Virtual client computing (VCC) solutions, a.k.a. Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS), have come a long way in recent years. Instead of having to purchase software in order to deploy an on-premises backend server infrastructure, you can now simply subscribe to a cloud-based VCC provider and provision virtual desktops and applications directly from the cloud. But while the technology has gotten simpler to implement, for several reasons it can still feel daunting for smaller businesses to consider deploying cloud-based remote desktop delivery solutions.
For one thing, cloud vendors seem to bloom and disappear like butterflies these days as one vendor snaps up another in mergers and acquisitions. Businesses that currently use an in-house VCC technology from Citrix, Microsoft, or VMware also must consider which cloud solutions offer a seamless migration to hybrid or full cloud-based delivery without imposing limits on future choices the businesses might make regarding their infrastructure. In other words, the solution you choose must be flexible enough, and you don't want to make the mistake of either under-provisioning what your users actually need or over-provisioning, which can break your budget.
Along these lines I've been looking at some of the cloud-based remote desktop delivery solutions available in the marketplace that are being targeted mainly towards small- and midsized businesses (SMBs), and trying to advise businesses which ones they might want to consider buying into. The following includes both some well-known and some less well-known solutions. But I've neglected looking at Citrix and Microsoft as providers in this area since Citrix XenDesktop DaaS solutions involve working together with Citrix partners and Microsoft still doesn't have a significant solution in this area despite all the talk of Windows-as-a-Service (unless you want to build your own RDS farm in Microsoft Azure).
Despite the fact that I receive emails every week from Microsoft telling me that some exciting new feature or capability has just been added to their Microsoft Azure cloud platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is still the overwhelming market leader in the cloud computing world and a favorite of businesses both large and small. So it's not surprising that Amazon offers a VCC solution called Amazon WorkSpaces and that it's a darn good one, especially for smaller businesses. Why? Because it's relatively easy to set up and provision workspaces with either predefined or custom applications bundled into them. It can also seamlessly be integrated with your existing Active Directory infrastructure. And it's highly scalable, encrypted, and secure. Plus it also comes with various options you can tailor to the needs and budget of your business -- for example, you can now even use it to rent virtual desktops by the hour. And finally, it has broad end-user device support -- in fact you can now download an Amazon WorkSpaces App from both Apple iTunes and Google Play. And by the way, while you're at it check out this three-part article on Amazon WorkSpaces by our own Deb Shinder here on Techgenix.com.
On the other hand, however, Amazon WorkSpaces as it currently stands by itself lacks certain functionalities you would probably feel you need to have a full-featured virtual desktop delivery and management system. For example, workspaces are provisioned separately for each user, and while this might be fine for small business customers that only need a handful of virtual desktops, it can become tedious to manage for midsized environments where dozens or more virtual desktops may be needed.
Parallels Inc. has been around a while and has been recognized as a leader in cross-platform virtual desktop and application delivery solutions. What's exciting, however, is that recently made available in the Microsoft Azure Marketplace is the Parallels Remote Application Server. Used by thousands of businesses worldwide, Parallels RAS is a comprehensive cloud-based remote desktop delivery solution that can be deployed upon a variety of environments including on-premises, hybrid, or pure cloud environments using either AWS or Azure.
But the recent availability of this solution on Azure is what may make it especially appealing to smaller businesses since many of them have been Microsoft shops since their beginnings. This can make it easier for them to step into Azure rather than AWS because of their familiarity with Microsoft technologies. The breadth of end-user device support is also present since Parallels RAS supports a broad range of clients ranging all the way from PCs, Macs, and Chromebooks down to IOs, Android, and even Raspberry Pi devices (not that many SMBs are using RPi devices at this point as far as I'm aware of). What may be especially appealing to some businesses is that Parallels RAS lets users use the native touch gestures supported by iOS and Android devices. In other words, you can interact with your remote desktop on your smartphone or tablet by swiping, tapping, or zooming the way you can with native smartphone apps.
VMware Horizon Cloud
If your business has dipped its foot at all into the VMware pool of technologies then you might want to consider going with VMware Horizon Cloud as your cloud-hosted virtual desktop delivery solution. After all, why go to all the trouble of planning, building and maintaining your own private infrastructure for provisioning virtual desktops when you can simply rent a DaaS from a cloud-based service of a reputable provider like VMware? With a variety of offerings and payment plans available and new workstation-level capabilities for power users announced as “coming soon,” SMBs with needs for 50 or more cloud-hosted desktops may find VMware Horizon Cloud the perfect fit since it provides room to grow as your company expands. Full details of VMware Horizon Cloud's capabilities can be found in the various whitepapers and videos on VMware's site.
Perhaps not as well-known as some others but definitely worth looking into are two cloud-host solutions from dinCloud, a cloud services provider that ties into a network of VARs and managed service providers (MSPs). Like Amazon, dinCloud makes it easy to deploy and manage cloud-hosted workspaces with two slightly different offerings. Their dinDaaS solution lets you provision HTML5 desktop workspaces consisting of desktops, applications, and data to your business's users using either a Google Chrome extension on any supported operating system including Windows, iOS, and Android. And their dinHVD solution lets you provide your users with a hosted virtual desktop they can access from any OS running on any device (PC, laptop, tablet, or smartphone). Cloud-hosted workspaces are available in different editions running Windows 7, Windows 8.1, or Windows 10 and can be configured with regard to compute, memory, and disk requirements for monthly payment plans.
Finally, if you are a MSP that is looking to provide cloud-hosted virtual desktops to customers, you might want to take a close look at Leostream DaaS, which lets you provision virtual desktops from a public cloud service like AWS, Azure, OpenStack, or even from your own private datacenter -- or a hybrid cloud environment that consists of some combination of these elements. This means, for example, that your business can combine the flexibility and scalability of AWS together with Leostream's own powerful suite of brokering, management, and reporting tools. Leostream DaaS goes further than Amazon WorkSpaces by providing you with policy-based management that lets you define your own set of custom rules that control which cloud desktops each user or group of users can access and how much resources they can consume. Users can access cloud-hosted virtual desktops from any kind of device using a broad range of different remote display protocols. Custom images can also be created for each group of users who have a need for them, and it takes only a few minutes to spin up new cloud-hosted desktops from these newly defined images. And the tracking and reporting tools included with Leostream DaaS make it easy for your business to stay in your budget by enabling you to scale your resources appropriately and maximize resource usage.
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