There really is an end user computing revolution happening. We continue to be impressed by the rate at which Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) is gaining ground. Every day we talk to organizations large and small who are ready to simplify datacenter infrastructure, if not eliminate it entirely, and manage their apps and desktops from the cloud. They realize that now there's an easier, more affordable way to manage desktops and apps and keep mobile workforces productive. This is all happening in the context of changing roles for IT. IT teams have so much strategic value to offer the modern enterprise; their focus should be on gleaning insights from business intelligence and driving innovation across the business, not on tedious maintenance of outdated, on-premises datacenter and VDI infrastructure. But what should IT teams demand from a DaaS provider so they can truly benefit from cloud computing? What does highly effective DaaS look like? What are the characteristics of an enterprise-ready solution?
To get the answers you need, here are 7 key questions you should be asking your DaaS provider, and they'd better have brilliant answers for you!
(1) Is the solution a turnkey service?
The distinction to consider here is the difference between a "tool", which helps you get a job done, and a "service", which does the job for you so you don't have to worry about it.
VDI is a tool (e.g., Citrix XenDesktop & VMware Horizon). Customers buy VDI licenses, some servers, some storage, some networking, and databases. They hire some consultants to deal with all this complexity and piece it all together and after all that expense they typically deliver their first virtual desktop in 9-12 months. There's lots to worry about here - upgrades, availability, scalability - everyday, forever.
VDI-as-a-service is also a tool (e.g., Citrix Cloud & VMware Horizon Air). Customers buy the solution, hire some consultants, and then they either buy servers/storage/networking/databases, or rent servers/storage/networking /databases on a cloud platform. There is still plenty for IT teams to worry about, not the least of which is security, since user credentials and user traffic are routed through the vendor's VDI cloud service. That is not acceptable to most organizations.
Desktop-as-a-Service is a turnkey service (e.g., Workspot Cloud Desktops & Amazon WorkSpaces). Need a desktop? Here you go. Instantly. In the case of Amazon, the customer just swipes a credit card and gets a basic desktop. With Workspot, IT just spins up a desktop on Microsoft Azure. Done. There's no hassle, no upgrades, no re-sizing, no maintenance. IT doesn't have to worry about scaling infrastructure, security or constant troubleshooting. Workspot's robust security means user credentials and traffic never enter the DaaS cloud service, and there's nothing to get in the way of great performance for your users. Scalability? Easy, instant, infinite.
(2) Is there fixed, subscription pricing?
The turnkey service must have fixed, subscription pricing. Why fixed? Well, if you think about your cable subscription, would you like to have one, all-you-can-watch price, or a price that depends on how much you watched each month? Similarly, would you rather be able to rely on fixed, all-you-can-eat pricing for access to virtual apps, desktops and workstations, or encounter career-limiting surprises with incomprehensible, variable pricing? In contrast to other vendors, both Amazon and Workspot offer fixed, subscription pricing. Amazon WorkSpaces costs $35/user/month for a basic server-hosted desktop. Workspot offers flat-rate, subscription pricing for Cloud Desktops, Cloud Apps and Cloud Workstations, starting at $20/user/month.
Why is a subscription billing model important? Once again, the devil is in the details. If there are significant professional services, or time-to-value associated with the service, it is not being delivered by an underyling product. A hoster can host one of the VDI or VDI-as-a-service stacks and deliver a desktop "as a service". However, their solutions are not cloud-native, so they are doing a significant amount of heavy lifting in the background to make everything work. It takes time and money to deliver the "service", and that will be reflected either in long deployment times or a significant professional services bill (probably both).
(3) Does the service support Windows 10 desktops?
Most legacy desktop-as-a-service vendors supported only server hosted desktops with a user experience that mimics Windows 10. These "desktops" were either not compatible with many applications running inside a typical enterprise, or those applications were not supported on that operating system. Make sure your service provider can easily spin up Windows 10 desktops for you.
(4) Does the service support Windows server applications?
Enterprise organizations need to support multiple use cases, which means that in addition to delivering Windows 10 desktops, most organizations want to deliver just Windows applications (rather than a full Win 10 desktop) or a server hosted desktop will work great for many use cases. For example, call center personnel typically only use 3-5 applications. In such a case, application delivery or a simple server hosted desktop may be sufficient. The point is you need this flexibility.
(5) Is the service enterprise-class?
A typical enterprise PC is built using a corporate image and joined to the customer Active Directory (AD). The image has the applications the user needs, security software, and Group Policy Objects (GPOs). A generic, basic desktop does not include these things and will not meet your security requirements. To be an enterprise-class service, the virtual desktop must plug into the customer AD and be built using the corporate image. Then it will behave just like any other PC in the enterprise.
(6) Does the service support hybrid deployments?
Not every customer is ready to go all-cloud right away. And some customers have different use cases which require different modes of deployment. For example, a customer may choose to deploy desktops with on-premises datacenter infrastructure to meet federal government requirements and they might also deploy desktop-as-a-service for contractors. You need the flexibility to deliver some apps and desktops from the cloud and some from on-prem, and it should all be easily managed from a single pane of glass. Make sure the DaaS architecture supports both all-cloud and hybrid deployments.
(7) Is the service built on a cloud-native architecture?
A cloud-native architecture is a solution that is built from the ground-up to support thousands of customers and millions of users with a single instance of the service. The service scales up and down for one customer or thousands of customers without any manual intervention. All the components of the service are designed for high availability, so that the customer or the end user is not worried about how to keep the service up and running - that is the responsibility of the service provider. The service is designed to be upgraded without affecting availability or scalability. And finally, the service has to be designed so that customers can troubleshoot without having access to the underlying components of the service. Are you ready for cloud-native, enterprise-class Daas? If you have 5 minutes, take our quiz - you'll probably learn something new about modern DaaS.
A well-designed Desktop-as-a-Service solution will have the following 7 features. Customers can realize significant benefits and ROI through the short time-to-value, availability and scalability of the service, and simplified, success-driven pricing.