VMware To Amazon: Welcome To The Virtual Desktop Market, Frenemy


As Amazon Web Services enters the desktop-as-a-service market with its new WorkSpaces cloud service, VMware and Citrix -- which have been in the space for years -- are eagerly welcoming the interloper onto their turf.

That's because virtual desktops, despite offering security and management benefits, have consistently disappointed companies that deployed the technology expecting to see the same cost savings they got from virtualizing their servers. The virtual desktop market hasn't taken off, but having another big player could help.

"We're happy this happened," Dave Grant, senior director of product marketing at VMware, said Friday in an interview. "Having a cloud leader like Amazon has instantly validated the space."

[Related: Amazon Dives Into Virtual Desktops With New Cloud 'WorkSpaces' Service]

Ken Oestreich, Citrix's senior director of product marketing for desktops and apps, told CRN having multiple billion-dollar companies betting on the virtual desktop market is going to help everyone. That includes Citrix partners, who won't have to spend as much time explaining what the technology can do, he said.

That said, while Citrix doesn't sell DaaS, VMware will be competing directly with AWS WorkSpaces in this part of the market. VMware is planning to sell a DaaS service directly to customers using technology from its acquisition of Desktone, which features a multitenant DaaS architecture.

AWS is using Windows 2008 R2 Server to provide Windows 7 desktops in the WorkSpaces service, which is a common way cloud providers sell DaaS to small and medium-sized businesses.

Dan Weiss, managing partner at Varrow, a Greensboro, N.C.-based VMware partner, said this model works for some customers, but isn't a fit for everyone.

"The real question is, can AWS build the management, security and software deployment tools into their product like both Citrix and VMware has?" Weiss said.

An AWS spokesperson told CRN each WorkSpace is running on a separate virtual machine to ensure that customers are getting enough performance.

"They are not sharing that virtual machine with other customers," the AWS spokesperson said in an email. "Also, the user has admin rights and can customize their setting and apps and the changes will be persistent."

Grant said most enterprises use a mix of session-based, server and client desktops, which VMware offers but AWS does not. Grant said VMware partners will be able to compete with AWS WorkSpaces on pricing, too.

"Our partners can deliver a fully functional client OS for that same price point, if not cheaper," Grant said.

AWS is selling WorkSpaces in a Standard package that comes with one virtual CPU and 50 GB of storage for $35 per user per month; and a Performance package that has 2 virtual CPUs and 100 GB of storage that's priced at $60 per user per month.

In a scenario with 1,000 virtual desktop users, Amazon claims that WorkSpaces is less than half the cost of running virtual desktops through an on premise deployment.

PUBLISHED NOV. 15, 2013

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