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Why Amazon Could See Slow Uptake for Its Cloud VDI Service

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When Amazon announced plans to disrupt the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) market Wednesday by launching WorksSpaces at its re:Invent customer and partner conference in Las Vegas, Citrix shares dropped 4.5 percent on the news. Amazon pitched its desktop-as-a-service offering as a more affordable approach to traditional VDI offered by Citrix, VMware and Microsoft. That's because with WorksSpaces, IT can spin up virtual desktops without buying hardware or software just as they can with Amazon's cloud and storage portfolio of services.

Given its track record in upending traditional business models, one doesn't want to ignore Amazon when it offers anything new (remember Borders?). But analysts I spoke with following the announcement noted Amazon is not likely to take the VDI world by storm overnight for a variety of reasons. Maybe that's why Citrix shares are inching back up today?

One noteworthy barrier to adoption of Amazon WorkSpaces is the end user. When Amazon launched EC2 over seven years ago, it gave developers a way to bypass IT to quickly procure infrastructure. End users on the other hand are not clamoring for VDI, said Forrester analyst David Johnson. "There aren't employees inside a company that are going to run out and sign up for Amazon desktops," Johnson said. Desktop as a service will appeal to those who need "pop-up-desktops" for contractors or to quickly get projects started, Johnson said.

A Forrester survey last quarter found that 11 percent of SMBs and enterprises in North America and Europe are including desktop as a service within the next 12 months. This is up from 5 percent during the same time last year. Looking beyond one year, 12 percent said they are planning hosted desktops, up from 7 percent last year.

When it comes to overall plans for VDI, 52 percent said it was a high priority, up from 48 percent last year and 43 percent in 2011, according to Forrester. IDC's current forecast for client virtualization spending overall this year is $175 million. It projects next year it will rise to $311 million and hit $600 million by 2016.

Although VDI deployments that use public cloud infrastructure are part of a small but emerging piece of that market, Microsoft recently made its Remote Desktop Services (RDS) available for Windows Azure. Amazon WorksSpaces gives users their own instance using portions of Windows Server 2008 R2 and renders a user interface that looks like Windows 7. "There are positives and negatives to both approaches but at the end of the day it's similar for the end user," Waldman said.

Meanwhile VMware also has its sights on offering a desktop as a service VDI offering with its recent acquisition of Desktone and Citrix is also developing a similar offering. But Waldman said large enterprises are wary of putting user data in the cloud. "We see enterprises taking a slow cautious approach to cloud hosted virtual desktops. However, for small and mid-sized companies where VDI is too expensive and complex to get up and running, it makes it more accessible to them."

The most likely candidates for Amazon WorkSpaces are those that are already using Amazon's cloud infrastructure services, Waldman noted. But there's a case to be made that many IT pros will consider Microsoft's RDS, because of the application compatibility, Waldman said.

"While 95 percent of apps can work on client or server, many apps were poorly written and literally hard coded to run on a client operating system," he said. "Even though apps written for Windows can run on Windows Server, there are many instances it would not because of that one bad line of code."

While there are solutions to remediate that, such as Citrix's AppDNA, it could be a showstopper for those looking for quick deployments.

Are you considering a desktop-as-a-service VDI deployment? If so, which offering sounds most appealing?


Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 11/15/2013 at 1:53 PM


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