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Desktops take flight

Date

Trevor Clarke

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You can already get your music, applications, servers and storage from the cloud, and now comes the desktop. But not everyone is convinced.

These days a large swathe of the IT industry is pushing "[something]-as-a-service" under the umbrella of cloud computing. For example, you can get infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) from companies like Amazon and software-as-a-service (SaaS) from players like Google or Salesforce.

Essentially, instead of having the technology physically located in your data centre or on your own device, it is housed in someone else's data centre and delivered to you over a network. Now, the industry is gearing up to do the same for desktop-as-a-service (DaaS).

But unlike the mature cloud offerings desktop in the cloud remains embryonic and faces an uphill battle for acceptance, especially those delivered from a public cloud. 

In one sign of the emerging interest in DaaS, four local providers - ZettaGrid, VoIP, Ethan Group and Cloud Central - were successful in being included on a list of IT suppliers to federal government agencies. 

The inclusion of these providers - which offer variants of DaaS from Australian data centres - is significant as it provides a direct channel for DaaS growth in the government sector, which is typically considered one of the three largest in Australia with the federal agencies spending around $5 billion per year. 

The government sector has also been an early adopter of on-premises client virtualisation - with two examples being the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) and Department of Defence - which could make for easier acceptance of, and interest in DaaS.  

"We have seen that customers are very interested in DaaS and BYOD as a means of saving on capital expenditure, increasing longevity of existing kit, or adding to the flexibility of the desktop fleet using a range of devices from iPads to Thin PC's," said ZettaGrid general manager Nicki Pereira.

Client virtualisation vendor, Citrix, said whilst the adoption of virtual desktops had been strong in large enterprises - for example Sun Corp - the company was now witnessing "aggressive growth" in SMBs.

"We've attributed this growth to the fact that customers are looking for more agile and cost-effective ways of delivering and managing desktops, and using cloud services to deliver this is a very natural progression for most enterprises," said Citrix Asia Pacific vice president of products and Microsoft alliance, Nabeel Youakim.

The availability of public cloud DaaS providers has also increased quickly and include Dell, Desktone, ICC Global Hosting and Nivio to name a few. However, aside from small businesses and niche use cases, the level of adoption of these public cloud-based DaaS is considered low.

"As for large enterprises on public DaaS, the single biggest objection is concern over data security, control, and compliance," said VMware APJ end user computing product marketing director, Victor Thu.

"Most enterprises are still uncomfortable having their data sitting on someone else's data centre. With that said, we have begun to see more traditional desktop outsourced organisations looking to provide DaaS to enterprises."

However, there is a significant maturity gap between DaaS offerings and traditional desktop outsourcing, which is a model that has been around for many years, involves commoditised technology and skills sets, and has been optimally tuned. This makes both on-premises desktop virtualisation and DaaS a harder sell or buy, depending on where you sit at the negotiating table.

"The challenge to date in desktop as a service is as a pure cost basis it is probably not as comparative to a PC on one's desk," said Sam del Vecchio, portfolio management director at CSC, which has one of the oldest established DaaS offerings in Australia.

"The reason for that is a PC on one's desk is pretty locked down, certain functionality and limited use."

Del Vecchio agreed that public cloud-based DaaS did not have much traction in Australia but said there were opportunities for DaaS and one of CSC'S large enterprise clients - who he was not permitted to name - had been piloting desktop-as-a-service from a private cloud across both its Sydney and Melbourne offices. The difference for DaaS, he said, is it is "bundled capability and a repeatable service that can have a different commercial model".

Traditional desktop outsourcing agreements may span several years, whilst DaaS is often much shorter, around 12 months. Thereby offering a more flexible consumption-based pricing model based on components, whereas outsourcing often packaged everything together.

Yet, not everyone is convinced. IBRS advisor, Dr Kevin McIsaac said DaaS was a "solution looking for a problem".

"If I am a really small organisation than maybe a desktop from the cloud makes sense. But frankly if you are a small organisation you are not going to have a conventional Windows desktop anyway. You are going to use things like Google Apps," McIsaac said.

"It's access to the services in the world, not the desktop itself that is important."

 

10 comments so far

  • Hey! Anybody at SMH able to fix the page payout? Horrible stuff! Bold text all the way through, no paragraphs and minimal line leading.

    Commenter
    Marco
    Location
    France
    Date and time
    November 30, 2012, 11:53AM
    • Cloud computing in this country will never work when we are restricted with crappy download speeds and even worse upload speeds.

      Commenter
      Lonski
      Date and time
      November 30, 2012, 12:31PM
      • Saved me typing that.

        Commenter
        tqft
        Date and time
        November 30, 2012, 1:56PM
      • +1

        Commenter
        wombat
        Date and time
        November 30, 2012, 5:50PM
      • hear hear

        Commenter
        wotnext
        Date and time
        December 01, 2012, 10:14AM
      • Not to mention ridiculously expensive electricity and data charges.

        Commenter
        TedF
        Date and time
        December 01, 2012, 12:12PM
      • It's worth sacrificing a quarter of my monthly download budget to add my agreement.

        Forget doing any kind of major backups to the cloud here - unless you take your data on an overseas vacation and can upload everything on an uncapped plan.

        Commenter
        Mike
        Date and time
        December 01, 2012, 7:41PM
    • Malcolm Turnbull will be held responsible, because if his FTTN plan happens then we wont have fast upload speeds for a very long time indeed. Pity the media isn't focussing on this and the cost of supplying power to 70,000 cabinets around Australia when talking about the NBN.

      Commenter
      Jayness
      Location
      Newtown
      Date and time
      November 30, 2012, 4:24PM
      • Relax, Mr Conroy is all over it.

        Bring on the NBN!

        Commenter
        Tony
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        November 30, 2012, 5:42PM
        • We've gone full circle.

          Started my working life (bit more than 25 yrs ago) - dumb terminals connected to mainframes, then the PC/server thing and now we're moving to what are essentially dumb terminals connected to the cloud where pretty much all resources (software, processing power, etc) are hosted.

          Commenter
          Mr Bungle
          Location
          In The Kitchen
          Date and time
          December 01, 2012, 2:05AM

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