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Consider desktops in the cloud for BYOD

Tom Henderson | May 21, 2012
Desktop-as-a-Service is an interesting way for IT execs to provide cloud-based Windows desktop sessions, as well as shared resources such as storage. DaaS can help companies roll out new desktops and support Bring Your Own Device policies.

How DaaS works

In the simplest form, DaaS is like Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), Virtual Network Control (VNC), and similar provisioning that dates back to the the PCAnywhere days, where you got screen, keyboard, and mouse (at minimum) connected to another computer, so as to use that system as though you were sitting comfortably nearby.

Today's iteration is Virtual Device Interface-Infrastructure (VDI), which includes the basics, plus sound, local drive, and local ports (like USB). VDI can be accomplished on premise or in the cloud.

DaaS service providers are the gateway for cloud-based connectivity, which includes virtualized desktop sessions and applied administrative constraints. The selling points are hosted external applications, shared storage resources, joining DaaS resources as extensions of an existing (or new) Active Directory infrastructure, and extended device compatibility in a BYOD scenario.

Here are the individual reviews:


Desktone uses Citrix components mixed with its own desktop portal and management infrastructure. The Citrix pieces, including session access applications like Citrix Receiver, give remote users choices for what kind of device, such as a Mac or a Windows XP client, might be compatible with a Desktone-hosted Windows7 session.

Hosted sessions can reside in an isolated Active Directory or workgroup environment, or could be connected via a VPN (many types are supported) linking Desktone's provisioned desktops and network with a customer network.

VPN connectivity can be problematic because of the varying types of VPNs possible. Those connected with firewall and VPN appliances are said to be the most easily (and quickly) deployed.

The customer intake process revolved around deciding on networking characteristics, choosing different hosted desktop variants based on an average installation, then upgrades to hosted sessions based on memory, disk and number of CPUs (up to four) that would be hosted on Desktone's cloud, which consists largely of blades in a multi-tenant environment.

Like several other DaaS service providers we tested, Desktone has an administrative portal application to manage DaaS operations security and asset formation (making customized versions of Windows 7 for DaaS access). Also, like other DaaS service providers tested, we found we could join our Active Directory network logon characteristics if needed; a network "join" is available for VPN purposes, too.

The Desktone portal allowed us to check site configuration, desktop asset distribution and pools, which are aggregations of resource groupings. Pools allowed us to differentiate RDP-connected machines by resources, like local-to-session clipboard, drive, printer, smartcard or COM port connectivity.

Dividing pools in this way allows an organization to create Active Directory pools, then to differentiate between persistent and non-persistent sessions, and then to aggregate local resources.

Desktone provides the ability to try the instances prior to deployment by administratively accessed instances that use Windows SysPrep (as opposed to image snapshots, so as to correctly establish the hardware licensing requirements for Windows 7) and should be familiar to Microsoft admins.


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