Amazon’s planned entry into virtual desktop computing signals a massive trigger for industry acceptance of desktop virtualisation. Arguably, this technology (Terminal Services, XenApp, RDS) has been in production for a very long time, with the ‘light’ use case of application virtualisation taking the lion-share of market to-date. And today’s average enterprise customer still won’t quite kick the Windows tech-refresh habit due to poorly understood costs of virtual desktop compute and continued poor implementations by the wider systems integration community. But USD$35/desktop/month for a basic desktop is what you get with scale and an aggressive business poised to lead the cloud compute market for years to come.
Over the last 4 years, the VMware and Citrix psuedo-competition has played out to a underwhelming result: VMware giving away View licenses to secure marketshare, and now signalling a white-flag licensing strategy with the acquisition of DaaS provider Desktone. Meanwhile Citrix revenues for the ‘heavy’ use case of full virtual hosted desktop is languishing, while the old standby XenApp (hosted shared desktop) continues to pay the bills. And the now dominant NetScaler gateway technology provides the growth engine for Citrix (more or less providing the interface to the majority of cloud data traffic).
Another important undercurrent is the shifting position of Microsoft on VDI, with a competitive market stance of the RDS use-case for VDI (hosted shared desktop). Will the love-in between Microsoft and Citrix endure an increasingly competitive marketplace? While promising advances (Server 2012 Hyper-V Deduplication, clustered file systems), the manageability of this platform on scale is arguably years behind. Here is a snapshot of the primary vendor landscape as it stands:
Amazon’s entry will ultimately help the VDI market, but it’s important to remember best technology doesn’t always win (take a good look who is biggest and most profitable). For one, Amazon’s entry is a massive validation of the hosted shared desktop compute model, delivered with the currently most price competitive infrastructure compute stack. This will hopefully drive private cloud customers towards true reference architecture design using high density technologies versus the ‘roll your own’ mentality which continues to hamper large scale VDI implementations. Secondly, while Amazon Workspaces may not fully address the complexity of the large enterprise, it may very well fuel a massive marketplace for small to medium business and remote office virtual desktop computing requirements.