Desktop as a Service Emerges as MSP Growth Opportunity
As large organizations continue to downsize and startups and SMBs look to make every IT dollar stretch, desktop as a service (DaaS) is set to take off. With some researchers forecasting 28.7 percent CAGR for DaaS, managed service providers (MSPs) should take a look at channel programs in this area of the market as it makes inroads into legacy enterprises. Many startups are already familiar with the Google suite of desktop applications, but other alternatives exist in the market, some of them more competitively priced and with better performance characteristics that would have more appeal to the traditional desktop market.
What do MSPs need to know about reselling these cloud apps to their customers? And what objections must they overcome when seeking to displace the gold standard Microsoft Office on-premises enterprise suite? Let’s look at how some other cloud office groupware stack up.
Desktop Hardware Replacement is a Big Advantage
A big selling point for any cloud computing solution is the ability to replace many pieces of on-premises hardware, primarily in the data center. But when it comes to the desktop, the business opportunity is many times larger with all the user seats that far outnumber servers and network-attached devices. Industry experts think the chance to displace a heterogeneous collection of desktop clients with a one-wire solution to the cloud offers an unparalleled chance to ease and simplify office suite deployments regardless of their locations.
“The easiest way to sell desktop as a service is to sell the ability to remove hardware issues,” says Trave Harmon, CEO, Triton Technologies. “We have clients worldwide with many different servers and many different networks. We are currently set up through Amazon desktop environments with attached servers on an EC2 platform. Users in the United States, France, India, Germany and Australia can access all the resources in real time utilizing any originating terminal and be assured of the same exact environment that they’re going to get as if it were sitting in front of them.”
As a smaller virtualized desktop vendor in the DaaS space competing against the internet giants, Harmon feels that actually works to his advantage. With a flatter business organization to begin with, Triton has an easier time staying close to its customers and giving them the appropriate level of technical and other support necessary for DaaS success.
“We are better than Google, Microsoft and other similar players because our technicians are ingrained in the network and understand what the end user needs without sacrificing productivity as a new technician gets up to speed,” Harmon says. “Since we know how the network works we can set up an additional desktop as a service very quickly.”
What Happens When not If Your DaaS Suite Goes Down?
In addition to the cost reduction advantage of outsourcing desktop as a service, anyone you check with in tech with will tell you the convenience of accessing user PC data anywhere, anytime on any device is a major draw. However, as with any SaaS infrastructure solution, DaaS will eventually have a service interruption, and MSPs need a strategy to minimize and recover from these failures of their subscription model. Will service recovery be done with cloud artificial intelligence or will active client side technology be involved?
“With a workplace and endpoint backup solution, a desktop agent will know when your system is offline,” says Caroline Chapin, director, channel marketing, Autotask Corporation. “Once connectivity is reestablished, the agents automatically sync changes to the cloud.”
For example, Autotask has an application, Workplace Manager, that can help automate provisioning and efficient management of client teams. Its goal is to make it easy for channel partners to add workplace and endpoint backup solutions to their service catalogs and quickly ramp revenue while solving client security file backup, mobility and collaboration needs, according to Chapin.
A Desktop is Only as Good as its Apps and Data
While a discussion about the merits of DaaS can seem like it is an isolated consideration, everyone has to remember that there are supporting components in the form of apps and data. Vendors that only sell a generic desktop solution derived from an anonymous server farm somewhere in the cloud are shortchanging their customers. A fully integrated ecosystem is necessary for DaaS to succeed, ultimately.
“Desktops without apps and data are useless—just ask any of your employees,” says Thomas Lehrer, virtualization architect, OneNeck IT Solutions. “Without ownership of the services that support the application and data in the DaaS platform, the platform becomes the front line for a world of finger pointing when things go wrong. Putting your desktops in the cloud, far away from your data, is the exact opposite of where the desktop should be for optimal performance and increased user adoption.”
To bolster its DaaS solution, OneNeck ties it tightly to its application delivery system, ensuring security and performance to each customer’s requirements as well as maintaining audit compliance, according to the company. All this happens without impacting the user experience, which is standardized for the typical office worker. In situations where the service goes down, data is protected because the desktop front-end and storage back-end are cut off simultaneously, according to OneNeck. To support applications beyond the desktop, OneNeck also offers productivity suite as a service.
Selling Productivity Suite as a Service
While many providers can white label their DaaS, not everyone can deliver a full enterprise grade productivity suite as a service. Whereas the public cloud computing providers are generally confined to just what a single user can accomplish on one desktop, a productivity suite as a service can be adapted to fit an enterprise’s needs. Not only does this give the customer the best solution for her needs but also allows MSPs to offer differentiated, value-added offerings.
“The Citrix approach to offering fully-hosted desktops, workspaces and apps as a service is through the Citrix Service Provider program, where participating partners host Citrix products,” says Ken Oesterich, director, product marketing, cloud services, Citrix. “The key difference of this approach is to notice that our service providers host entire business-ready workspace environments—apps, desktops, file-sharing and more. This is in contrast to simple hosted productivity suites, or simple hosted desktops such as with Amazon WorkSpaces.”
That means a company’s whole environment can be based in the cloud where apps, workflows and others can be customized for specific industry needs, according to Oesterich. He sees that this is particularly important in regulated industries and markets, where such an approach can provide suitable protections required to pass compliance audits. Not only for the desktop but also ensuring that mobile access and collaboration follows policy guidelines and remains secure and verifiable, enabling worker productivity.
“This approach provides channel partners with significant opportunities to earn attractive margins because they avoid hosting commodity offerings,” Oesterich says. “Each partner determines how environments are configured, customized and priced. Citrix supports service provider partners with reference architectures, technical support, marketing assistance and more.”
High Performance, Secure Desktop Service for Regulated Industries
And even as general public cloud companies and more focused cloud computing providers offer DaaS and virtual productivity solutions, some niche operators feel those will never be good enough for the most tightly governed business segments. For sectors like finance and healthcare, they must have a desktop as a service solution diagramed on a clean sheet of paper. It gives new interpretation to the phrase “the ends justify the means” when your rulebook covers entire swaths of federal law.
“A fully managed DaaS experience includes post-implementation support and offers PCI and HIPAA compliant solutions to meet the needs of highly regulated industries,” says Margie Sims, vice president, sales, Dizzion, a DaaS and EUC solutions provider. “Virtualization designed to enhance end user computing is far more advanced and helpful than simple online suites. With off-the-shelf products customers get what they get, with no help or expertise involved. It’s just the same old software instead of a worthwhile experience.”
According to Sims, her company offers desktop as a service that was built from the ground up on infrastructure specifically to support virtual desktops with a high performance user experience. But in contrast to Google Apps and other online office suite virtual applications, its DaaS runs in a more secure, comprehensive desktop environment. For example, it gives companies real control over how data and documents are accessed, handled and saved (e.g., prohibits printing, screen captures, saving to an external drive). MSPs can offer this service, too.
“A committed DaaS partner allows MSPs to extend their portfolio all the way to the desktop,” Sims says. “This provides partners access to the application lay of a customer and helps them better understand the business needs, which opens the door to additional opportunities. Dizzion works extensively with MSPs in reseller arrangements to align with their expertise and got-to-market strategies.”