VMware Acquires Desktone

On 15 October 2013 by Pete Petersen

Desktone by VMware

In a press release today, VMware announced that it has acquired Desktone. To be sure, Desktone has been a pioneer in the Desktop As a Service (DaaS) marketspace. There have been a few tries at it, but Desktone has certainly nailed the right mix of hosting and service, plus marketing and partnerships.

Full-service DaaS?

That being said, it has been interesting over the past 3-4 years to note that there has yet to emerge a market name with a full-service DaaS solution. Desktone is effectively providing the hardware down through the stack (segregation, networking, data center, environmentals), and the customer provides everything on top of that from the operating system on up (licensing, patching, applications, maintenance). It is a true cloud-based service (if you can define “cloud”), but it cannot be considered full-service.

A full-service DaaS solution would be one where a user can sign up at the front-end web-based UI and get a fully-functional published desktop or set of published applications, all managed by the provider from top to bottom. SolidCloud is one example of this type of service. There are tricks to to be sure, and there are reasons why a market leader has yet to emerge. For example, tricky Line of Business (LOB) applications that are either poorly written by a vendor, have a long legacy, struggle to keep up with current OS advancements, or are written in-house; all of these spell difficulty. The other difficulty is the data. User data that resides on a file server can easily enough migrate to the solution and reside there, but application data that resides in a database (think SQL or Oracle) requires some forethought and may require careful network linkage back to the customer site. The choices for methods dealing with application data could range from: full-service host it in the solution, provide a database that the customer manages, provide a database server that the customer manages, to providing a link back to an already-existing on-premise database solution.

A Good Space

One of the things that Desktone has going for it is the space that it serves. Notwithstanding there is missing from the market a leader in full-service DaaS, there is still a successful, proven leader in the DaaS space. Desktone has developed a partner network that has drawn more and more attention on its service. Dell, for example, has partnered with Desktone to develop its own DaaS implementation. And with VMware being a part of the VCE initiative, it’s unclear on what that means or if any DaaS offering will integrate with Vblock products.

There are endless ways to host a VDI-based solution. And again, in this context, VDI means all of the relating methods such as shared-hosted desktop, published applications, application virtualization, profile management, etc., and could more appropriately be called End User Virtualization (EUV). A few examples of ways to host a solution are:

  • Full-service Cloud-based solution
    A market leader has yet to emerge here as mentioned above.
  • Hardware-hosted VDI-based Cloud solution
    The market leader here is clearly Desktone. It has brought to the table many of the components that comprise a good example of a cloud service.
  • Built on top of rented hardware
    SoftLayer is a good example of this type of service. Hardware is rented from SoftLayer, and the solution is built on top. This is a service level down from what Desktone provides.
  • True co-location
    Still a hosted solution, but you buy the hardware and infrastructure and host it in someone else’s data center. InterNAP and Rackspace are examples of this type of service.
  • VAR-built hosted
    Value-added Reseller hosting the custom solution for you in the VAR’s data center.
  • VAR-built on-premise
    Value-added Reseller customizing a build for you.
  • Custom
    Built by your own staff.

In addition, as mentioned above, there are several methods, from least expensive to most expensive, that make up a VDI (EUV) solution:

  • Published application
  • Published Desktop
  • VDI – virtual machine, non-persistent
  • VDI – virtual machine, persistent
  • VDI – physical machine, non-persistent
  • VDI – physical machine, persistent
  • Local physical desktop or laptop

In addition, applications–which, in the end, is what really matters to the users–can be delivered in several ways:

  • Locally-installed
  • Managed (think SCCM)
  • Virtualized (as in App-V)

With all of these dizzying choices, it is no wonder that many organizations have delayed the VDI/EUV discussion and/or partnered with Desktone to at least deliver some of it.

Of Concern

Overall, it should be an exciting day for Desktone. It can now be exposed to the 11,000 service partners that VMware already has in its portfolio, and use that exposure to accelerate its growth and adoption.

The concern, really, is with VMware’s foray into VDI: VMware Horizon View. Although a simple and somewhat elegant solution in and of itself, it is often sold to customers in ways that are often inappropriate to its design. For example, it’s display protocol, PC Over IP (PCoIP) is often inadequate for situations where the user will be separated from the session-hosting servers by a latent or low-bandwidth network. How often does this happen? Just think that portable, cell-based WiFi devices are become more and more prevalent, and mobile users are often caught in a situation where the WiFi service they are receiving is less than adequate. Comparing PCoIP with Microsoft’s RDP Remote-FX, and Citrix’s ICA HDX, and the fact that although PCoIP is a feature-rich protocol, it is also the fattest of the three, and there are real concerns that VMware has their head in the right place.

The other concern along those lines is that scaling the solution has been less than satisfactory.  There seem to be as many projects replacing a bad implementation of VMware Horizon View as there are installing it. Once customers really understand what they have, some have chosen to jump ship to one of the competitors–Dell/Quest vWorkspace and Citrix XenDesktop being the most common. Still others have architected correctly and adequately matched use cases and requirements to design with successful implementations.

Conclusion

So a recommendation? Wait and see. It is possible that Desktone can influence View (VMware) as much as the other way around. We’ll hope that the implementation and protocol discussions are fruitful in the newly merged organization.