Back in October, I caught up with Workspot on the occasion of their latest funding—they had recently secured a $19 million round D, and announced 318% growth for their cloud products.
On the product front, they were beginning to talk about something they called “cloud desktop fabric.” It went GA earlier this month, and I spent an afternoon with Workspot CEO Amitabh Sinha to learn more about what it actually is.
Workspot in the market
Any conversation with or about Workspot will include mention of how they built their VDI/DaaS/cloud desktop platform to be as cloud-native as possible. They’re hoping that the transition to the cloud will allow new virtual desktop vendors to grow, just as new vendors rose to prominence with SaaS.
Workspot shared that 75% of their deployments are greenfield. Customers are generally not ripping out Citrix or VMware, rather, they are spinning up new use cases or even doing desktop virtualization for the first time. The availability of GPU-enabled desktops, as well as the classic DaaS benefits of linear scalability and few capital expenses are helping enable these deployment trends. Workspot is also finding that many of their customers are not yet very experienced with the cloud in general and Microsoft Azure in particular, and that Workspot is often one of their first critical cloud workloads.
What is the Cloud Desktop Fabric?
Cloud Desktop Fabric comprises several components that Workspot has been building, augmenting, and/or bringing together for a while now; they’ve been talking about it since last summer.
Workspot provides the control plane as a service, and they run it in Azure. It’s completely independent of the desktop workloads, and it can work with desktops on premises or in any Azure region.
This ability to use Workspot with any region is one of the main selling points they’re pushing. Since Azure has so many regions (56 as of writing) and points of presence, just about any user in the world should be very close to Azure, within 25 or 50 milliseconds. All those Azure regions are also interconnected with a super fast backbone. So, you can put desktops close to where the users are, and as long as they can access the data and apps they need via Azure, they don’t necessarily need to be close to them. This is the opposite of what we’ve generally talked about for years, which was putting your desktops close to the user. As a bonus, since this is Azure and just about all customers likely have the licensing benefits of Windows Virtual Desktop one way or another, you can use Windows 10 multi-session.
The Workspot control plane takes care of provisioning desktops into your chosen location, and they take care of monitoring and managing the broker, gateway, and infrastructure.
Today, the one thing that gets in the way to the regional transparency is that when customers decide to use a new Azure region, Workspot has to install gateways. Gateways are not a shared service, so each customer has their own. Workspot says that they can get them set up in a few hours.
As we’ve covered previously, they’re pushing the idea that with Workspot taking care of the provisioning and infrastructure, customers can just think of this as a PC. Workspot resells the Azure compute, and offers the desktops with flat rate pricing. This includes deployment services and a 99.95% SLA.
One of the things they do to get this SLA (aside from lots of monitoring and analytics) is that they make the client as independent from the control plane as possible. Once the client is configured, it can connect to the desktop without going through the control plane. So, if the control plane is down for some reason, users can still work.
Customers can bring their own image, and are responsible for patching, updates, installing apps, and level 1 phone support. The Workspot control plane doesn’t see the users’ credentials for the desktops, and can’t see inside the VMs. Customers can create desktops via a ServiceNow integration, and pull data out into Splunk.
Strategy and final thoughts
Amitabh said that today, a customer with a global strategy might have five or seven regions. However, they’re envisioning a future where customers might have many more regions, and instead of thinking, “What datacenters or regions do we have available for this desktop?” they just think, “Where does this desktop need to be?”
Obviously they’re contrasting this against traditional on-premises VDI, and more importantly, against other hosted VDI/cloud broker/DaaS offerings, where it can be more difficult to set up and use different regions. You can imagine all sorts of additional use cases with this type of flexibility, though Workspot isn’t quite ready to share product details yet. Customers will have to start thinking about DaaS/VDI/cloud desktops differently, as well.
Workspot is in a race to get new use cases and/or new customers before VMware and Citrix get to them, but of course they’re not sitting still, either. (And now I have some more questions to go over on Citrix Managed Desktops and VMware Horizon’s brokering strategy. Such is the nature of the game.) Either way, we’re operating under the overall assumption that this entire market is going to be growing over the next few years.