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Why Desktops as a Service?

The decades-in-the-making vice or major issue facing lots of corporations is:
 
Needing to cut costs, manage energy, reduce risk and back off of complexity.
However, you just can’t do that under the status quo.
 
In the new IT era, services are king. The way you actually serve or acquire them is far less of a concern. The goal is for enterprises to focus on the business and the IT comes, well, like electricity.
 
Enter Cirrus Dynamics Ltd., offering Desktops as a service (DaaS) - one significant piece of the solution.
 
 
How DaaS is part of the solution

DaaS is usually procured through operating budgets using monthly subscriptions or transaction-based pricing, which lets your organization match the amount of service purchased to actual use.
 

  • No internal deployment or support risks: Your IT organization is not burdened with deploying, upgrading or maintaining the infrastructure that delivers DaaS, enabling it to focus on more strategic projects while eliminating the cost and technology risks inherent in large-scale implementations.
  • Rapid provisioning:  Because you no longer have to purchase, test, install and deploy the technologies enabling DaaS, you can quickly provision applications and/or desktops to end users through your service provider.
  • Simple scaling up or down:  It is easy to add or remove users, desktops and application rights.  IT no longer has to go through tedious, time-consuming uninstall or reharvest processes, and instead of paying for unused applications or desktops that you own, you simply eliminate (and stop paying for) unnecessary subscriptions.
  • Liberate users from specific computing devices:  Users are no longer tied to particular computers; they can access their applications or desktops from virtually any device and any location, enabling them-and your company-to be much more flexible, mobile and productive.

 
NB: To be fair, we must note that DaaS requires a persistent network connection, which may limit its use to certain groups of workers.  If the network goes down, DaaS users will be unable to access their desktops delivered as a service.  However, with internet access becoming more and more ubiquitous coupled with the fact that DaaS works over WiFi and cellular networks; this concern has all but disappeared, or is seen as a security benefit, in many cases.
 
How SaaS and DaaS Differ
 
Organizations are evolving beyond software as a service to outsourced desktops, where service providers own and operate the physical infrastructure that powers virtual desktops while enterprises retain control over the provisioning, management and licensing of the virtual desktops they use.
 

  • SaaS tradeoff:  SaaS provides cloud-hosted delivery at the expense of the existing client application model. While SaaS makes sense and has been proven for a number of client-facing applications, only certain classes of applications have been converted into SaaS models; the wholesale replacement of rich Windows applications for enterprises is just not feasible.  Conversely, DaaS marries the benefits of a cloud-hosted service with the traditional rich Windows client experience.
  • Integration and personalization:  Integrating SaaS applications with other, existing applications is quite challenging because of the differences in where they reside and how they're delivered.  In addition, IT organizations cannot customize SaaS applications to the same extent as traditional applications.  These issues don't exist with DaaS because a user's entire desktop, including all the applications, is kept intact.  Applications interact, and can be customized, the way they always have in traditional client computing environments.
  • Degree of statelessness:  DaaS makes a user's entire desktop stateless.  The complete Windows environment-including the applications-roams with the user anytime, anywhere.  SaaS only provides statelessness one application at a time.
  • Control and security:  In a DaaS model, user identity, application servers and organizational data are stored in the enterprise data center, giving you the control and security required.  With SaaS, however, data is hosted, along with the application, in the provider's data center, potentially compromising security.
  • Architecture supported:  SaaS offerings tend to be browser based.  DaaS supports all Windows client application architectures (i.e. Win32, .NET, browser based, etc.), allowing organizations to leverage the investments they've made building in-house applications.
  • Hosting location flexibility:  SaaS is 100% cloud-hosted.  DaaS can be hosted either in the cloud (where the physical infrastructure resides in the service provider data center) or in the enterprise data center as a managed service, or both.  Companies that have distributed, global infrastructures or that are highly regulated, such as healthcare and financial services organizations, may prefer the managed DaaS model. Businesses that are more centralized or that have less data center capacity may opt for the cloud-hosted DaaS model.  Despite the configuration, with DaaS the physical resources are owned and operated by the service provider.


A Safe and easy introduction to Cloud computing
 
Consuming desktops as a service (DaaS) via the cloud is a low-risk/high-reward proposition that enables enterprises to keep their data secure within their own infrastructure while reaping the cloud's cost and flexibility benefits. It also gives enterprises a way to get their feet wet with a cloud approach so they can make smart decisions about whether, when, and how to move server-side applications to the cloud.
 
