Desktop-as-a-ServiceLess than ten days after the announcement from the Department of Internal Affairs that Desktop as a Service had been decided and was ready for rollout, Amazon entered the virtual desktop market with quite a hiss and a roar. They aren’t the only ones either, with the rise of virtual desktops as a Cloud based service growing globally each week.

The devil is in the detail, as it always is, and the press release from DIA says in one paragraph:

“While initial purchase prices may be similar to current costs, agencies will reduce procurement expenses as they will not need to go to tender, and they will benefit over time from economies of scale achieved by volume discounts.”

One can only assume that this means what it says, that being that the delivery of AoG DaaS initially is similar in cost to running a old-school desktop. That could be a problem. Particularly when the Amazon War Machine is entering the DaaS market at $35 per month and they [Amazon] are not the cheapest.

Backing it up a bit though, DaaS is an important technology for a variety of reasons of which the DIA is completely in tune.

Firstly, it allows the migration from those old XP systems to Windows 7 or 8 a lot easier. Those agencies that are still stuck down at XP may be forced, given time, to adopt DaaS, as opposed to any other upgrade path. The option certainly digs them out of the brown stuff.

Buying DaaS from the general Cloud market is a lot cheaper than running a fully-fledged heavy end-client with all the software installed that you don’t need. You get a basic desktop at $x per month and then you add to it as you need more services. The cost starts to escalate when you get to adding your bespoke agency applications, which require special packaging, support, and additional money.

Security is easier to manage with centralised images easier to manage, and theoretically, Cloud Service Providers provide better security than you can, so that helps.

In terms of BYOD, DaaS is a great feature because now you can bring your scungy old laptop, Android tablet, and Apple iPhone to work, or have them anywhere, and you can access the desktop through a secure connection and continue to operate on your agency workspace.

DaaS also inherits all the characteristics of true Cloud Services. And here comes the rub…

That means that a true DaaS service is something that a customer can unilaterally provision and decommission, it doesn’t require human contact with the service provider. As well, it is broadly accessible via network, which means that you don’t need a dedicated network between yourself, and the service provider, i.e. you can access it via the Internet. All DaaS Cloud services come from a common pool, this is how you get your pricing so low. The DaaS service is rapidly elastic, this means that you can buy a desktop for a minimum of a month (this will change to seconds, hours, days, and weeks), with no contractual requirement on time beyond that. Similarly, you can turn it off when you don’t want it. DaaS has to be a measured service where the customer has control.

If your DaaS service doesn’t look like that, then you probably are buying something called Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, or VDI. This has some of the benefits of DaaS, but not all, and when you drive it through a commercial contract wall, you possibly increase cost while losing further benefit. In short, VDI does not meet Cloud definitions, and because it doesn’t, you don’t get the benefits you would ordinarily receive from Cloud. It still works, but integration is tougher, its more expensive, you need more physical equipment to get at it (dedicated network), and so on.

Regardless of DaaS or VDI, transition costs, are high. All desktop applications have to be tested in co-existence with each other and back end service bus and middleware likely adjusted. Worse, DaaS won’t work for everyone, which means that you are going to be stuck (until we are all living inside a browser) with having to manage a fleet of heavy workstations for the next few years.

Here’s the thing. DaaS works best when all your applications are browser enabled and you are running nothing heavy or bespoke. I’m not sure we are quite there yet, but with HTML5, we’re definitely heading in the right direction.

The Amazon War Machine is sitting quietly in the corner this week, chuffing out smoke and rolling it’s terrible eyes, having dumped into the market a $35 per month desktop. So much so that VMWare and Citrix shares took a bit of a dive. But this is nothing with Microsoft due to enter the market with something called “Mohoro.” Microsoft is rumoured to be close to releasing Desktop as a Service bundled with 365 and other Cloud options.

Update: You can now buy a Windows 7 desktop without MS Office for $19.95 and if you are an education institute or similar $14.95, price with MS Office is $34.95 and they will install your business applications for you. ClouderPC.

That’s interesting. Because all the other DaaS providers have to pay Microsoft fees for licensing that Redmond set. Redmond, owning the desktop software, could easily undercut as much as it needs too to get a good subscription for its DaaS service without raising the ire of the ComCom’s of the world. In other words, Microsoft’s impending DaaS offering is likely to be the cheapest on the planet.

The issue that DIA have then is that they could, potentially, have a more expensive and less flexible offering than one of the larger global players. That, coupled with the fact that Amazon have been quietly landing ships in the night in New Zealand and despite their continued protestations, their number here is increasing. It is logical that at some point they will start a Cloud war in New Zealand.

Another interesting point is that a lot of the larger agencies, in fact three of the top five, are already running VDI, the internal version of DaaS, and many other agencies are in the same boat. In other words, there are already tens of thousands of desktops that have been virtualised and are now ready for the next move, when it comes, shifting those workloads to a cheap, reliable, and secure DaaS platform.

The idea of sharing ICT costs, innovation, and resources via a Government Community Cloud based set of services is essential. It has many benefits. However, DIA cannot compete (or rapidly react) in a global market where large players are already three product steps ahead of them.

This means one of two things. Government either mandates the use of these services (which has huge risk), which they don’t currently, or they fall back into a position of providing expert guidance from a governance, commercial, architectural, policy, procedural, and management perspective for all agencies adopting Cloud services.

Latest surveys show that more than 75% of agencies have adopted Cloud services, while the total number of agencies using AoG IaaS, as an example, is less than a quarter. The horse had bolted it would seem.

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