We’re in the process of writing our next book about DaaS (we tweet occasionally with the hashtag #DaaSBook about it), and one of the many conversations we’ve had regarding the content brought about the question of defining what is and isn’t DaaS. The simple definition of DaaS is that it’s VDI that you pay someone else to manage. Based on that it seems cut & dry: If it’s in house, it’s VDI, but if it’s from a cloud provider, it’s DaaS. Still, through our interviews, we’ve learned that there could be a rather large gray area where any moniker goes.
First, let’s look at collocated VDI. In most situations I’ve encountered with collocation (we used to run BrianMadden.com at a few colo facilities), the customer rents the space, some power, and some networking, but is responsible for all the hardware placed there. That hardware is dedicated to a specific company since they’re the ones that own it. So, if a company were to take the VDI away from their own datacenter and place it at a collocation facility, they would still have to design all the storage and networking infrastructure, plus the virtualization and VDI platforms. To me, this is identical to VDI, regardless of where it’s located.
But what if the collocation provider does some of the work. Perhaps they configure the networking and storage, leaving the VDI platform to you. I’m of the opinion that we’re simply running our own VDI on top of managed services, but you can see where the gray area is starting to take shape.
Let’s take that a step further and go to a classic scenario that we’ve observed since the dawn of MetaFrame: Outsourced desktops to what are effectively channel partners. It’s not heavily advertised, but if you look hard enough you can find companies, usually local ones, that will host desktops on their XenApp, RDSH, or even XenDesktop platforms. They’re not at the same scale as what you would expect from a “cloud” provider, but you’ve outsourced all of the platform and infrastructure to someone else to run, leaving you to simply manage Windows. There are questions here about multi-tenancy, SPLA, server vs. desktop OSes, and so on, but if we’re paying someone else to worry about all that maybe we don’t care what’s happening on the back end as long as we get our desktops.
Is that DaaS? Perhaps, and that’s the real discussion here. Where is the line drawn? Is it massive scale and multi-tenancy with lots of automation, or is the simple act of letting someone else worry about the infrastructure enough to qualify?
I’m inclined to believe that you have to have the massive scalability, multi-tenancy, and automation to qualify as DaaS, and that Uncle Bob’s Citrix Farm is better classified as a managed service provider than a DaaS provider, but you could make a case that the backend doesn’t really matter. From an enterprise’s perspective, I call up a provider, agree to pay them $x per desktop, and then I migrate my desktops to that platform. That’s the same as a more “traditional” (if there is such a thing) DaaS experience, so does it matter?
I just don’t know. What do you think?