Desktops-as-a-Service: Building the Model, by Jason Langone, Kanuj Behl, Phil Ditzel and Dwayne Lessner, is now available for order on both iTunes and on Amazon. I was honored to be asked to write the Foreword for this excellent book, and with Jason’s permission, am posting it here.
Is next year finally going to be the Year of VDI? Probably not, but it will reflect the continued momentum of desktops-as-a-service (DaaS).
I’ve been involved in the desktop virtualization space since the debut of Citrix WinFrame in 1995. The Novell networking reseller business I ran shifted our emphasis to desktops. We began to encourage our clients to replace their PCs with centrally hosted server-based computing solutions. We developed ROI modeling to show the savings resulting from eliminating PC upgrades along with remote office servers and supporting infrastructures. Although we were huge advocates of the technology and were named the Citrix Partner of the Year, we sold the business without ever seeing SBC go mainstream.
In 2005, I co-founded another consulting business focused on deploying VMware ESX. I thought I was done with desktops, but then VDI showed up and I’ve been back advocating the virtual versions again. “The year of VDI” is now a phrase smirked at annually by industry media. But while I agree with the popular consensus that VDI itself has limited market potential, I am very bullish on the prospects for DaaS.
Why the Time is Right for DaaS
More public cloud providers increasingly offer DaaS though, as the authors point out, they are somewhat handicapped by Microsoft licensing policies around multi-tenancy. The biggest DaaS deployments today are taking place within organizations.
One of the appeals of DaaS is that it does not require much of a conceptual leap to make the jump from virtual desktops. When you think about it, the virtual desktop already exhibits most attributes of cloud computing: it can be provisioned on-demand from shared resource pools, accessed over the Internet, and scaled up or down instantly as required.
Enabling self-service provisioning along with metering to facilitate chargeback transforms virtual desktops to DaaS. Multi-tenancy is added to the mix for most public cloud DaaS providers as well as for some internal IT organizations.
DaaS, whether on-premise or publicly hosted, has many compelling benefits. For one thing, it addresses the reality that a “desktop” is no longer just a Windows-based machine. Desktops now include Web-based applications along with storage services such as DropBox for sharing corporate information. Computing devices run the gamut from smart phones to zero-clients to iPads, and are often owned by users as part of BYOD.
DaaS provides the framework for IT to ensure corporate standards are maintained around security, compliance and recoverability.
Whether on-premise or via cloud providers, DaaS utilizes a chargeback system whereby users pay for the desktop resources they consume. The public cloud model enables organizations to eliminate capital expenditures entirely, while internal DaaS can potentially slash on-going operating expenses.
DaaS chargeback drives efficiency in two ways. Access to accurate desktop cost information helps business units more effectively plan and budget. And receiving a monthly bill makes users much more cognizant about optimizing resource consumption.
Both public and on-premise versions of DaaS benefit from the unrelenting consolidation efficiencies of Moore’s Law which states that the number of transistors per chip doubles roughly every two years. On the edge, this added power doesn’t buy us much – PCs already have more capabilities than most users will ever utilize. In the data center, though, we still deal with very expensive CPU, memory, storage and space/power.
Doubling the number of VMs per server host every couple of years slashes the costs of moving virtual desktops to the data center. In fact, it’s really better than this. Continued industry innovations augment Moore’s Law with accelerating increases in virtual machine density, making DaaS still more economically attractive.
As anyone involved in the SBC or VDI space knows, implementing a successful enterprise environment is not easy. The challenge is that, unlike the data center, we now have thousands of users each with their own experiences, expectations and – perceptions.
When it comes to users, perception is reality. One of our early SBC implementations was for a small school district in San Jose. It failed because during the pilot, a teacher’s keyboard happened to break. Although we gave her a replacement and showed her that her old keyboard had just suffered a natural death, she went around to all the other teachers telling them, “Don’t let them put Citrix in your classroom. It breaks keyboards”.
When rolling out DaaS, you only have one chance to get it right. Just one disgruntled user can potentially kill a project. When a bunch of users become upset because of poor performance, dropped sessions, or an inability to access their old information – they quickly generate a negative
vibe that is extremely difficult to overcome. While I don’t have the hard data to support it, I suspect that the majority of VDI projects (which are simpler than DaaS) probably slow or stall completely at the pilot phase.
A successful DaaS environment mandates that every element be well designed and tested from the context of its role in supporting the overall architecture. Langone, Behl, Ditzel and Lessner bring a wealth of invaluable field experience that enables both exceptional planning and implementation.
The authors cover basics such as infrastructure, connection brokers, multi-tenancy, user profiles, andapplications. They also dive into chargeback, identity management, and appliances. An entire section on the cost model facilitates the all-important financial understanding and justification of a DaaS initiative. Another section on the operational model shows how to monitor, manage and administrate the DaaS environment.
This book describes the architectural, financial and organizational elements necessary for a successful DaaS initiative. It is written from the perspective of engineers and focuses on enabling readers to bridge the gap between VDI and DaaS. I hope you enjoy reading the book and wish you success in building a robust and profitable DaaS offering.