People are using more kinds of devices to get work done than ever before. Yet business apps aren't always available on users' devices of choice.
Desktop as a service (DaaS) is turning out to be one way to solve this problem.
DaaS delivers virtualized desktops from the cloud; desktops can be customized for groups of workers — say, around specific job levels or functions. Commercially available for nearly a decade, DaaS was initially intended to offload management chores and spread out the costs of traditional virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).
But DaaS has only recently begun to grow at a healthy clip. According to Scott Ottaway, an analyst at 451 Research, desktop hosting is now a $2 billion market for cloud service providers. (It is possible to create a DaaS setup on in-house servers, too, similar to creating a private cloud.) The market grew by 30% in the last year and should continue to grow at a similar pace through 2017, he says.
Many factors — acceptance of cloud, device diversity, a mobile workforce and ubiquitous Internet access — have combined to make DaaS attractive to some businesses. And there are more brand-name suppliers: In mid-2012, Dell bought Quest Software, which offers DaaS among other services. Since then, VMware has acquired Desktone, a DaaS provider, and Amazon has launched its WorkSpaces virtual desktop service.
There are a few reasons why the concept has been attracting renewed interest.
"There is an increasingly mobile workforce working on an increasingly wide range of devices, and IT organizations are desperate to mitigate the affects of that complexity yet still provide access to systems people need when they need it," says Forrester analyst David Johnson.
Many applications aren't available on a user's device of choice, like an iPad. "The vast majority of enterprise apps are still Windows-based," says IDC analyst Brett Waldman.
While SaaS apps can help users get work done anywhere with any device since they are browser-accessible, SaaS doesn't entirely solve the problem because so many enterprise apps aren't yet available in SaaS form, Ottaway explains.
In contrast, DaaS delivers a Windows (or Linux) desktop experience, as well as Windows-compatible apps, to devices including iPads.
In addition, more businesses are getting comfortable with cloud services. When DaaS first came out, businesses tended to be more wary of using the cloud, Ottaway explains.
Plus, connectivity has improved over time. With DaaS, users require an Internet connection to access their desktops and related apps. Internet connections have gotten faster and the technology providers have optimized protocols to work over less-capable connections, he says.
Also, DaaS relieves the management burden that came along with traditional VDI. With an on-premises VDI deployment, businesses have to manage physical servers and related software as well as storage and networking.
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