This story was written by Keith Dawson for UBM DeusM’s community Web site Business Agility, sponsored by IBM. It is archived here for informational purposes only because the Business Agility site is no more. This material is Copyright 2012 by UBM DeusM.

Desktop as a Service

These cloud suppliers can fill the bill when all you need is Windows.

DaaS can provide light-weight, secure, policy-controlled access to a Windows desktop and applications from a variety of devices. It could be a piece of your BYOD strategy.

Infrastructure as a service is the main business model of the public cloud, led by Amazon AWS and Rackspace Cloud Servers. GigaOm recently reported that both Google and Microsoft are preparing to introduce IaaS services in 2012 to compete with the leaders.

Platform as a service -- the likes of Microsoft Azure and Google App Engine -- is attractive to developers looking for a fully provisioned stack on which they can concentrate at the application level. Some argue that this level of cloud service is ready to move down to the enterprise data center.

But what if all you really need to supply to users is a Windows desktop on which to run either generic productivity or enterprise applications? Then Desktop as a Service may be just the ticket.

DaaS can provide a (most typically) Windows 7 desktop experience on any device. Storage can be in the cloud as well, easing worries about data security. For organizations that need to give employees access to a Windows box, DaaS can provide an excellent option to simplify, secure, and shore up the corporate BYOD policy.

In its simplest form, DaaS offers keyboard, display, and mouse ("KVM") interaction at the level of decade-old protocols such as Remote Desktop Protocol and Virtual Network Control. The current iteration, Virtual Device Interface, includes (in addition to KVM) sound, local ports (e.g. USB), and local drives.

Network World is running a review and comparison of five different DaaS services. The beauty of Daas is that it offers "a pristine, policy-controlled session (either persistent or ad hoc) that can be accessed by a wide variety of devices," according to the reviewer, Tom Henderson, who continues: "The selling points [of DaaS] are hosted external applications, shared storage resources, joining DaaS resources as extensions of an existing (or new) Active Directory infrastructure, and extended device compatibility in a BYOD scenario."

All five of the DaaS suppliers reviewed -- Applications2u, Desktone, dinCloud, ICC Global Hosting, and Nivio -- use some pieces of the Citrix infrastructure. Three (Applications2u, dinCloud, and ICC Global Hosting) use Citrix components on the client side to connect with a DaaS server, while Nivio uses Flash or HTML5 and Desktone uses Quest vWorkspace.

Here's how Henderson summarizes the strong points of the five services:

We liked Nivio for its very simple configuration... DinCloud had strong and fast performance. Desktone was highly configurable. ICCGlobalHosting... had a strong vertical application feel, and Applications2u seemed targeted towards independent software vendors... and application providers that prefer an entire desktop offering rather than just a web-based app.

I urge you to read the full review at Network World for its detail and its even-handed assessment of these five DaaS offerings, any one of which could be the piece you're looking for to complete a BYOD strategy.