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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.

The Quest vWorkspace client supports device sharing; it's possible to administratively permit/allow sharing of local drives, printers, COM ports, smartcards, USB devices (where Windows 7 supports them), "Universal Printers" (print to PDF, etc), microphone and interactive clipboard contents. Screen sizes can be autosized or forced to default geometry. We could also set performance optimizations and add various speed enhancements, including media player redirection (Windows Media Player pops up locally, if available, rather than drag it through the session connection).

Overall, dinCloud was fast, and the intake process was professional and showed skills at varying architectural possibilities. If we wanted to rapidly join a flock of policy-enforced, yet generic Windows 7 desktops together, dinCloud would be our choice.


The Nivio experience was different than the other DaaS providers, following a model that's very retail-like on the surface, but had some depth of configuration. Based on Citrix XenServer, Nivio used a commodity-based session model for its desktop services. You can get persistent or non-persistent sessions, rent or license apps, and use the session-spawned "nDrive" to save and collaborate pre-loaded or production data among groups of users. The feel of Nivio is more ad hoc (and for less formal deployments) and spontaneous. There's an "nApps" store, an organizational URL, and the nDrive. The "n" theme was catchy; some will find it gets old to them.

Nivio doesn't provision standard Windows 7 sessions. Instead, we got terminal-server like sessions running on Windows 2008R2 Server. Nivio uses Ericom AccessNow 2 graphics acceleration server for HTML5 graphics speed enhancement, a product we saw in a prior edition (and earlier stages) in our coverage of VDI server infrastructure.

Nivio eshews typical Citrix XenServer client infrastructure, and used Adobe Flash-based browser access or HTML5 browser access. Flash adds compatibility but at the potential sacrifice of non-Flash client-types -- but it's possible to use an HTML5-compatible browser (apparently IE9 is incompatible with Nivio's sofware) to logon to a virtual Nivio session. We ran into some access problems with Firefox 11, but Nivio proved to us that there's a bug in Firefox 11 in which mixed SSL-encrypted and non-encrypted data aren't correctly handled from their perspective; perhaps it's fixed by the time your read this, but we found the portions of the session used were encrypted correctly, just not reported by Firefox as encrypted.

The sessions are hosted in turn on a Windows 2008 R2 server, terminal server-style. The sessions were highly policy controlled, but contained a full payload of standard-issue Microsoft Office apps. If you use Windows, you're in Windows and no retraining ought to be required to make use of the Citrix Windows session UI.

The Nivio nApp offerings were divided into several categories, including free and rentable. While the list wasn't very long, we found its inclusion interesting in the face of other application stores like iTunes or Google Marketplace. If you want to use free office applications, several choices are available, as well as familiar Microsoft Office at a rental price.


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