Amazon vs. Citrix in DaaS Battle Royale
Amazon touts one key advantage. It claims the solution, Amazon WorkSpaces, costs half as much as competing virtual desktop infrastructure or VDI tools.
“WorkSpaces is a managed desktop computing service in the cloud. Amazon WorkSpaces allows customers to easily provision cloud-based desktops that allow end-users to access the documents, applications and resources they need with the device of their choice, including laptops, iPad, Kindle Fire, Android tablets, and zero clients,” Amazon says. “With a few clicks in the AWS Management Console, customers can provision a high-quality cloud desktop experience for any number of users at a cost that is highly competitive with traditional desktops and half the cost of most virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions.”
Those savings really relate to the fact that WorkSpaces is not traditional VDI, which is a technology designed to be installed in house. In contrast, Desktop as a Service (DaaS) is a pure cloud based way to deliver virtual desktops that can use VDI. Amazon is one of many vendors in that VDI DaaS camp.
In fact, old-style VDI is on a downward slide just as DaaS is moving upward, as the below chart illustrates.
Forrester Survey Says!
DaaS wins in large measure because it is so much simpler. “The number one barrier to client virtualization adoption is a lack of internal resources and skills. Also high on the list is immaturity of the technologies. However, as we see with other cloud and SaaS technologies, these concerns can go away when a provider has the expertise and infrastructure already, and the service is easy to consume and affordable. DaaS providers like Desktone, tuCloud and dinCloud have considerable experience and maturing infrastructures. Citrix is delivering DaaS-ready infrastructures for providers, which will help rev up the market,” said Forrester analyst David Johnson.
Here is how Amazon defines WorkSpaces. “WorkSpaces is a cloud-based replacement for a traditional desktop. A WorkSpaces is available as a bundle of compute resources, storage space, and software application access that allow a user to perform day-to-day tasks just like using a traditional desktop,” the company said. “A user can connect to a WorkSpaces from any supported device (PC, Mac, iPad, Kindle Fire, or Android tablets) using a free Amazon WorkSpaces client application and credentials set up by an administrator, or their existing Active Directory credentials if WorkSpaces is integrated with an existing Active Directory domain. Once the user is connected to a WorkSpaces they can perform all the usual tasks they would use a desktop computer for.”
End users interact with the system through a Windows 7 interface.
The Citrix Angle
Citrix essentially invented desktop virtualization over 25 years ago, and today still leads the market. With such a history, Citrix has a rich family of partners that fall under the Citrix Service Provider (CSP) channel, which now has over 2,600 members.
Desktop virtualization is a complex area, with myriad approaches. Citrix pushes what calls cloud VDI, and sees it as a way serve an increasingly mobile workforce.
Gartner meanwhile prefers the term HDV. “HVD (Hosted Virtual Desktops) suit many SMBs as it requires fewer IT staff, servers, software administrators and dedicated network connections. The elimination of these factors significantly reduces business overhead and delivers dramatic elimination of many IT costs. As an additional bonus, new users can be enabled quickly — often within minutes,” a Gartner report said. The same report shows that over 40 percent of SMBs are already using HVDs in some fashion.
DaaS Heats Up
The DaaS market is particularly hot. The 451 Research Group says DaaS interest is “at a fever pitch.” And Gartner sees a nearly $3 billion market emerging as the chart below indicates. The VDI portion of this DaaS market, where Amazon is participating, is clearly on the move. TechNavio believes the worldwide market for cloud-based VDI will grow at a 30.6 percent CAGR over the next three years, in large part because IT wants to lower the costs of desktop infrastructure, as well as the growth of handheld devices.
“Over the past couple years, the new service customers have requested most frequently is a virtual cloud desktop service,” said Gene Farrell, General Manager of Amazon WorkSpaces. “They’ve been frustrated by the available options – traditional desktops that are hard to manage and keep secure, or virtual desktops that are expensive and deliver inconsistent performance. Amazon WorkSpaces aims to address these issues by offering secure, easy-to-manage, high-performance desktops in the cloud at a fraction of the price of traditional VDI.”
One partner is looking forward to offering the Amazon service.
“Our enterprise customers have been asking for us to deliver a virtual desktop solution that is simple to manage, scales up and down as needed and doesn’t require large capital investment or heavy operational support. Until now that solution has not existed,” said Robert Groat, Chief Technology Officer, Smartronix. “We're very excited to see a solution for virtual desktops done the ‘Amazon Web Services way.’ Beyond the productivity benefits, we believe enterprises will save over 40 percent of the life cycle cost for desktop services while also gaining additional benefits such as built-in security, telecommuting flexibility, high availability and simplified operations management.”