OnLive: We're Ready To Rock The Corporate Cloud Desktop Market

Cloud service provider OnLive is best known for online gaming, but the company claims that businesses are lining up to replace their existing remote access technologies with OnLive Desktop, its hosted Windows desktop-as-a-service.

"We've been overwhelmed with requests from enterprise, SMB, organizations, government, schools -- all seeking to replace their current remoting technology with OnLive as quickly as possible. Literally, millions of seats," an OnLive spokesperson told CRN in a Monday e-mail.

OnLive Desktop, which gives iPad and Android device users access to a complete Windows environment with Office apps, has also garnered attention for licensing issues. It was initially based on Windows 7, but Microsoft announced last month that the service was violating its desktop virtualization licensing terms.

OnLive recently switched to delivering OnLive Desktop under Microsoft's Service Provider License Agreement (SPLA) using Windows Server and Remote Desktop Service, and Microsoft applauded the move.

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Yet OnLive, which has a policy of not commenting on licensing issues, says the change was just one of many it is planning to make OnLive Desktop more attractive to businesses.

"What you are seeing with the OnLive Desktop consumer product updates are features we are trialing with enterprise customers who are looking to displace their current remoting technology with OnLive," said the spokesperson.

OnLive offers a free version of OnLive Desktop for consumers as well as a more advanced version priced at $4.99 per month. The company is also planning a professional version that starts at $9.99 monthly and includes 50 GB of secure cloud storage, and an Enterprise version with advanced management and integration options.

OnLive declined to comment specifically on why it switched OnLive Desktop to Windows Server, but the company clearly wants to dispel the popular belief that it did so to avoid getting sued by Microsoft.

Chris Ward, vice president of consulting and integration at Greenpages, a Kittery, Maine-based solution provider, isn’t buying that explanation. However, he has used OnLive's gaming service and come away impressed with the quality of the user experience it offers, and the protocol that makes it possible.

"The gaming environment works quite well, and I would argue from a purely graphics aspect, it provides the best remoting experience over a WAN/Internet connection that I have seen," Ward said.

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Windows Server 2008 works fine for delivering unmanaged desktops to consumers, but OnLive will find the corporate market a much tougher nut to crack, according to Ward. Using Windows Server 2008 doesn't work as well for enterprises that need to manage desktops and deal with application compatibility challenges, he added.

"It's the classic issue of your desktop living in one place and you apps and data living somewhere else which leads to a very bad user experience," Ward said. "You're essentially back to a client based VPN over the Internet, or a slow WAN link scenario -- unless OnLive plans to also host user data and applications."

In spite of the challenges, OnLive says its compatibility with all versions of Windows and Linux, and its cost advantages over existing remoting technologies, will prove a powerful lure for businesses.

"The change in the corporate world will be tectonic," the OnLive spokesperson said. "When you see the names with [tens] of thousands of remote seats that are dropping remoting technology they've been using for over a decade for OnLive, that will be the big news."