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DaaS hasn't found a place in the enterprise

DENVER — Considering all the attention desktop as a service has gotten in the IT world over the last year, the technology has been a big failure.

That’s what Brian Madden said in his welcome address at this week’s BriForum U.S. 2015. According to Madden, desktop as a service (DaaS) has gotten a lot of lip service, but no one is really doing it.

At first I was surprised to hear him say that DaaS just hasn’t taken off, but when I thought about it, it made sense.

You could argue that VDI hasn’t really taken off either. VDI might never crack a 20% adoption rate, and it would be logical to assume that DaaS will see similar rates. VDI has been around a long time, so you have to consider that any shop where desktop virtualization was the answer to a big problem would likely have rolled out a deployment by now.

Mark DeBord, a senior systems analyst for Eastman Chemical Company based in Kingsport, Tennessee, heads up a shop where VDI was the answer, so he’s not itching to do DaaS.

“We already do VDI on-premises, so I’m not sure [DaaS] would really do us much good,” he said.

But that hasn’t stopped management from putting heat on DeBord to move desktops and applications to the cloud.

“I’m getting a lot of pressure at work to use DaaS,” he said. “During my review, my manager actually asked me why I haven’t been looking into it more.”

But moving resources to the cloud just for the sake of joining the cloud trend isn’t a good enough reason to do DaaS. Eastman’s existing VDI setup works for its global workforce, and shifting to DaaS could result in a lot of money wasted on a thriving deployment.

“I have an open mind about it,” DeBord said. “Maybe I could use [DaaS] for disaster recovery or to support outside contractors or for cloud bursting.”

For some companies, DaaS may never be the answer to their employees’ needs. But as Madden said in his keynote, there are plenty of other rapidly advancing technologies available to help IT make its end users more mobile, virtual and productive: There has been a new focus from vendors on integrating cloud and on-premises infrastructure, as well as improved support for Remote Desktop Session Host. And virtual mobile infrastructure has the potential to find a home in enterprise IT shops, too.

Do you agree that DaaS hasn’t taken off? Has your organization deployed cloud desktops? Share in the comments.

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I agree with Brian in most. In my opinion there are two major problems why DaaS doesn't take off as expected by VDI and DaaS providers. The first reason, and that's maybe a Europian reason, it's Cloud. The CIO's mindset especially in Germany is that Cloud services are insecure by design.That's not true I know but I'm facing this answer every day in my consulting life. The second reason is more technical, because DaaS as you can buy it today is a simple Desktop. Nobody can work with a Desktop! Ok, some provider put Office365 and Site2Site VPN's into there offering, but to be honest - that's not enough. I personally think if DaaS provider put a little bit more management into there offerings like customer application packaging, image management and versioning, app stores managed by the customer etc. DaaS would be more interesting, also for big enterprises. In my opinion the missing management layer is what customers want to see in a DaaS offering.
Those are all great points, especially about the missing management layer. One of the big sells of DaaS is that IT shops need to have the in-house expertise to be able to assemble and manage the required infrastructure components, but admins are still responsible for provisioning desktops/apps and managing the images, patches and updates (in most cases). For admins who still want to lay hands on their images, that's a great approach. For those who just want to deliver desktops and apps from the cloud, DaaS could introduce more management that they're currently doing.

I couldn't DISAGREE more!  I've been working on (what is now called) DaaS for almost 15 years.  It used to be called Terminal Services, Remote Desktop or ASP (Application Service Provider) back when Microsoft started the RDP technology and Citrix jumped on the bandwagon. It makes me laugh when people talk about the "Cloud" like it's something new when it's been around for years.  I've worked not only on the provider side but also on the consumer and reseller side and there are some key points that people miss about working on a remote desktop. 

The first and biggest is it is NOT working on something like a web based software.  When you log into a DaaS platform provided by a good solid and ethical provider (I have known some that are not), you're using the web as a conduit to secured servers behind firewalls in secured hardened facilities but you're not hanging your butt out on the web like you are with web based software.  Secondly, people grasp the idea quickly that working on a DaaS platform is like having a portable machine without having something to carry.  Nobody functions in the vacuum of web based software.  They all use other programs, email, etc. so having web based or SaaS software only solves part of their mobility problem.  DaaS is accessible across all platforms including phones. 
Thirdly, the total cost of ownership of a DaaS solution is so low that it gives small businesses the edge not only because they don’t need to create and maintain costly network infrastructure but because they can expand their business across geographic boundaries with the ability to connect from anywhere.  Lastly, with a good provider, the management from the user side is virtually nil.  With robust hosting in secured data centers that are the caliber of Fortune 500 companies, good DaaS providers make the user experience  seamless and let people get back to their business of managing their business instead of managing their IT.


Thanks for your thoughts, GopherATS! I should start out by saying in my above comment I definitely meant to say "IT shops DON'T need to have the in-house expertise."

That being said, Brian Madden's comments at BriForum were definitely meant to be taken in a broad way -- in light of all the hype DaaS has gotten recently, you'd think it would see wider adoption. DaaS is right for some companies, but not the majority. The same is true of VDI. You're right that hosting desktops in the cloud as a delivery option has been around for a long time, I know of shops that have been doing what's now called DaaS now for more than 10 years. But those people aren't using Amazon WorkSpaces or VMware Horizon DaaS, which is the kind of thing I'm talking about here.

As far as DaaS being well-positioned for small businesses, I agree in theory, but in practice it's not 100% true. When I think of a small business, it's one that doesn't have or need a Windows admin at all, so DaaS isn't really helpful in that case; a company that only has a small handful of employees is probably using Google Docs or Macs or tablets or some other non-Windows approach. Sure there are small businesses that use Windows desktops and Microsoft applications exclusively, but they're not necessarily the majority, and even fewer of those shops need, want or use DaaS to deliver those desktops and apps. Maybe it's fair to say DaaS is good for mid-size companies -- it gives them room to scale up without a ton of in-house IT.