Partners Weigh In On Microsoft Desktop-As-A-Service

Microsoft may be planning to leverage the efficiencies of virtualization to relieve the time consuming headaches involved with keeping Windows desktops up and running.

According to a presentation Microsoft gave at an event in April, which was discovered by the blog and reported on Tuesday by Microsoft blogger Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft is positioning client virtualization as a solution for application compatibility and management issues in its next version of Windows.

Solving these longstanding pain points would be central to Microsoft's vision for desktop-as-a-service (DaaS), which is similar in some ways to Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) but also involves other Microsoft virtualization tools like App-V, Med-V, Remote Desktop, Terminal Services, Hyper-V and System Center.

"The basic premise is that a user should receive the right desktop and associated software according to whatever their particular needs are," reads the Microsoft presentation. "The desktop should not be associated with the device, the desktop can be thought of as a portal which surfaces the users' apps, data, user state and authorization and access."

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Microsoft hasn't officially said DaaS is part of its future plans, but one thing Microsoft partners in general can agree on is that Windows is in need of a makeover and DaaS makes a lot of sense.

"It's definitely a move that would keep the whole desktop offering relevant and allow it to become more fluid," said Steve Hall, CEO of District Computers, a Microsoft partner in Washington, D.C. "Microsoft's objective is to make sure users have best the version of Windows available, and that means avoiding a lot of the layers and re-wrapping the OS much more smoothly."

"Windows needs to modernize and somehow meld virtualization and the cloud with the processing and graphics power of the local PC," said Andrew Brust, CTO at Tallan, a Microsoft partner in Rocky Hill, Conn. "People still want Windows apps -- they just don't want the hassle that goes with acquiring them, installing them and managing them."

If a future version of Windows could itself be a manager of virtualized application instances, it could make the modernization leap while still drawing on the legacy of Windows applications that is still relevant, says Brust.

Citrix has achieved this to some extent but is too expensive and complex for many organizations, according to Brust. "Application virtualization features need to come down to the client OS and be the defining feature of its value proposition, and it seems Microsoft may be of the same opinion," he said.

Chris Ward, senior solutions architect at Greenpages, a solution provider in Kittery, Maine, says the separation of components -- OS, apps and personalization -- is the key challenge Microsoft will face in DaaS.

"The utopia would be to fully segment these into their own little silos and then use a Lego type approach to dynamically build what a user needs when they need it," he said. "However, in practice, this is quite difficult to achieve, especially on the application front."