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?
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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.