In addition to solving the data location and security conundrum, here are a number of other benefits that VM-based cloud-hosted desktops offer to enterprises:
 

  • Increased security in branch office scenarios: If enterprises virtualize and centralize physical PCs from remote branch offices with limited or no physical security, they can actually increase the security of those desktop environments. A service provider data center has significant levels of physical security, leveraging best practices such as equipment cages, cardkeys, and even biometrics. This means that cloud-hosted PCs, unlike traditional ones, can't be physically compromised or stolen. In addition, since users interact with their virtual desktops using PC remoting technology, enterprise IT can control whether data can be copied to peripherals attached to access devices. It also means that IT can block malware on USB keys, and other storage devices connected to access devices, from infecting virtual desktops.
  • Preserves the rich Windows client experience in the cloud: VM-based cloud desktops provide an uncompromised Windows client experience due to the fact that virtual machines enable the hosting of authentic Windows client OSes, namely Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7. As a result, users can leverage the same standard operating environment used on physical desktops on their cloud-hosted desktops.
  • Sustains the existing enterprise IT operating model, while introducing cloud-like properties: Enterprise IT has built its entire client computing operation around Windows. This impacts everything from application development, licensing, and deployment to end-user support and training, as well as many other aspects. VM-based cloud desktops allow enterprise IT to continue with its current operating model while at the same time take advantage of many of the benefits provided by the cloud, such as anytime/anywhere access and subscription economics.
  • Separates service provider and enterprise responsibilities: VM-based cloud desktops allow clean separation between the responsibilities of the service provider and the enterprise. This is a function of the hypervisor layer, which creates a clear boundary between the infrastructure powering the VMs and what's inside those VMs. The service provider is responsible for everything up to the virtual machines (servers, storage, virtualization software) and the enterprise is responsible for everything inside the VMs (OS image/licensing, application packaging/licensing and user profiles). 


Extending Green Initiatives
 
Most people don't realize how much energy PCs consume.  A single PC uses up to 300 watts of power even when it is sitting around doing nothing. Also, most organizations replace PCs every three years, leading to environmental waste and high disposal costs.
    
With thin client-based, server-hosted virtual desktops, you can deliver the same rich Windows experience that users are accustomed to with traditional, energy-hungry fat PCs, while significantly reducing your environmental impact and realizing substantial savings:
 

  • Thin clients have a much longer lifespan than PCs; they're typically used for five to seven years. 
  • They require much less air conditioning because they run cooler. Most don't even need an internal fan (which means they also are much quieter).
  • If you replace just 1,000 PCs with 1,000 thin clients, you could get:
    • 90 percent less energy usage
    • 131,810 fewer kilowatts/hour used per year (each thin client uses approximately 6 watts/hour)
    • Almost $12,000 savings in annual energy costs (conservative estimate)
    • Over 100 fewer tons of CO2 output


Since you are moving some computing from the desktop to the server, you may wonder if the desktop energy savings are off-set by the energy costs for additional servers in your data center. Even with the increased electricity servers and storage, you can still lower your energy costs by more than 60 percent. This can translate into tremendous savings for large enterprises.
 
Taking Green to the Next Level
 
If you want to reduce your environmental footprint and increase your savings even more, consider running your thin client-based virtual desktops as an outsourced service. In the desktops as a service (DaaS) model, your virtual desktops live on infrastructure owned, operated, and maintained by service providers. These large, asset-intensive facilities are already equipped with the required computing resources. You don't have to put additional servers in your own data center.  And you don't have to foot the bill-or burden your city's power grid-for increased data center usage.
 
While it may seem like doing this transfers the environmental impact and costs from the enterprise to the service provider, this doesn't have to be the case.  Many service providers are now powering their data centers with efficient, renewable energy from sources such as hydroelectric dams, and from facilities that use clean wood chips and fiber fuel instead of coal.  And many are continuing to enhance efficiencies through affiliations with organizations such as the Green Grid, a non-profit consortium dedicated to advancing energy efficiency in data centers and business computing ecosystems.
 
In addition, providers that offer virtual desktops as a service can base their solutions on multi-tenancy platforms, which enable them to host multiple VDI deployments on a single DaaS infrastructure.  This is much more efficient than, for instance, having 10 infrastructures, each of which supports one VDI deployment, and, of course, it results in lower energy consumption by the service provider.
 
By implementing thin client virtual desktops and choosing a DaaS service provider that is committed to renewable energy, you can achieve a win-win:  reducing your impact on the environment and substantially lowering your costs.

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