Guest Column | July 30, 2014

Why Your Desktop Should Be Born In The Cloud

Cloud Desktop

By Terry Cronin, VP, Cloud Services Division, Toshiba

Technology historians tell us that the idea of cloud computing dates back to at least the mid-’90s. That may be true, but the term’s more likely been in vogue since Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud hit the market 10 years later. In the years since, there’s been a steady and ever-growing migration to this model.

Still, in our business, a decade is eternity. That’s why what we should really be talking about is the next logical next step: solutions that don’t have to migrate to the cloud because they were actually born there.

That’s the best way to look at virtual desktop service (VDS), or Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS). At its core, this involves the outsourcing of a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) to a third-party service provider. And putting the multiple acronyms aside for a moment, it’s a discipline that offers significant opportunities to managed services providers.

First, a little bit of context. On a macro scale, the economy seems to be stabilizing. According to research firm IDC, worldwide IT spending for 2014 will grow 5 percent year-over-year to $2.1 trillion. Cloud-specific spending in particular will spike by 25 percent to more than $100 billion.

There are many reasons for the spending boost. Most important is the democratization of IT blended with the increasing demand for access. At the heart of this transformation is the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon — business professionals keep growing their arsenal of mobile tools, and take for granted access to all company data from those devices, regardless of form factor, operating system, application, social media channel, etc. Meanwhile, this swirling ecosystem presents a nightmare for IT departments that have to balance user-driven implementation of new technologies with strict corporate mandates for compliance and security, all while keeping costs down.

This makes for a laundry list of headaches. There’s the need to maintain data isolation, specifically separating business data from, say, video games. The business information also must be secured, ensuring access to authenticated users only. Corporate IT must have a level of control that enables authorized IT personnel to manage devices, including remote data wiping, from a central location. (As just one data point, server virtualization accounted for only 12 percent of workloads as recently as 2009; by 2012, it had spiked to 50 percent.) These and many other considerations mandate purpose-built data centers that can satisfy next-generation performance requirements.

That’s exactly what an off-premise DaaS model — enabled by a single provider that purchases, owns and manages the servers, storage and network equipment, and delivered in a customized manner by managed service providers — brings to the enterprise. It’s all born in the cloud. 

Even compared to, for example, a virtual desktop infrastructure model, the benefits are undeniable. Consider the capital and operating expenditure priorities: With a DaaS arrangement, there’s no need for capital equipment, no expenditures for software licensing (other than the basic desktop operating system), no annual maintenance for hardware or software, and no data center administration. With no upfront investment needed, and only a short time commitment to start with, the entire risk is minimal.

When the arrangement is channel-focused, the competitive advantages become even clearer. Let’s say the technology provider manages the data center, which includes primary responsibility for security, power, and cooling. It also acquires, provisions and manages the hardware, including servers, storage and networking. It supervises overall administration, which covers managing the infrastructure, creating tenants and assigning tenant administrators. And of course, it provides round-the-clock support. The MSP, meanwhile, might obtain and manage the client operating system and application software licenses, create desktop images and, most importantly, manage the users. That’s a real partnership.

A cloud model offers many different options, and all of them have a place in this environment. That’s because the benefits of cloud computing are undeniable: Endless scalability and unlimited flexibility to take advantage of shifting market conditions, a high level of cost control and, when managed right, optimal security. This is why cloud migration is now so integral to enterprise infrastructures around the world.

A well-managed Desktop-as-a-Service model is a perfect continuation of that model. It cuts back even more on the upfront investment necessary, enhances the flexibility required to manage the constantly evolving user universe, and enables greater central control for security and compliance while offering business professionals the access they need when they need it.

The massive migration to the cloud is not about to let up anytime soon — it’s fundamental to the enterprise, and with good reason. But it’s also time to consider solutions that don’t have to go anywhere, because they’re already there. That what Desktop-as-a-Service offers. For businesses everywhere, it’s an increasingly attractive option. For MSPs that can take advantage of the opportunity, it’s a major competitive differentiator.