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI); application virtualization (App-V, MED-V, Remote Apps, Terminal Server), OS virtualiztion (Remote Desktop, Terminal Services, VDI); data virtualization (folder redirection and synch); hardware virtualization (Hyper-V), plus various System Center management offerings. While many are touting VDI as the holy grail, VDI is not the same as desktop as a service (DaaS), according to the Softies, and DaaS is more than just VDI.

Here's a slide that shows how Microsoft is thinking about the next-gen virtual desktop:

In the brave, new DaaS world, "the desktop should not be associated with the device. (T)he desktop can be thought of as a portal which surfaces the users apps, data, user state and authorisation and access," according to the slides.

DaaS means applications and data are centrally managed, as are the deployment of these apps and data. Apps and data are "treated as cached entities and synchronized with an appstore and "user state store," the slide deck explained. (Aha! Another mention of the infamous Windows 8 app store concept.) The operating system also is cached and synched with the appstore in this new model. Hardware failure becomes a non-issue (at least in theory) for users, and more reliable maintenance of applications and the operating system become possible, according to the slides.

More and more of the desktop will be virtualizable, as this slide (with the Windows Next mention) shows:

With Windows 7, Microsoft is able to provide virtualization of a user's data, settings and applications (by using App-V). With "Windows Next" and beyond, Microsoft will be adding the ability to virtualize the operating system, as well, by providing native virtual hard disk (VHD) capabilities in/with Win 8, according to the slide.

As I noted when Windows 8 slides leaked earlier this year, any/all of these concepts and plans could be shelved by the time Microsoft starts delivering the first public test builds of Windows 8 (some time in 2011). But it's still interesting to see the thought process behind the next Windows release -- and how/if it eventually will map to reality.

I'm wondering what the DaaS concept will mean not just to businesses, but also consumers. Would Microsoft be the one providing OS virtualization, via its own centralized datacenters -- the way it is currently providing hosted applications via BPOS/Office 365?

Other thoughts/interpretations of what Microsoft might be planning on the virtualization/cloud front with Windows 8?

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