Is DaaS Really Enterprise-Ready? Only for Some Cases …
Park Place: Hardware Maintenance
As the shortcomings of VDI have become more apparent, DaaS is certainly attracting interest.
The idea of DaaS is appealing but throughout tech’s history, there has been an inclination to celebrate prematurely. In 2013, an Admin Magazine on VDI opined that The thin client breakthrough has been announced several times under different headings and has never really happened. It’s not so different an assessment than the June 2017 characterization of DaaS as an immature market.
As the shortcomings of VDI have become more apparent, DaaS is certainly attracting interest. After all, DaaS has been described by Citrix’s Kenneth Oestreich as “VDI that’s someone else’s problem.” Sounds great, right? Sadly, pushing desktop virtualization off to a third-party DaaS provider may not be the answer.
Frequently cited problems in the market include the following:
- Definitions of what comprises a DaaS solution vary widely, from basic application streaming to fully functional desktops. It’s a look before you leap situation when approaching a possible provider to ensure both sides are talking about the same thing.
- DaaS generally trails the capabilities of on-premises VDI solutions from Citrix or VMWare. VDI may cost more and be more difficult to manage, but it may deliver more, too.
- Persistent desktops aren’t always available under DaaS, so its important to check first to ensure users will have the level of customization and access they expect. Basic Windows functions, such as pinning programs to the taskbar or creating a signature in Outlook, may be out of reach.
- Application licensing in a DaaS scenario hasn’t been fully fleshed out. Cost-savings in hardware are likely, but you won’t really pay less for software, according to Wes Miller, licensing specialist from Directions on Microsoft.
- Then there are the latency problems of accessing data through a corporate firewall and across the WAN. The performance may not be up to snuff.
An assessment by The Register put DaaS in 2016 on part with IaaS in 2008. Not surprisingly, they advised customers to wait for the industry to mature before diving in. Another 2016 evaluation rated DaaS maturity in several areas and found mixed results:
- Lifecycle management: almost mature
- Graphic processing (GPU): almost ready
- Reducing endpoint support: in progress
- Service level agreements: needs improvement
- Continued reliance on on-premises builds: needs improvement
Perhaps most surprising is the last point, that most DaaS offerings work best if desktops are built on site and then moved to the cloud. Oestrich made much the same point. Most DaaS providers offer the most basic systems that only come with standard Windows software. Anything users need to do their jobs still has to be supplied and configured by the IT department. DaaS may not reduce in-house resource usage as much as expected.
Even the cost-savings may not be there in real life. The bare bones installations look cheap, but most employees will require more features than are included in these basic packages. Once higher end service with permanent desktops, more processing power, and other capabilities are priced, sticker shock often ensues.
Analyst Mark Lockwood stated in that Register article that Best-practice VDI costs about US$300/seat/year. Others put the price of third-party hosted virtual machines with realistic specifications at about $50 per employee per month. In fact, one study showed negative ROI for one-quarter of Amazon WorkSpaces after a year, despite the lower price point than VMWare-based VDI.
The bottom-line? DaaS is great for agile computing and can provide test environments for developers. It can be useful in offering relatively basic, temporary desktops for employee kiosks and similar stations at an affordable price. It also makes sense for companies reliant on temporary or seasonal workers, avoiding a large investment in hardware that will sit idle for a large part of the year or after a particular project has been completed.
DaaS as it exists now is unlikely, however, to replace the average employee desktop. It costs too much and there are too many complications and performance issues associated with serving high-performance desktops to a thin client. Companies in heavily regulated fields, such as healthcare and financial services, probably need to steer clear as well, because vendors aren’t fully compliant with industry standards.
As on expert put it most succinctly, the market hasn’t even decided what it is yet. Until it does, there are a limited number of scenarios that makes sense for DaaS today. But tomorrow … who knows?
Chris Adams is President and COO of Park Place Technologies. Contact him at email@example.com.