Do you think desktops in the cloud will be real anytime soon? - Brian Madden - BrianMadden.com
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Do you think desktops in the cloud will be real anytime soon?

Written on Jul 07 2009
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4,687 views, 7 comments


by Brian Madden

I know this is a topic that we’ve discussed here and there, but today I’d like to tackle the issue head-on. Simply put, do you think that desktops delivered from the cloud will be real anytime soon?

I guess its possible that we could get desktops streamed from the cloud (maybe to client hypervisors) that would be more-or-less usable like normal, but for now, today’s server-based computing cloud desktops are fairly complex.

I’m thinking specifically about a UK company called Nasstar. Citrix is pushing them as a reference customer / use case as Nasster’s cloud-based hosted desktop stack is 100% Citrix-based. Even the login.nasstar.com page is a Citrix Access Gateway login screen.

The problem is that server-based computing is just kind of “different” from the users’ perspectives. Combine that with the personalization sacrifices that users have to make when using shared desktops and you’ve got a solution that, while cheaper, certainly isn’t better from the user’s point of view.

Case-in-point. Go to the “answers” area of Nasstar’s support site and choose “hosted desktop” from the product list, and click “all” to view all of the various tech notes that Nasstar has published for their users.

Browsing through the tech notes will reveal that Nasstar is using Thin Print’s .print platform, which unfortunately requires that users install an agent on their local devices (something which is manual and must be done by the user). And of course there’s the gem of a document “Why do I have two sets of printers?”

There are also documents about accessing the files on your local C: drive via the V: drive, instructions for setting up your Mac client, and a note explaining that individual users cannot customize their own desktop wallpapers.

It’s not my intention to take anything away from Nasstar. For them to use what appears to be mostly off-the-shelf software to provide a pay-for service for end-users is an amazing feat. And yes, you could argue that most of the issues would only be problems for users at first, but that once they were used to them (just like any new IT system), they’ll figure out the “gotchas” and move past them. But just reading through the support page and the Nasstar website reminds me that remote virtual desktops are some complex stuff!

Good luck to Nasstar! I’d love to hook up with their architects, perhaps at BriForum or for a future episode of Brian Madden TV. Thinking about what they’re doing gives me new understanding of why Desktone is writing so much of their own custom “glue” to tie all the various components of the cloud-based desktop together. It also makes me realize that providing a desktop via the cloud is not just about how well video or USB works remotely.

 
 




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Comments

Joe Shonk wrote re: Do you think desktops in the cloud will be real anytime soon?
on Tue, Jul 7 2009 12:31 PM Link To This Comment

Is this a XenApp or XenDesktop solution?  Microsoft's SPLA licensing does not allow for XP\Vista\Win 7 to be rented out legal so the only legal way is to distribute Windows 2003/2008 desktops.  Nothing new here.

Joe

Ewen Bruce wrote re: Do you think desktops in the cloud will be real anytime soon?
on Wed, Jul 8 2009 6:47 AM Link To This Comment

The short answer is no, although I suppose it depends hope ‘soon’ you think ‘soon’ is? I can’t see hosted desktops being viable for the vast majority of corporates unless something more significant changes in the way the entire desktop application space is delivered. The whole concept has to rely of the slicing of apps and user-info from the underlying OS, so that the OS can be delivered from the cloud. No way are we going to allow someone else to hold our user profile info, or host our apps; at least not within any of the service offerings that are being talked about at the moment. As for offloading business data into the cloud; forget it until the there is some sort of security revolution. So what does that leave us with? Large corporate apps, data and user information served internally, with the OS ‘slice’ coming from the cloud. Great; we get to keep the complicated stuff while the service provider serves up the simple stuff really cheaply. Would we really want all the additional risk and complication, just to serve up an OS; I doubt it.  Maybe the concept has value to a Greenfield site, but it’s going to need a lot more work, before it can find a place in most large organizations. Good luck to them though; always good to see someone pushing the boundaries.

Jeff Wang wrote re: Do you think desktops in the cloud will be real anytime soon?
on Wed, Jul 8 2009 11:16 AM Link To This Comment

Do u know Google will release the Chrome  Web OS in 2010...

Elvar wrote re: Do you think desktops in the cloud will be real anytime soon?
on Wed, Jul 8 2009 11:21 AM Link To This Comment

Sortof no, we will first see virtualization being standardized as the only way to deploy servers. We will see Microsoft, Red Hat and other linux distros distribute VM's instead of ISO's. And yes I belive that with time Microsoft volume licensing will be offering Windows server VM's as Hyper V versions and VMware versions.

Desktops from the cloud might happen after that.

When I say might I mean that by that time instant on Operating Systems will have cought on. As soon as Google releases its Chrome OS next year the Web will more and more be the Application platform of choice instead of Windows... or Linux.. or Mac OS.

Just take a look at what you can run in your browser today. We have office apps, we have photo editing tools ( lifehacker.com/.../five-best-online-image-editors ), we have games like Quake Live and Battlefield Heroes.

This is kinda like the same problem with Application virtualization. Why have the sfotware team give the IT team some software so they can virtualize it. Why not let the software team handle the virtualization. So with this why make this an IT problem instead of a Software development problem.

Clayton Price wrote re: Do you think desktops in the cloud will be real anytime soon?
on Thu, Jul 9 2009 6:24 AM Link To This Comment

you need an Operating System, only to connect to another Operating System !!!! Huh ! Why ?

What's the definition of "Desktop".

It should be all about the apps.

SaaS is the way to go not DaaS.

Is security really an issue these days (in the cloud)? Think salesforce.com....correct me if i'm wrong but saleforce was delivering apps in the cloud long before the word cloud was dreamt up!

Loads of companies, where their sales information is their most important asset, use this service and have been for ages.

The security argument is a bit tired I reckon !!!

Using the salesforce.com model (not an overly complex one) we should be able to deliver any app to any device. If you can do this (ie. your PC can connect to the Internet), why put another Operating System in the stack?

Thin clients you say......gimme a break !

BYOPC and send all app delivery into the cloud I say.

Ron Kuper wrote re: Do you think desktops in the cloud will be real anytime soon?
on Thu, Jul 9 2009 8:24 AM Link To This Comment

BYOC.... I'll be surprised if more that 10% of our 15000 employees have TOC2B. (as in - Their Own Computer to Bring :-> )

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